EDITORIAL: Why Liberation Day deserves special attention

Monday July 6 2020

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Rwanda's President Paul Kagame inspects a guard of honour during a function to mark Liberation Day at Amahoro Stadium, Kigali, on July 4, 2019. PHOTO | FILE  

RWANDA TODAY
By RWANDA TODAY
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On July 1, Rwanda celebrate 58 years of independence and 26th anniversary of Liberation Day on July 4.

But the excitement over Independence was short-lived as the decade ushered in a new era of untold suffering as Grégoire Kayibanda, the first president, carried on with the colonial policies of divide and rule.

This divided the country along ethnic lines, leading social and the political unrest that forced many into exile while those who stayed endured discrimination in all aspects of their lives. 

In this process, many families were killed while those who survived were permanently afraid as the tyranny and treachery prevailed.

During that period, some Rwandans were relocated to parts of the country infested with Tsetse flies without running water so that they could die of starvation and disease and indeed, many died.

The second Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana further dashed the hopes of rebuilding the country as he immediately started consolidating power using ethnic propaganda.

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Instead of focusing on uniting and rebuilding the country, Habyarimana devoted his presidency to rewarding his family members and to those who supported his ethnic division politics with influential positions.

The National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development, a political party that openly promoted extremism, laying the ground work for the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi.

The events that unfolded immediately after independence make it difficult to celebrate because life became worse due to ruthless leadership that took over from the colonialists. They were not only colonial collaborators but also tyrants.

During this time, many Rwandans became second citizens in they are own country while others were forced in exile.

Indeed, the decades of bad leadership were laid bare by the1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in which over a million lives were lost.

This background explains why unlike July 1, July 4 calls for celebration as Rwanda celebrates 26 years since the liberation struggle led by the Rwanda Patriotic Front.

Today Rwandans will join the celebrations more confident of they are future more than ever before. To its credit, the RPF leadership has succeeded where many of its predecessors failed- uniting Rwandans.

Nobody could have imagined Rwanda as it is today; a place where victims and killers live side by side in peace.

The long road to rebuilding the country from the ashes has been painful especially for the survivors who will forever not only miss their families and friends but also wish they had lived to see all Rwandans live together as one family.

While significant progress has been achieved over the years with Rwanda, the bigger challenge remains to sustain the momentum to ensure that more Rwandans are lifted out of poverty.

This year liberation comes at a time when our society has been shaken by the adverse impact of the coronavirus.

Not only has the ongoing pandemic wiped off many years of progress as many have lost sources of livelihood, but it is also threatening the future. And despite the best efforts by the government to increase social protection, there are many vulnerable Rwandans that yet receive the support they need.  

But the most sustainable solution is to create job opportunities that allow them to live independent and productive lives. 

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