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Rwanda marks Liberation Day

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Rwandans across the country and around the world will Saturday, July 4, celebrate the 26th anniversary of the Liberation Day, which brought an end to the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 and ushered in a new dawn for the country.

This year’s anniversary will be marked under the theme, Kwibohora Twubaka u Rwanda Twifuza, which literally translates to ‘Liberation Through Building the Rwanda We Want’.

A series of activities are lined up on the Liberation Day and throughout the Kwibohora Week, including the launch of multibillion life-changing projects in Nyagatare District.

The week will also see the launch of development projects in every district around the country, according to the Ministry of Local Government.

The main event is slated Saturday in Nyagatare District, where the liberation struggle was launched on October 1, 1990.

There, President Paul Kagame, who led the four-year liberation struggle, is expected to inaugurate multi-billion infrastructure projects, including the Gishuro IDP Model Village, a Rwf4 billion hospital in Gatunda, and a 3,500-seat Nyagatare stadium.

Gishuro IDP Model Village, one of the multimillion infrastructure projects set to be launched during celebrations to mark the 26th anniversary of Liberation Day on July 4 in Nyagatare District. Photo: Jean de Dieu Nsabimana.

In Tabagwe sector, the Head of State is expected to launch a health centre, and 30.8km Nyagatare-Tabagwe-Karama chipseal road, which links Nyagatare city and Karama Sector through Tabagwe Sector. Both sectors border Uganda.

‘Liberation trails’

The Commander-In-Chief of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) is also set to inaugurate ‘liberation trails’ in Nyagatare as a new tourism product, which embodies the story of the 1990-94 liberation struggle.

Speaking during last year’s Liberation Anniversary, President Kagame said that the liberation struggle was still ongoing but mostly in the form of the country’s socio-economic transformation.

“The phase of the liberation struggle we are in now is about achieving transformation and being the Rwandans and Africans we should be,” Kagame said at the launch of a Rwf8.2 housing estate for vulnerable citizens in Nyarugenge District.

Nyagatare features prominently in the story of the Rwanda Patriotic Army’s liberation struggle with the liberators having fired their first bullet in the district, at the border with Uganda.

But early setbacks, including the death of their leader Gen Fred Gisa Rwigema, would later see RPA change tack from conventional to guerrilla warfare, forcing them to withdraw from the area and move up north to the rugged terrain of Volcanoes National Park in now-Musanze District. The change in strategy came after Kagame abandoned his studies at a prestigious US military college and joined the liberation struggle – in October 1994 – following Rwigema’s death.

The Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army was forced to take up arms against the then regime of Juvenal Habyarimana after he rejected repeated appeals to allow Rwandan refugees to return home peacefully claiming the country was too populated to afford new arrivals.

Rwanda became one of the countries to produce refugees on the continent, with hundreds of thousands fleeing into neighbouring country as early as 1959. At the time, Belgian colonialists-backed extremist Hutu Power ideologues instigated bloody attacks on Tutsi homes around the country, forcing many to flee.

Subsequent years were also characterised by cycles of violence, massacres, institutionalised exclusion, banishment, and ruthless ethnic politics. For decades, Rwandans remained under the oppression of successive post-independence fascist regimes which also practised regionalism.

Total liberation

Determined to return home and help end abusive politics, Rwandan exiles formed the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU) and later RPF, which ultimately led the liberation struggle.

From the onset, their objective was total liberation of the country, according to Tito Ruteremara, a key figure in the liberation struggle and head of the Rwanda Elders Advisory Forum, composed of highly regarded senior citizens.

Rutaremera said that while Rwandans should rightfully enjoy the fruits of liberation, the struggle continues.

“Once the liberation war was over, we started building from scratch. We went into restoring the economic fabric of the country and that process continues,” he said.

“We can only say that it is over when every Rwandan has very easy access to health services, the ability to study any course they want, the ability to spend and be able to save some and a lot more,” he noted.

‘The Rwanda we want’

According to Anastase Shyaka, the Minister for Local Government, post-Genocide Rwanda’s strategic choices of unity, accountability and thinking big set the tone for Kwibohora (liberation) of July, 1994.

He stated that Kwibohora was a project for national rebirth, security and transformation.

“We are now in the implementation phase of that project. Rwanda is moving forward and that journey is reflected in the three choices of unity, accountability and thinking big,” he said.

Shyaka highlighted that Kwibohora anniversaries, like today’s, serve as occasions to “renew our individual and collective commitment to building the Rwanda we want.”

“The Rwanda we want is that which is united and where people’s lives are positively transformed. We want economic empowerment and seeing people being able to beat the poverty trap,” he said Friday.

The minister noted that it is precisely because of this “thinking” that this year’s liberation anniversary – like others in recent years – will be marked with inauguration of “transformational” projects and programmes.

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