Skip to main content
Life Reflections

The nine lives of Rwanda

By February 3, 2012June 6th, 2023No Comments

Last Wednesday, 1st February, Rwandans celebrated Heroes’ Day. There are many reasons why Rwandans should celebrate but chief among them should be the fact alone that Rwanda is still in existence as their country. Rwanda has many times tottered on the brink of the abyss and those many times men and women have come out to lead their fellow Rwandans in hauling it back on terra firma. It is right and fitting that those many women and men be celebrated.

From the days of kings like Ruganzu Ndoli when Rwanda lay in tattered kinglets to the days when Rwanda was overrun and occupied by the Kingdom of Bunyoro, women and men had risen to rally their countrymen and women to fight together and gather the pieces to quickly mend them into the big country that Rwanda was then. For fighting together as one, Rwandans could not be totally vanquished by an enemy.

Then the biggest enemy brought the biggest weapon as the 20th century unfurled. When the colonialist came, he did not only chop up the country to leave the tiny land that is Rwanda today but, much worse, he set about working on the brains of Rwandans to inculcate into them the notion that they were not Banyarwanda.

The colonialist brainwashed Rwandans into believing that some of them were Chadian, others Ethiopian and yet others, Pygmoid, for ever to roam the continent. It was by imbibing this division (the biggest colonial weapon) that some Rwandans joined the ranks of their enemy.

By the close of the 1950s, the colonialist had set the stage for Rwandans to disembowel their country. Throughout the 1960s, ’70, ’80s and the beginning of 1990, Rwanda was in upheaval as Rwandans fought, banished, hid from, endeavoured to forget, disowned, name it, their own. Those who had banished their own were busy fighting over the offal (amayezi) of their country, with different individuals building up support by further dividing their people into regional, generational, gender and other groups.

Meanwhile, among the banished all was not well, either. As there were positive elements who stuck to their culture and patiently tried to think out a way of achieving a repatriation and reunion, so were there elements who were for a total alienation (abandonment of their own); a hasty unplanned return (definitely suicidal); a powerful Diaspora (an illusion for refugees); or seeking to build themselves through education (forgetting their country and people).

It was during this quagmire that the positive elements from exile waded their way into Rwanda on that 1st day of October 1990, led by Fred Rwigema. As fate would have it, however, the general was felled by enemy fire the following day and the fate of these positive elements was as good as sealed.

And so was going to be the fate of many others. With nowhere to run to when they were scattered following this death, it was going to mean extermination for these fighters, just as it was going to be extermination for some Rwandans of similar inclination inside the country, whose reprisals were already in progress.

The spark of hope only shone when the ragtag group of fighters was put together again and drilled to fight as guerrillas, led by Paul Kagame. It proved to be a turning point as more young Rwandans from inside and outside the country were recruited and fought as one. More sure of themselves now, these fighters were now able to force the intransigent Habyarimana government to the negotiation table, even if reluctantly for the latter.

An agreement was anathema to these ‘self-disembowlers’, however, and they did the unthinkable. To-date, the world has not recovered from the shock. A genocide in the closing days of the 20th century? This, for sure, was the end for Rwanda.

Then another turning point! Instead of embarking on settling scores, which would have resulted in total self-elimination for Rwandans, the incoming RPF government and RPA fighters took the path of reconciliation. Despite the frail efforts of the remnants of these self-disembowlers who are still tagging at that cord that is steadily re-uniting Rwandans, Rwanda is bravely soldiering on and winning world acclaim for her speedy social, political and economic recovery.

For dragging her from the precipice and repeatedly putting her back on the path to civilisation and then to democratisation, the different women and men who helped in these rescues should be celebrated. Which celebration does not mean just jumping up and down and cheering but also consolidating a democratic path that caters for the rights and wellbeing of all Rwandans.

So, Rwanda is not only in existence but she is flourishing as a country whose people are enjoying greatly improved facilities: freedom to better nutrition, to better settlement, to improved clothing, to better learning and health facilities; freedom to express and entertain any opinion and freedom to unhindered association. By accessing these freedoms, Rwandans are celebrating.

Rwanda has come a long way and Rwandans have cause to cheer their heroes. Among which heroes, lest it be forgotten, is their culture.


Leave a Reply