Three decades ago, one of the most important event in Rwanda and African history took place.
On that fateful day, October1, 1990, a small force of Rwandans, organized into the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) entered into Rwandan territory from Uganda to start the liberation struggle that would culminate into the total liberation of the country four years later.
No outsider could have predicted that the lightly armed and vastly outnumbered troops of the RPA, would vanquish the heavily armed Force Armee Rwandaise (FAR) and their French backers, stop the last worst Genocide of the 20th century and go on to form the inclusive, peaceful and respected country that Rwandans enjoy today.
To understand the need for armed struggle, one has to look at Rwanda’s history in the 20th century, which was characterized by injustice and the suffering of a large portion of its population.
Rwanda’s troubles started with colonization and its policy of divide to rule that was continued and exacerbated by the newly independent Rwanda.
It culminated into hundreds of thousands of deaths during the first acts of genocides between 1959-1963, when two million Rwandans were forced into exile, becoming refugees in neighboring countries.
The October 1, 1990 offensive was not the first attempt by exiled Rwandans to return home.
In the 1960s soon after they were chased from the country, the Inyenzi, as they were then called, organized themselves from their exile in neighboring countries and mounted the first armed struggle to get back into their country.
They were unsuccessful and for the next 20 years the then Rwandan government launched a diplomatic offensive to convince their host countries to keep the Rwandan refugees, give them nationality, and even give them land to settle.
The argument advanced by the successive Regimes of the then republic of Rwanda centered on the exclusionary ideology that Rwanda was too small to accommodate Rwandans that had been chased away from their homeland.
During that time, all attempts of peaceful return by the refugees were rejected, often with force.
In 1979, Rwandan refugees created RANU and in 1987, it was transformed into the (RPF) FPR Inkotanyi, with the aim of eradicating the refugee problem, democracy, among its founding pillars that still guide it today.
The RPF from inception had a clear objective of creating a Rwanda for all Rwandans, an ideology in direct opposition of the ideology of the then Republic of Rwanda.
As President Paul Kagame would say during the struggle, if you are going to fight against someone, and yet share the same ideology as them, what are you fighting for?
This ideology, combined with discipline and good leaderahip, are what allowed the RPF to successfully liberate Rwanda, against an enemy that was far better armed, and had much more resources and France’s backing.
The journey to liberation was extremely difficult from the beginning up to the end.
The first blow came on the second day of the struggle, October 2, 1990, when Major General Fred Gisa Rwigema, the RPA commander-in-chief, was shot and killed by an enemy bullet.
It was the first setback but it would not be the last one, many more would follow, but the brave men and women of the RPA never lost hope and they never gave up.
Following the death of their commander, President Paul Kagame, who had been in the United States during the invasion, returned to take command, later leading his troops to a successful end of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
Today, Rwanda is liberated and free because of the struggle that was started by Rwandan men and women, determined to pay the ultimate price to liberate their country and change the fate of Rwanda and Africa.
Many of them lost their lives, including the late Rwigema who is buried at the Heroes Cemetery in Kigali.
Today, rwandans celebrate their heroes, who fought against unthinkable odds, paid incalculable price, and won an invaluable peace that is now enjoyed by all Rwandans, regardless of who they are.
The lessons learnt from the struggle have taught Rwandans that every life matters, and when a life is threatened, nothing should be spared to save it, if need be, the highest price can also be paid, securing a logical equalizer than earning a logical minus.
Today, Rwandans walk with pride, but the struggle continues!