Rwanda will do whatever it takes to prevent its citizens to be used as objects for the powerful.
While offering his keynote address at the 25th anniversary of Rwanda’s Liberation Struggle on Thursday, President Paul Kagame said that for decades and decades, Rwandans were treated as objects, to be used and discarded by anyone, especially the powerful, something he said, won’t be anymore.
The celebration place at Amahoro National Stadium where he joined thousands of Rwandans, friends of Rwanda, Presidents of Sierra Leone, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Namibia, Togo, Vice President of Namibia, Tanzania’s Prime Minister, and Deputy Prime minister of Uganda, among others.
Below is his full speech:
Good morning and a warm welcome
We are here to observe the 25th Liberation of Rwanda.
It is privilege to mark this occasion in the company of so many friends of Rwanda, from around the world. I thank you all, on behalf of our country, for your solidarity and friendship over many years. It means a great deal to us.
I most especially thank our brothers and sisters, the Heads of State and First Ladies, who have made the journey to be with us today.
For three long months in 1994, our country’s survival was in doubt.
A segment of the population was being hunted. More than a million people were murdered.
By July 4th, our forces had brought the killing to an end.
Twenty-five seasons of mourning have passed since then.
And with time, it is important to recall that the campaign against the Genocide was not a military operation, in the conventional sense. It was a rescue mission.
There was a battalion of our soldiers stationed at Parliament Building. They came under very heavy attack, completely cut off from the rest of our forces. Yet those troops managed to secure this very stadium where we are and the thousands of people sheltering here.
Around us today, we are some of the men and women who protected survivors and led them to safety. You have lived for our country, and those still alive continue to serve it with steadfast devotion. We thank you.
Many other liberation fighters are here with us only in memory, because they made the ultimate sacrifice.
Where did the humanity and heroism come from? The answer is simple. We believe in our right to dignity as Rwandans.
This conviction was the starting point of the liberation struggle. The aim was to build a Rwanda with equal rights for all. In other words, a republic, in the real sense.
For decades and decades, Rwandans were treated as objects, to be used and discarded by anyone, specially the powerful. It won’t be anymore.
Both the suffering of the refugees, as well as the oppression and poverty of those who remained here had a similar origin.
Had we ever truly been united, at any point in our history? And yet our culture provides us with the tools for a successful society. Liberation was not about restoring the past, but creating something fundamentally new and better, for all Rwandans.
The fight was necessary and indeed unavoidable. If there ever been necessity for more fight, we will be there.
The vision of unity and justice attracted broad support, because it resonates so strongly with the human spirit. But the proof was in in actions, not words.
For the last 25 years, we have done our best to govern according to the liberation ideals that we fought for. The conduct of our forces is one example.
Another is the bravery of those within Rwanda who opposed divisive politics. Or the energy that our people give every day to transforming the nation as we have seen in the past 25 years.
As a result, the impossible has become manageable, and even natural. Achievements like restoring trust and peace, or working together, for example. But we cannot take anything for granted.
The force that stands before us, together with other actors in the struggle, have remained true to the cause. They area representation of the spirit of this country.
It is the responsibility of every Rwandan to extend the gains we have made. Rwanda appreciates the profound link between our liberation journey, and the wider African quest for self-determination.
We all share the same aspirations to be free and to improve ourselves to the fullest extent. Our continent cannot remain dependent on what happens elsewhere. Our mindset should be to rely, first of all, on ourselves and on each other.
It is worth repeating, being Rwandan simply means being an African from a particular place.
In that spirit, I salute the forces from the East African Community partners here with us today, who have been conducting medical outreach exercises.