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Life Reflections

Rwanda is not for quick-fixes……

By March 16, 2012June 6th, 2023No Comments

What exactly is the full scope of the meaning of the “sense of urgency” recently invoked by Rwanda’s top leadership? Just as it has more or less been the rallying call at every gathering addressed by this leadership for these past 18 years, so was it at this year’s National Leadership Retreat.

Yet when I think back I get the feeling that many times before it has been misunderstood.

When a majority of RPF members were still in exile and before its armed wing, RPA, made its first incursion into Rwanda on 1st October 1990, a small band of RPF/A members, convinced that they felt the “sense of urgency” in re-uniting with fellow Rwandans better, ‘tore’ themselves away and launched a suicidal foray into Rwanda. They were only saved when their abandoned leaders managed to coax them back.

The full meaning of their “sense of haste” only emerged later when the then Rwanda government galvanised literally all Francophone countries to come to its assistance. But for a change in general strategy, from conventional to guerrilla warfare, even the full RPA force that had eventually attacked Rwanda would have been rapidly routed or, worse, roundly rubbed out.

If RPF/A leaders had not tempered their “sense of urgency” with sober and carefully calculated reason, today they would be history. Dishonourable history, as a people whose misadventure permanently consigned a country to the dogs.

There is also the small matter of celebration. After winning the war against the Habyarimana regime, RPA soldiers took to shooting in the air as a form of celebration at the dawn of every new year, like their erstwhile counterparts in Museveni’s NRA, in which some had served. Their top leadership put a summary stop to the habit, to our surprise. A small force that had put their “sense of urgency” to work and in slightly over three years managed to defeat a mighty army, backed by a super power, deserved the little laxity of celebrating, surely.

It’s only with hindsight now that some of us can see the reasons that militated against uncontrolled celebration. Apart from reasons of security, there was hardly anything to celebrate, considering the loss of 1.25 million lives. Moreover, the war as planned by RPF was far from over. Fighting at the battlefield was only one battle that was part of a protracted war whose objective was not a mere change of guard (à la a triumphant Museveni in 1986). RPF had planned for a fundamental change that would turn Rwanda round to the extent that we had not exactly assimilated.

They had not planned to merely remove the old rulers and occupy their seats and then start singing the RPF nine-point programme (with the ninth point having imposed itself even before the armed struggle was over) like rote machines and, voilà, a new state would be built in place of the shambles that lay at their feet.

Apart from winning a war, there was the equally complicated task of uniting and reconciling Rwandans which, with a ‘never-before-imagined’ genocide complicating matters, took on a whole new dimension of near-impossibility as an achievable undertaking. Yet, even that was only the second of a multitude of other ‘hat tricks’ that had to be – almost magically – pulled off.

Consolidating the sovereignty and the security of Rwanda; planting good governance in a democratic landscape; exploiting the country’s natural resources to literally recreate an economy; clean leadership devoid of old abuses of office, misuse of resources; upgrading everybody’s welfare in a way that attracted them to their country and negated genocide and its ideology. Also, Rwanda had to be turned into a country that was at peace with herself and other countries, dealing with these countries on the basis of mutual respect and gain.

Today’s Rwanda is a result of these ‘hat tricks’. Victim and perpetrator of the 1994 genocide living together; 24-hour security; free speech and free association, in spite of naysayers’ wishful thinking; self- and economy-advancement; near-total lack of corruption; accessible education/health services. One-cow-per-family, grass-thatch-eradication programmes; malaria, malnutrition, illiteracy eradication efforts. Clean water; expanded access to electricity; clean streets; a brisk pace at the work station…. Service delivered (still slowly, yes!) with a smile, laughter of children everywhere…..

That all these, and many more, processes are alive in just under 18 years must not be taken for granted. Eighteen years in the life of a country are but a flash-light, which can only mean one thing: these achievements are driven by that “sense of urgency”. RPF as the ruling party must be recognised for digging in its heels to mobilise all Rwandans so that they can invest all their energy in achieving this pace. It has all been in response to that “sense of urgency” that’s mitigated by sober reason. It has not been in response to the “sense of haste” that many thought was the ultimate goal for which RPF was formed.

And there were many, in and outside RPF, Rwandan and non-Rwandan, who thought the country was out for quick fixes.

Even as she is guided by that “sense of urgency”, Rwanda is here for the long haul. In her sights: the inherent dignity of every Rwandan in a middle-income economy. And beyond. For Africa must not only be free but prosperous, too.


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