Liberation the real independence for Rwandans

KIGALI — Rwanda will be celebrating fifty years of independence from colonialism this year. This year will mark a change from previous years, because celebrations for both Independence Day and Liberation Day will be held on the same date, July 1.

Many Rwandans consider the liberation from the genocidal regime on July 4, 1994 to be of far greater significance than independence from Belgium.

Mark Karumba, who works for the Rwanda Development Board, said independence from colonialism was meaningless because of a lack of development. “If you stay poor, you might as well not become independent.”

“Liberation Day is very important to us,” he said. “On a scale of one to ten, Independence Day is a two, and Liberation Day is a nine.”

Malcolm Mugabo, a commerce student, said there was no genuine independence before the genocide.

“Real independence came on Liberation Day,” he said. “I live in a new Rwanda now, and I’m now proud to be Rwandan.”

Professor Jean Marie Vainney Kayishema teaches history at the Kigali Institute of Education in Butare.

“I think if you consider Liberation Day, it’s a very important event, maybe the most important event in Rwanda in the 20th century,” he said during a telephone interview.

Kayishema said the end of the genocide marked the end of something far more tragic than colonization, and the beginning of a new period for Rwanda even more important than independence.

“The genocide threatened the very existence of the nation,” he said. “When we judge the recovery of Rwanda after the genocide, sometimes many forget that we were beginning not from the floor, but from a hole beneath the floor. We had to pull ourselves out of the hole and try to develop like other countries.”

The genocide still casts a dark shadow over Rwanda, and seems to have made an indelible mark on the country’s national identity.

“A Rwandan is someone who has experienced the bad side of the past but who’s in a country that has recovered from that,” said Karumba. “He is someone who knows the worst side and the best side of life.”

He said the recovery since the genocide has been remarkable, and that’s why Liberation Day is so important.

Professor Kayishema is also impressed with Rwanda’s post-genocide recovery.

“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. He said not only has the country’s economic achievements been incredible, but its political advances as well.

He pointed out that even after independence, Rwanda was still a divided nation, but now, unity is the primary focus.

“The first duty of a nation is to conserve its unity and to defend it by all means necessary,” he said.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: