Kigali, 4 July 2014
I would like to begin by thanking the leaders from around Africa who have travelled here to mark this historic day with us, along with many other friends of Rwanda.Your presence is an expression of solidarity which we deeply appreciate.
Rwandans stand together today as a people united, liberated and focused — as never before — on attaining the future we want.
On the 4th of July in 1994, the darkest chapter in our history was brought to a close, and life could begin anew.
Too much was lost to commemorate that day as a triumph,and our liberation struggle is far from over.But we have come far enough, these past twenty years, to permit ourselves a moment of sober satisfaction, as we recommit to the journey ahead.
Liberation demanded great sacrifices of all involved, from those who left to fight — many never came home — to those who dedicated themselves to grassroots education on the struggle, and those who supported the cause with whatever resources they had.Today we remember all of themin a spirit of gratitude.
The losses endured by every Rwandan family strengthen our resolve to safeguard the gains we have made.But we did not work to spare Rwanda’s children from war so that they take peace for granted.Soon enough, they will have to step up and take responsibility. We must ensure they are ready.
Today, Rwanda’s security forces give their all to protect our constitutional order, in close partnership with the people. As our struggle taught us, the people’s trust is the true foundation of nation-building.
I thank them for their patriotic service, which was so clearly on display during this past Army and Police Week.
Liberation, as we know it, is not a single event or an endpoint.It is an attitude that inspires everything we do, and without which we cannot succeed.Each milestone we reach allows us to do more, to confront other challenges and overcome them.
Liberation sometimes includes a military campaign, but it never ends with one. That is where Rwanda is today — in the phase of struggle that begins after the guns have finally fallen silent.
Rwanda’s experience was, and is, an African one. Both the collapse and the rebirth of our country are part of the African story, not isolated episodes that stand outside of it.
In the other liberation struggles in Africa, we saw a mirror of our predicament as Rwandans. Those early freedom fighters had a righteous anger at colonialism, racism, and the resulting injustices, just as we did.
But most importantly, they had a determination to act on their ideals, despite the high cost.
Whether they succeeded or not, they contributed to the consciousness that we in Africa are in charge of our own well-being. And that to say no, to fight back, to insist our voices be heard, is to reclaim dignity.
In setting out to liberate this country, we were fighting for a better Rwanda, but with awareness of the wider struggles for a better Africa.
Lack of unity makes liberation more difficult, and puts the pursuit of democracy and development at risk. But even in the context of a world system that would seek to control Africa by dividing it, there is no room to blame anyone else for the mismanagement of our diversity. That is a responsibility which cannot be delegated.
Here in Rwanda, our conviction to fight divisionism has not changed, and never will. It has allowed us to build a new country, together — one that delivers security, public services, and economic opportunity to all citizens.
We still have a long road to travel, but Rwanda has been able to come this far because we owned up and took the lead in addressing our challenges. If we maintain this approach, we have no reason to fear the future.
The frontline of the African liberation struggle today is within our minds.
For this generation as much as previous ones, acquiring education and status often requires Africans to accept the premise of inferiority — to act as though there is little of value in our culture and experience.
As a result, we tend to seek validation elsewhere, instead of looking to each other to find solutions.
We tolerate mediocre implementation, even though we are very capable people.
We avoid taking responsibility, even though it is we who pay the price for failure.
There is no dignity in this posture.
Going forward, we can choose to trust ourselves, expect excellence, and take ownership. Only this will give us the results that we want.
Nothing about the past is an excuse for failure, even where real wrongs were done. The countless young Rwandans and Africans I have metlack nothing. They can deliver the future we want, if we hold each other accountable for it.
Liberation is, and has always been,a campaign waged in thename of universal human values ofequality, fairness, reason, and above all the inherent worth of every person.
This struggle is ours to finish, and now is the time.