Kwibohora22 speech by Ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana

Good Afternoon,

  • A/S Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
  • Distinguished members of the Diplomatic corps.
  • Excellencies, distinguished guests, All protocol observed
  • Dear friends of Rwanda and compatriots,

On behalf of His Excellency President Paul Kagame and on my own behalf, I welcome you all with warmest greetings from the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in Washington D.C.

It is an honor to have you here today as we celebrate Rwanda’s 22nd Liberation Anniversary known as Kwibohora22

I also take this opportunity to say Eid Mubarak to all our Muslim friends here present.

It’s especially meaningful to have here today A/S Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, representing the Government of the United States to celebrate our Liberation with us. A/S Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield witnessed the carnage and the devastation that overtook Rwanda in 1994. As she mentioned in her Statement she was in Rwanda during that moment of darkness in Rwanda’s history. She is an important witness of where Rwanda came from to where it is today. Thank you, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield for sparing time in your busy schedule to come here today.

As many of you also know this celebration has traditionally combined Rwanda’s Independence Day and Liberation Day. Unlike the U.S., these two holidays are not interchangeable for Rwanda.

It is important, on a day like this, for us to the difference between Independence and Liberation in the case of Rwanda.

Rwanda obtained its independence from Belgium on July 1st, 1962. our so-called independence was like a gift that was handed to us, with a handpicked government that continued to promote and benefit from the colonizer’s agenda. It was a government that camouflaged historical subordination with a veneer of independence. Unfortunately for Rwandans, the leadership of the supposedly independent people of Rwanda is was the same one that oppressed their fellow countrymen, drove hundreds of thousands out into exile, and orchestrated one of the deadliest genocides in history.

Unlike a false sense of independence bestowed by a foreign power, liberation is a state that is achieved through great sacrifice, sacrifice guided by the vision of a better society. Liberation that is not earned cannot be valued or sustained. Our respective countries, the U.S. and Rwanda achieved their Liberations after successful armed struggles with the goal to instill governments that benefit the people. And because the core values of our two countries are to benefit all of our citizens, ours are the kinds of liberations can be sustained from generation to generation.

As President Kagame said this past Monday, “Liberation, as we know it, is not a single event or an end point. It is an attitude that inspires everything we do, and without which we cannot succeed.”

Complete Liberation is to have agency and to be able to defend our dignity as Rwandans, as Africans. What we have in common is greater than our differences. The potential strength that we have together is greater than the sum of our riches divided. It is in this pan African spirit, that Rwandans, led by H.E. Paul Kagame, have embarked on a journey to regional integration, in East Africa, and beyond to all African nations. We have liberated ourselves from the borders once drawn without our consent or consultation. Today, Rwanda is visa-free for all Africans. Rwanda is a trend setter, at the forefront of African unity and a visionary nation for African development and integration.

We also know that many nations around the world still suffer from injustices that victimize innocent civilians. Bad governance, corruption, terrorism, and other ills of our times still plague many parts of this world. It is with our own history and our own lessons in mind that we strive and commit to actively participate in the maintenance of peace and security around the world by deploying peacekeepers to protect civilians. Currently, we are ranked as the 5th contributing country for troops and police forces to peacekeeping missions.

These steps toward pan-African and global unity are possible because our actions are informed by the same values that were held by the liberating army, values that RPF-Inkotanyi used as a springboard towards a holistic liberation. They are still relevant to our journey towards dignity and prosperity.

At this time of the year we reflect not only on the tragedies of our past that have scarred our country, but also on the successes we have achieved over the past 22 years with intense and concentrated efforts to rebuild and develop Rwanda.

Today, we pay tribute to Rwandans and our leadership for their courage, sacrifices, and resilience that stopped the genocide and brought Rwanda back to life. If it wasn’t for the sacrifices of men and women, led by our President Paul Kagame, we would be talking about a different Rwanda today, perhaps, a failed state under UN protectorate.

For the people of the United States, 4th of July symbolizes freedom, pride in America and love of their country as they remember those who fought for independence and the birth of a new nation. In the same atmosphere beckoned by the spirit of liberation and freedom, the people of Rwanda also marked this 4th of July as we celebrate the 22nd anniversary of liberation from the 1994 Tutsi genocide that once brought Rwanda to her knees.

In our post-genocide trajectory the US has been one of our major partners in reconstruction and development. To name a few, the USG has been a major partner in the development of Rwanda’s health sector, regional and international peacekeeping operations. Through the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) that entered into force in January 2012, we have seen a steady increment of FDI from the US. Rwanda has become a major tourist destination for US citizens and we have seen an increase in the number of Rwandan students coming to pursue their studies in the US.

Today, our governance has changed the lives of citizens across the country. In only the past six years, more than a million people have overcome poverty. Ten years ago, Rwandan villagers would ask the government for food and basic necessities; today they demand better roads, improved electricity access and faster broadband. Our story has changed to one of an emerging middle class, growing in confidence and ambition that seeks the same educational, economic and social opportunities for every Rwandan. Our Liberation now continues with efforts to become a knowledge-driven, self-reliant nation. We will achieve that through economic liberation, and Rwanda is well on its way to becoming a middle-income country by the year 2020.

Today, we celebrate the extraordinary transformations Rwanda has undergone from being a country buried in the ashes of the genocide to a land of economic opportunity, peace and stability. We can justifiably look forward to a brighter future of prosperity and expanding opportunity.

Today, the people of Rwanda are her biggest resource. They are writing their own narrative, a narrative of ascent, a narrative driven by unity of purpose, a narrative of a people marching on to the beat of true liberation.

As we assemble today we encourage the youth to kindle a flame of desire to embrace their heritage, motivate their involvement and to ensure a continuation of principles that lay the foundations of the liberated Rwanda.

I wish to end my remarks today with a quote from President Kagame as he was addressing Rwandans on July 4th:

“Having drinkable water, electricity, and a home to sleep should not feel like a miracle. It is your basic right. The next stage of our liberation is to liberate ourselves from any obstacles that stand in the way of our development.”

Again, thank you for being here as we celebrate our Liberation and I wish you a wonderful evening.