The Chairman of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), President Paul Kagame, yesterday, paid a glowing tribute to the gallant men and women who helped liberate the country from the clutches of a genocidal regime.
The RPF will always place country, institutions and systems above any individual or other interests
He was speaking during the RPF Silver Jubilee celebrations at Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali.
The event was attended by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn, Mama Maria Nyerere, the widow of former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, and heads of delegations of political parties from around the world.
"Today is an important day in our history as we celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Rwandese Patriotic Front, and I am pleased to share it with you," Kagame said.
Rwandans celebrate 25 years of RPF yesterday. The New Times / Courtesy.
The Head of State congratulated RPF members on coming of age, not just in years, but in terms of all that they have achieved together. "The RPF has come this far because of the dedication and sacrifice of many of its leaders and cadres."
"I would like to pay particular tribute to the many patriots who sacrificed their lives so that today Rwandans can enjoy liberty and lead dignified lives," he said
"In particular I wish to single out the founding chairman of the RPF, Major General Fred Gisa Rwigema, Colonel Alexis Kanyarengwe, Major Peter Bayingana, Aloysia Inyumba and Modeste Rutabayiru," the President noted.
He also acknowledged others whose dedication to their nation and to the ideals and goals of the RPF contributed immensely to the struggle.
Among them, he mentioned Senator Tito Rutaremara, Bosco Mugengana Protais Musoni, Innocent Rugogwe, Michael Rugema, Eulade Bwitare, Joseph Karemera, Rumongi, Zeno Mutimura, Theoneste Karenzi and Connie Akayezu.
"This list is by no means exhaustive, and we owe our eternal gratitude to all those who have been an indispensable part of the RPF from the start."
"The RPF had precursors - there had been earlier efforts by organisations such as the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU) and the Rwandese Refugees Welfare Foundation (RRWF) to confront the very grave national issues affecting their country. But these were largely fragmented," Kagame explained.
The President said that in December1987, Rwandans living in the region and some from beyond imbued with a vision for a free, just and democratic country convened a meeting to consolidate and breathe new life into the earlier efforts.
"In its very first congress, the Rwandese Patriotic Front was formed to correct the effects of several decades of misrule and restore respect for the sanctity of life as well as reinstate full citizenship to all Rwandans, including those exiled in neighbouring countries."
"The RPF was always driven by the desire to reunite a fractured country and build a nation in which all Rwandans could live in dignity and freedom," he said, adding that addressing political and other injustices, the RPF had a vision for the socio-economic transformation of Rwanda and a plan to set the country on the road to development".
The President observed that from the beginning, the RPF chose to engage the former regime in making the necessary reforms to restore citizens' rights. "This approach did not yield the desired results and instead extremism continued which left the RPF with no other choice but to wage an armed struggle."
"The extremist government which had all along ran the country on a divisive ideology intensified its policy of killing sections of the population, culminating in the genocide which the RPF brought to an end in July 1994."
He observed that the country is much better off today than it has ever been.
"Under the leadership of the RPF, Rwandans have built a unified nation and through citizen participation, have succeeded in laying a strong foundation for the country, so that it gains its rightful place."
The President explained that good progress has been made in socio-economic development, leading to poverty reduction and increased incomes, even in the most hostile environments, the RPF and Rwandans did not lose focus.
"The RPF will always follow that ideological line which places country, institutions and systems above any individual or other interests," Kagame pledged.
"The road we still have to travel is very long; the RPF has only made a small portion of that journey. We intend to stay the course and remain as forward-looking as we were 25 years ago".
He said that, at 25, the RPF is as old as a generation.
"Our party did not have the opportunity or privilege to go through the normal stages of growth - the RPF was forced to run before we could barely crawl because of circumstances".
The RPF chairman urged the youth to be prepared to assume their responsibility and take the country to the next level.
"The foundation for true transformation has been laid and the opportunity to build on it must be seized," the President added.
He also urged Africans to rise and play their rightful role on the global scene. "Africa cannot remain on the margins when we have the people and resources to make it a key player".
We Africans must recognise that no one is going to hand that role to us. We have to continue to struggle for it, Kagame observed.
Kagame stressed, "Let this important milestone re-invigorate us for what lies ahead because the struggle for dignity and prosperity of Rwandans and Africans as a whole is not yet over."
He recognised the ruling parties of Uganda, South Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, China, Mozambique, Lesotho, Tanzania, Burundi and Benin, among others, for partnering with RPF to help restore Africa's dignity.
The event was spiced up by the songs, plays and testimonies about how RPF has changed the country for the better.
The ceremony marked the climax of weeks of Jubilee activities that included supporting the vulnerable, and breaking the ground for the construction of a national liberation museum and the party headquarters, among others.
Francois Ngarambe, RPF Secretary General, said the party was committed to the mission of transforming the country economically.
"For the past 25 years we have learnt to work together as a family, this jubilee gives us energy to keep the momentum," he said.
He also thanked RPF members who built homes for the vulnerable in the run-up to the main Jubilee event.
RPF, which launched the armed liberation struggle on October 1, 1990, took power on July 4, 1994, bringing to an end the Genocide against the Tutsi that had already claimed the lives of more than a million people.