Rwanda Friday commemorated its 60th Independence Day, marking the day the country officially acquired its independence from Belgium in 1962.
Formerly administered under Ruanda-Urundi, Rwandan and Burundi acquired their independence from Belgium on July 1, 1962.
There was no formal celebration, the day is a public holiday. But unlike in Burundi where there was collective demand for independence, in Rwanda some sections of the population were against it, according to historians and researchers.
Rwanda officially achieved its independence with Gregoire Kayibanda of the Parmehutu Democratic Republican Movement party (MDR Parmehutu) as president who ruled the country until he was deposed in July 1973.
But the post-independence Rwanda under Kayibanda was marked by ethnic divisions, prejudice, hatred and persecution among Rwandans which forced many to flee the country to seek refuge in neighboring countries, according to Abdoul-Karim Hererimana, a member of Rwanda’s Advisory Forum.
Kayibanda’s successor Juvenal Habyarimana who ruled the country from July 1973 until his death in a plane crash in April 1994 repeated the same mistakes, the climax of which was the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in which about a million people were killed, Hererimana told Xinhua.
The independence anniversary from Belgium sparks emotion in the hearts of many Rwandans, he said.
There was no genuine independence because of what characterized Rwanda in the run-up to independence and in the post-independence era, said Jean Damascene Bizimana, Rwanda’s National Unity and Civic Engagements Minister, appearing on a talk show on public Rwanda television.
“In the lead-up to independence there was a lot of chaos marked with divisionism, killing of Tutsis, exclusion from jobs as well as education. Even when independence was declared, killings didn’t stop,” Bizimana said.
“In 1962 after independence in Byumba prefecture alone more than 2,000 were killed accused of collaborating with rebels from Uganda. In the circumstances, you cannot claim to have got independence when Rwandans were killing fellow Rwandans,” he said.
This year marks 28 years since the 1994 liberation war by Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) that brought the current government in power.
July 4, 1994 therefore is when people felt independence marking the opening of a new chapter for the country, when the RPA led by current president Paul Kagame, captured the capital city of Kigali and later formed a government of national unity, said Hererimana.
Hererimana said the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) adopted an inclusive approach which involved not only developing the country’s infrastructure and services but also power-sharing with other political parties which has enabled the government to minimize conflicts.
This inclusiveness enabled the government to unlock the potential of all Rwandans to make invaluable contributions to the country’s progress, he said.
Hererimana underlined national unity and power-sharing policy coupled with education and security among the key drivers of change in the post genocide Rwanda.
The world has seen Rwanda develop in many respects, a testimony that great progress can come from adversity, he said. Enditem