Exclusive Conversations

Celebrating Rwanda’s 27th Liberation Day

Abel Buhungu

Introduction: 

The Liberation Day which is nationally celebrated every 4th of July in Rwanda officially marks the end of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi planned and executed by the then Government. A genocide that begun on 7th April 1994 and within only 100 days decimated over a million Tutsi, an average of 10, 000 deaths per day. 

It was on this day of 4th July, twenty-seven years ago, that the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) managed to stop the genocide through a heroic military campaign that it had launched right at the onset of this senseless slaughter. 

This liberation did not only save Rwanda from its total collapse to a failed State status but rather heralded the writing of a new chapter of the country’s renaissance with a focus on the unity of purpose and building of a solid foundation for a Developmental State. 

Indeed, this is a day all Rwandans and friends both inside the country and across the globe get together to celebrate the end of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. It is a day we pay tribute to the courageous men and women united under the RPF that made selfless sacrifices to rescue Rwanda from its brink. It is a day we appreciate and rejoices for the gains of Rwanda’s liberation struggle. 

Gains which not least include unity and reconciliation registered among Rwandans since the apocalypse of 1994, badly needed security and stability brought to the country as well as impressive economic progress ushered in thus far from a bottomless pit that the country was, in 1994. It is also a day when we as Rwandans recommit to moving the journey ahead of us in unity and focused on protecting and developing the country we so much love and proudly call home. 

The Rwanda Diplomatic Mission in Sudan will, in strict adherence to COVID19 related public health safety guidelines host this important National event on 8th July 2021 whose theme this year is “Together We Prosper”. 

Background to the Genocide: 

Fifty-nine years ago Rwanda like many other African countries became an independent State. While this is a short time in the life of a Nation, it was in the case of Rwanda arguably even further shortened by bad governance practiced by the two successive post-independence republics. Divisive politics introduced by Rwanda’s Colonial Masters in a strategy meant to divide and conquer was sadistically nurtured and biblically implemented to the detriment of Rwandans by the two successive governments. 

For Rwanda over thirty years were lost under divisive leadership that created more problems for Rwandans with resultant underdevelopment and a disastrous 1994 genocide against Tutsi. Excessive violence, ethnic-based discrimination, and exclusion as a model of governance was the order of the day right from independence to the climax that manifested in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi that annihilated over a million lives merely for how they were created. 

Rwanda’s Liberation Journey: 

It is thanks to the liberation struggle waged from 1st October 1990 by men and women united under Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) that cries of millions of refugees that had been made stateless and millions of others that had for over three decades faced persecution within Rwanda, were answered on this very momentous day of 4th July 1994. 

The post-1994 Broad-based Government in which the RPF was the leading party faced enormous challenges not least a raging insurgency perpetrated by remnants of genocidal forces organized under an internationally listed terrorist group called FDLR, operating in Eastern DRC and comprised of the former armed forces of Rwanda (EX-FAR) and Interahamwe Militia that committed the 1994 genocide against Tutsi; over three million Rwandan refugees held hostage by this genocidal force in Eastern DRC; a destroyed social fabric; hundreds of thousands of perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi; thousands of vulnerable genocide survivors; and a destroyed economy that in 1994 grew by negative eleven per-cent (-11.4%). 

FDLR is lately in a loose coalition with MRCD/FLN of Paul Rusesabagina, now undergoing trial in Rwanda; and the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) of Kayumba Nyamwasa. In efforts of pacifying Eastern DRC, the DRC Government has commendably launched military operations against these armed groups. This militarily weakened them with many now facing trial in Rwandan courts. Their support networks are however still scattered across the globe and continue to spread hate, extremist ideology, and nuisance denial as well as distortion of historical facts related to the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. There is a need for increased global efforts to fight genocide-related impunity by prosecuting all fugitives of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi and those involved in its denial and distortion.  

In the aftermath of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi and the Liberation War, Rwandans made three very important choices: we chose to stay together; to be accountable, and to think big. Relatedly, high on the agenda after the genocide was establishing political sanity as well as economic emancipation of Rwandans by building a developmental State that is anchored on good governance and strong virtues for accountability. 

Indeed, political sanity among others prioritized the much-needed reconciliation and rebuilding of unity of purpose as well as instituting some form of restorative justice.  

Security being a prerequisite for development, the post-1994 Government prioritized stabilizing the country and defeating the nuisance insurgency that emanated from Eastern DRC, organized and orchestrated by the same genocidal force united under the FDLR. At the close of the 20th Century, the insurgency had been defeated, millions of refugees that were erstwhile under bondage had been rescued and re-integrated back into society; justice was being served through a homegrown Gacaca restorative justice system, and reconciliation and unity among Rwandans were gradually taking root with affirmative action for ensuring gender equity getting the attention it deserved.  

A Focus on Economic Development: 

Once security and stability had been to an extent achieved, the RPF-led Government at the dawn of the 21st Century set its focus on economic development. An economic development blueprint called Vision 2020 was thus unveiled in the year 2000. Vision2020 aimed at transforming Rwanda into a middle-income, private sector-led, knowledge-based and diversified economy by the year 2020. This transformation required Rwanda to upturn its GDP per capita to $1,240 by 2020 from the $220 of the year 2000. 

In order to maximally implement this ambitious Vision, a multitude of homegrown solutions was initiated and implemented. In line with the provisions of Vision2020, nurturing entrepreneurship and the creation of a dynamic and competitive private sector was a strategic choice. The government through the newly created Rwanda Development Board (RDB) prioritized the creation of the desired infrastructure and friendly business/investment climate for the private sector to thrive and catalyze overall growth of the economy. 

The many unflinching interventions twenty years after the promulgation of Vision2020 have had an impressive impact on the efficiency of public investment management strengthened dialogue with the private sector and made it easier for businesses to access credit and enjoy a much more streamlined tax system. 

At the evaluation of the final outcomes of Vision2020 at the close of the year 2020 and dawn of a new development blueprint, Vision2050, we see an impressive overall execution albeit missing the target of achieving a lower-middle-income status. 

Indeed, an economy that in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 genocide grew by negative (-) 11.4% had for 15 years until 2018, growing by an average of 7% to 8%. It also grew by 8.6% in 2019 and was expected to grow by over 10% in 2020 had it not been the COVID19 pandemic which is a global scourge. Per Capita income which was in 2000, a meager USD 200 had by 2020 increased to USD 830. Rwanda is among the few countries that met all UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) before transitioning to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Certainly, COVID19 has had its toll both on the Rwandan economy and social life, just as is the case globally albeit at varying levels. In responding to the pandemic, Rwanda chose to biblically follow the science. This to an extent paid off by controlling the wanton spreading of the virus and thus saving valuable lives. 

It is by strictly observing these measures that Rwandan residents are now among a few globally that are allowed to travel to the European region without any pre-condition for proof of vaccination but only a valid COVID19 negative PCR test certificate. The country has embraced the use of novel technology solutions in its fight against COVID19 by introducing robots that assist in increasing the protection of frontline workers during the management and treatment of COVID19 patients. 

The National Police made use of drones in its sensitization campaign efforts against COVID19 by educating the populace on how to guard against Coronavirus with drones carrying audio messages across the country. The government has also lately acquired sniffer dogs that are trained to detect the whiff of COVID19 infections. Sniffer dogs are deployed at different public places including Kigali International Airport. This will not only bring about efficacy but also help tremendously cut COVID19 PCR testing costs. 

Meanwhile, vaccination of Rwandans is still ongoing along with increasing efforts to access more vaccines albeit their scarcity due to hoarding by the developed economies. The government has initiated two mitigating interventions against the COVID19 effects on the economy that are under implementation. These are the Manufacture and Build to Recover Program (MBRP) which provides for tax exemptions on imported construction materials and reduced Pay as you Earn (PAYE) as well as a three hundred and fifty million dollars ($350 Million) Economic Recovery Fund (ERF) to support the most affected businesses in the economy.  

In the meantime, Vision2050 which is Vision2020’s succeeding economic development blueprint whose implementation phase begun with 2021, aims at having Rwanda achieve Middle Income Country (MIC) Status by 2035 and High Income Country (HIC) Status by 2050. 

The Vision is to be achieved by implementing a series of seven (7) year National Strategies for Transformation (NST) underpinned by detailed sector strategies that aim to achieve UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Vision2050 articulates the long-term strategic direction for “the Rwanda we want”, with an aim of achieving sustainable economic prosperity and development. For this to be achieved, the economy shall have to grow between 9% and 12%. 

According to the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) 2017-2024, realizing this target requires strengthening collaboration and partnership among all stakeholders and enhancing ownership at all levels. 

In conclusion, Rwanda’s liberation journey that begun with a determination by young men and women united under the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1990, did not only stop the genocide when odds seemed against Rwandans and when the International Community had oddly chosen to leave Rwandans at their own peril. 

Informed largely by Rwanda’s historical context, this liberation journey has also with a good measure of success covered reconciliation and uniting of Rwandans, total pacification of the country, fighting genocide-related impunity, and executing restorative justice. 

It has seriously covered the rebuilding of the human capital, making a bonafide choice for practicing consensual democracy as opposed to confrontational politics, the rebuilding of an economy whose fruits are beneficial to the entire spectrum of the Rwandan citizenry as well as an ever-growing and widening of bilateral relations and economic diplomacy across the globe. With economic development taking center stage among own national priorities to date and an excellent investment climate, we can only encourage more Sudan-based investors to visit, explore and seriously target the enormous business/investment potential in Rwanda for their own advantage as well as the benefit of both countries. 

Back to top button