Gicumbi, 04 July 2015

Good afternoon All!

Residents of Gicumbi, people of Rubaya, Gishambashayo and other places.

I am glad you are hosting the celebration for the 21st of the liberation of our county in which you played a part, but I will come back to it later.

But first, let me begin by greeting senior Government officials;

Officers and Soldiers of the Rwandan Army;

Ambassadors and representatives of International organizations in Rwanda.

We also have guests from different friendly countries, and themselves are friends of our country.

Fellow Rwandans;

Happy liberation day.

It is symbolic for us to come here today and celebrate at this place, this is a place of history; the Mayor and the Minister of Defense mentioned it earlier: Gicumbi gave us shelter.

It accommodated those of us who were fighting the war of liberation. We had weapons but residents of Gicumbi protected us. Even these mountains that you see protected us. We walked into these valleys of Gicumbi, these mountains and the people protected us so we could fight for liberation.

The man who gave a testimony knows about this, he knows about the history of liberation and how Gicumbi district and even this place where we are now played a part in it.

Some of us were leaving not too far from here, near Mukwano village. I am sure those of us who were here remember it since we stayed there for a long time. You protected us, you fed us, and you helped us in this liberation war.

Us being here today is not much, we can never repay your kindness enough but we are very grateful and we recognize what you did. We came here to celebrate at this place as a way to remember what you did, but even that doesn’t come close to the courage and bravery you displayed.

It cannot repay to how people sacrificed themselves here in Gicumbi. Indeed, many Rwandans sacrificed themselves during the liberation straggle; which is what makes this liberation ours. Liberation is not for one person, or one particular group, it’s for everybody therefore the fruits of liberation should benefit everyone equally. Isn’t it?

People sacrificed themselves and everything they owned to achieve liberation. Some lost their lives, as it was said, some were injured, and others were left homeless for the sake of liberation it. People struggled for it, it doesn’t come easy, no one can give it to you, you have to earn it.

About the price we had to pay for liberation, working together with neighbors, our neighbors from Uganda, these people who live near the border, most of them helped, and they lost their properties also. The other day, I was reading in the newspapers about the President of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who mentioned about the history of those who were living near the border, those who helped us and lost their properties in the process. I want to tell you that what President Museveni said is true, and I also want to say something else about it.

In addition to building ourselves, we also remember and consider our neighbors from across the border. This is not something that is starting only now, it has already been some time and we will continue to remember them. We helped some of them repair their houses, we donated cows to some others; like the one Mr. Mayor mentioned earlier, we did a number of things….

I was just looking at the list of what we’ve done in that regards, we’ve paid so far the equivalent of 250 million Rwf. It is not enough for them, as we can’t get a price to pay for you Rwandans, even though you were doing it for your own interest as well as your fellow Rwandans’. Nothing we can give will ever be enough to repay those who helped us, both residents living near the border and those living elsewhere.  But we always think about them, we thank them every day, we are very grateful even though [financial] means don’t march with it. However, we shall continue to work hard to get those means and to always attain our goal, we shall continue.

I also read in media about a Ugandan resident who hosted us during those times and is currently very ill and can’t leave her house. We often used to cross the borders back and forth. That’s how we used to work at that time. Whenever we wanted to travel to Europe or elsewhere, we had to cross the borders and passed through Uganda.  Residents close to the border gave us shelter. So once we knew about the condition of that Ugandan resident, we brought her here for treatment, and I hope I will have chance to meet her today, she is here in Rwanda I believe. In addition to medical health assistance, we will also provide her with any other assistance she might need, I will find time today to talk to her and thank her personally. When we thank someone like her, it is a way to express our gratitude to others we can’t reach.

Let me come back to what we are celebrating today. That’s what I have been saying, talking about being grateful. Being grateful – as expressed by one of the resident who gave us a testimony- also means being brave, to stand firm and say the truth, say it to whoever want to listen.

Liberation Day is combined to another day: The “Independence Day”, as they called it. I have been reading in the news-I don’t know whether it is true or not, since I have not yet received that message officially, even though it is supposedly addressed to me – about a message of congratulation on the occasion of Liberation Day or Independence Day.

Among those who sent to us messages from foreign countries, powerful countries, one of them wrote a message wishing us a good day and they ended their message saying that “we hope that Rwanda will continue on its path to development while respecting the liberties of its population”. I have read it in the news, I haven’t yet received the message, but I will duly respond to it when it reaches me eventually. But I wanted to respond to it before I even get it. The way I would respond to it in a few words is: What is the alternative [to respecting my citizen’s liberties]? The second thing I would respond is: Do you think that those who fought for their own independence and their liberation don’t know what it means? Don’t know what to do with it once it’s attained?

Am I really supposed to be reminded what I need to do for the people of Rwanda as their leader? Is that liberation? Is there anyone who should remind me of the meaning of liberation? But there is a reason for all that. Maybe what they are thinking, the reason is that the same people who gave you independence, gave you liberty only in words and conceded to you only one part and kept the other part .

What were people getting liberated from in the first place? We were getting rid of bad leadership, bad practices, fighting with people who were supporting those leading Rwandans in a negative way, those who were killing Rwandans. The one who tells me to remember development together with Rwandans liberties was denying them to the Rwandans before the liberation struggle started. They were supporting killers of Rwandan people, some are still supporting them until now. Up to now those who killed Rwandans, those who committed genocide here in Rwanda are still hiding and they are supported by those who supported them even long ago.

Therefore, the liberation we want is about daring. Daring to tell anyone that: “liberation is our heritage, we have the right to it, we have the will for it, we have the understanding for it, none can love us more than we love ourselves”.

People help us and support us, we are grateful, we have friends and we live in peace with people. But it should not be at the price of our dignity.

The first step of liberation is to get rid of contempt. You see… Those who fought for liberation lost lives, they were wounded, they lost families, they lost everything, and the killings were happening, supported, but when the war ended there was no retaliation. That didn’t happen with no reason. It is part of us, it’s in our culture, in our understanding of how to tell good from evil. We don’t need anyone to teach us that, we don’t need anyone to show us the way of self-dignity. We know it, we will find it ourselves, we fought for it, and we died for it. No one has the right to disrespect us. No one should give an ear to anyone who comes here with disrespect.

Rwanda is not a land where strangers come to reap and sow. No way. This is how Rwandans should understand things; this is how we all should get it.

The time of the battle with bullets is over. The time of killings; with Rwandans killing their countrymen, with the help of others, is over. Now the battle that we should focus on is the war of dignity. It is a battle of self-dignity by providing schools to our children. It is a battle of self-dignity by providing to a good life to Rwandans and providing hospitals and health centers where they can get decent medical treatment.

Rwandans, children, women and everyone should not continue to die from diseases that have long been eradicated in other countries. Let’s be dignified by self-sufficiency. We should cultivate these hills and plant forests, and protect our land, and raise cattle for food and send the surplus to the market.

We should build roads, build bridges; we should build, because we have that in us… There is a little that we have not achieved yet but we have a lot that we can use so that we can achieve all that.

Isn’t it people of Gicumbi and Rwandans gathered here?

That is the war we are talking about. Good governance, when leaders listen to people, when they serve and work with them, when corruption and other things that slow down our progress are eradicated. “Corruption is neither Rwandan nor African!” After fighting against that, the rest will be even easier. It will give us the kind of dignity that will save us from always having to explain. It will give us the kind of liberation that will save us from always having to explain, the kind we owe none but ourselves.

It’s like when someone gives you something in the morning and come back in the evening to make you pay for it. Like someone who lend you trousers to use in the morning, and come back in the evening to say “Look, the trouser I lent you this morning are filled with muds!” as if he was saying that he wants to take it back. We need to strive for the ability to get our own clothes so as to get out of the cycle of being reminded that we didn’t meet the wearing standards of the owner. Or being asked why the trousers creased. Yes, we need to get out of that, which is what liberation is about.

As for the liberation war, we fought with guns which cost us lives, that is what our history is based on, and we learned many lessons from it. As for the rest we need to strive for it in a way that every Rwandan owns it and that he understands that they have to play their role; that they benefit from it, working together, rejecting the policy in our history of discriminating Rwandans that many people experienced. Politics that taught some that they are Tutsis and that others were Hutus and Twas and even went further to say “you know, that is not enough, not only are we different but we also need to kill each other” and others were saying “well, it was about time, you should have said that before” and then they just went ahead and started executing blindly.

I like to tell people a story about grasshoppers? Have you ever seen people catching grasshoppers? Running around trying to catch them? To the extent that some of them even get hit by cars while running after on the streets following road lights. When they catch those grasshoppers, they put it into a container and guess what happens next. If you observe well, you’ll see that the grasshoppers start biting each other, killing each other. There is nothing more stupid than grasshoppers; because while they are busy biting one another, they forget that there is someone waiting to fry them. All of them are put together in one container oblivious to the fact that someone is waiting to fry eat them after tearing at each other.

There is a lesson to be learned here for us Rwandans; let’s not be like grasshoppers, never allow yourselves to be grasshoppers. Tearing each other while there is someone waiting to shake you the way they want, do you understand? We can’t be like grasshoppers, we are a people who are rebuilding a country, who respect themselves, who are proud of who we are, and that’s the only way to go.

That is the reason enough for us to stand up and tell to anybody “No, please mind your business and stop interfering with mine, don’t come to lecture me on how I should do my business”. Do you think people fought all those wars and got wounded, stopped killings, stopped people from getting revenge, rebuilt their country to then violate other peoples’ rights? Who is more valuable to me than the citizens of my own country? They are human beings just like me and you.  Rwanda, Africa, Europe, America, Asia and everywhere, all of us are human beings, none of us created the other, the rest should be mutual respect, considering each other’s values, cooperating and working together.

Have you been following the development of terrorism worldwide? It’s happening everywhere around the world; it hasn’t reached us here and I hope it never does.. The whole world is shaken by terrorism, people killing others without a second thought, suicide bombers killing people, babies, doing things that are inhuman. No country is safe.

Instead of people working together to fight against terrorism, some people choose instead to turn against others and start terrorising them. Why would you rather terrorise me instead of working with me to fight terrorism?  We too are aware of the world in which we live in. As I told you, we are human being, all of us. That’s how you Rwandans should look at yourselves – that you are a human being same as anyone else – as those who use to terrorise you. Liberation is saying No to terrorism.

You can’t terrorise me. I hate it. You can’t even make a terrorist out of me. That is not our nature. It is not our culture. It is not our politics. Our politics are about behaving with decency and respect. It is about preserving our dignity. It is about respecting the dignity of others. It is about dignifying each other.  Everyone contributes. That is what I understand by liberation. That is how it should be.

Dear citizens of Gishambashayo, Rubaya, Gicumbi, – here, I am also addressing all Rwandans countrywide. But of course, starting with all of you present here.

Our direction, where we are and where we are coming from; those are our characteristics in the process of our liberation. Starting with ourselves.

It is also obvious that we can’t liberate ourselves by doing bad things. We shall not do bad things and say that nobody is allowed to make a comment, say that it’s our business. No. when it comes to doing wrong, it no longer belongs to you alone because it affects others. Therefore anybody who would be able to show to us our wrong doing, we can discuss it once they are able to prove to us that it is bad and we can discuss how to fix it.

But you cannot start looking at me or others as eternal wrongdoers who cannot do anything positive. No, that is not true. Nobody is perfect. We all have flaws. Be it on an individual level, as a people or as a country. We therefore have to be able to identify our flaws and fix them. But when you wait for somebody else to come and correct your flaws, they can’t do it; instead they would bring their flaws and add it to yours. Then yours are doubled. We shall not accept additional flaws from others. Our flaws are ours and we are struggling to fix them. If you are willing to help me fix my flaws, but without bringing yours, we shall cooperate.

Dear Gicumbi residents, I won’t take much more of your time, I would like to tell you that the fact that we celebrated the 21st anniversary of liberation here was to honour you, the same way you honoured the liberation war. It was to remind you that we should keep working together in our on-going struggle for development – By not expecting anybody else to do our work but working together to find solutions for our challenges from both inside and outside the country.

But as it has been said, liberation is all about being courageous enough to fight for the truth – for individuals and for all Rwandans.