opinionBy Pan Butamire
There is something surreal about this morning. There is that feeling you get and wonder where you are, after a night's sleep.
Maybe it's yesterday's celebrations of RPF's silver jubilee. 25 years since 1987, yet it looks like only the other day. What happened these past, whirlwind 25 years? But then again, a child born at the time is now a 25 year-old adult. So long and yet so short!
Some of the RPF members who turned up at the Silver Jubilee celebrations at Amahoro Stadium yesterday.
1987, when, as refugees, some of us were eking out a living in Kenya. It's then we got news that RANU (Rwandese Alliance for National Unity) had morphed into RPF (Rwandese Patriotic Front) and our hopes were slightly raised - only slightly. We knew the intransigence of the Rwandan government and how firmly it held onto its assertion that Rwanda was too full to accommodate a single individual of its dispossessed children.
The slim hope was that since RPF now had combat trained members, this little news might help soften the heart of our motherland. That an idea of equal rights for all its citizens might begin to pierce its clouded mind. Would it, would it not?
And so wherever we were, in countries of the world, we were mobilised and went out to mobilise compatriots, as we were bid by RPF. All Rwandans had to know their history. The goings-on in the past that had torn them apart. The bond that was supposed to weave them together, which was still there. The attachment to the soil of their land that they had the duty to serve, as only it could nurture them. The shame of statelessness or citizens living in their country as second-class citizens. And many other issues.
We all went out, moving like phantoms, leading multiple lives. Strictly open to only Rwandans we could trust and opaque to those we could not, in case they were in the employ of the government. Courteous to our hosts in countries of our residence and to those of other nationalities. But tightly secretive, untrusting of their governments. We held secret meetings, mobilising, being mobilised or just receiving news of activities of the RPF headquarters. But in support of the war effort, when it came, we organised overtly, fundraising in meetings we attributed wedding rites, funeral rites and such other activities.
Disguising our own lack of courage in hyperactive work in other areas, we were nonetheless buoyed by the determination of compatriots who rejected a "sausage-comfort" life in exile and set off. They set off for headquarters, to be free of the demands of employment and other encumbrances. To totally immerse themselves in the service of the "frontline". This was not yet the frontline, of course, but being fulltime RPF cadre gave them the feeling of being at the "doorstep to Rwanda". Better still, others sought military training, ready to pay the ultimate price if Rwandans' freedom from bondage demanded that.
And demand that it did, indeed. In 1990, an armed struggle was launched. But for four years, rather than bend, the government turned even more murderous and genocidal and literally sent Rwanda to the grave. "Would it, would it not" became "it would definitely not".
However, Rwandans' spirit is enduring to a point that was unknown to the genocidal government. By 1997, after a decade of protracted struggle, RPF had falteringly risen and picked the pieces and the citizens of this land rose in solidarity to work on piecing their lives together. The genocidal monster was dead and whatever feeble attempts it made to recover was dismissed offhand.
The engine of reconstruction and reconciliation was in full throttle and no force could stand in its way. Unique innovative initiatives were beginning to amaze the world and Rwanda was beginning to make crooning history as a recovery miracle. The horror of a genocide that rocked those twilight years of the 20th century was wearing off the memory of the world.
By 2007, two decades from 1987, Rwandans were walking tall because their country was no longer a blot of shame on the conscience of the world. Foreign commentators were talking of an exemplary rising star on a continent they were quick to dismiss as lying in the morass of neglect and decay. Unknown to these commentators, however, this was insult to the honour of Rwandans.
On a continent of no dignity, no country can be said to have claimed its dignity. And so the vigour in the integration endeavour and in involvement in seeking solutions to the problems of other countries. First, regional integration (the EAC, CEPGL, GLR, AU, etc). Then integration near and far (Commonwealth, Francophonie, Non-Aligned Movement, UN - unfortunately! - and so on).
By 2017, these 'international community' temporary pests notwithstanding, the consolidation of the situation in the country, region, continent and among overseas partners should be complete.
Then if we can't 'rein' in our "Rwanda Inc. CEO" and force another term down his throat, we shall free him to serve the cause of Africa and the world, all being close to our heat.
By 2037, 5 audacious decades after 1987 and 17 celebratory years after Vision 2020, we'll have a lot to talk about during RPF's golden jubilee. See you then! What -- be there? You bet!