|Rwanda celebrates 50th Anniversary of Independence and 18th Anniversary of Liberation|
Speech by President Kagame at Amahoro National Stadium
Kigali, 1 July 2012
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this occasion when we celebrate fifty years of independence. And to my fellow Rwandans, congratulations on reaching this important milestone in our history and surviving the many pitfalls along the way. I extend a special welcome to many friends of our country who have come from across the world to share this moment with us.
This is a time for self-examination and reflection on our past, as well as looking forward to securing a much better future.
During this decade, many African countries will mark fifty years as independent states. Fifty years is a short time in the life of a nation, but it is long enough to have made significant changes in the lives of our citizens. In Rwanda, for instance, it is only in the last 18 years that we have regained the dignity and identity that we lost twice – first, under colonialism and then, ironically, at the time of independence.
This century that some have dubbed the African century offers us immense opportunities and prospects that Rwanda and the Continent should seize and build on.
For over a century, including the last 50 years of independence, Africa lost immense opportunities, largely due to unbalanced relationships within the global community that were often predatory and even abusive in nature.
Some of these weaknesses are within our means to correct. But we will only succeed if we are brave and honest enough to accept responsibility for our actions and reject the convenient attitude of playing the victim and blaming others. Incidentally, being brave and honest are qualities that seem to have to lost value these days.
The victim attitude prevents us from seeking our own solutions to the challenges we face. We must overcome this tendency and confront our problems directly, as the Kinyarwanda saying goes: “Ijya kurisha ihera ku rugo”.
We are also conscious that along the way, external factors have adversely interfered in Africa’s governance, often supporting lack of accountability in governance and hence promoting illegitimate interests.
In the end, truth always prevails because results and facts speak for themselves, just as one cannot hide the consequences that come with lies.
We, for too long, surrendered the responsibility to transform our countries to various non-state actors that have no clear lines of accountability except to themselves – which resulted in their stranglehold on our countries. This is simply unsustainable, and we should seize this moment as a true turning point. The situation calls for more collaboration, inclusiveness, and treating one another fairly.
As we look to the future, we must recognise that independence, like liberation, is a process and with it come obligations and responsibilities across the board. We must build on the lessons of our fore bearers across Africa that demonstrated the values of sacrifice, courage, and resilience during their quest for independence. Today, new ways of perpetuating the old order have emerged in a subtle manner, often disguised as defence of human rights, free speech, and international justice.
To ensure the prosperity of our people, we must overcome these detractors with increased citizen participation, cooperation at all levels – nationally and internationally – as well as greater African economic and political integration. Our countries’ liberties and prosperity are very closely linked and mutually reinforcing.
In Rwanda, as we begin the next stage of our journey, we will continue to entrench the values that have brought us this far – unity, hard work, mutual respect and shared responsibility.
Looking over the next fifty years, we must acknowledge the role of our young people as the new drivers of our transformation. It is our duty to pass on to them a better Rwanda and Africa than we inherited. But our young people must also understand that they have a responsibility to take our countries to the next level.
Let me conclude by reiterating that our independence will be guaranteed by our own efforts but we will always be happy to cooperate with others, mindful that the primary responsibility lies in our hands.
To my fellow Rwandans, let me say that many challenges remain, and we must be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices because there is no shortcut to success. I am confident that we will overcome them because you have already shown your capacity to do so.
I wish you a day of celebration and reflection for the road we have travelled together this far. Let us continue to join our efforts as we work for a brighter future.