– Your Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda;
– Your Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia;
– Visiting Heads of Delegations of political organisations;
– Leaders of our Government’s High Institutions;
– Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
– Distinguished Guests;
– Cadres and Members of the Rwandese Patriotic Front;
– Fellow Rwandans:
Today is an important day in our history as we celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Rwandese Patriotic Front, and I am pleased to share it with you. I extend a special welcome to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as well as friends and delegations from fraternal political organisations from across the world that are here with us to mark this historic occasion.
Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate members of the RPF on coming of age – not just in years, but in terms of all that we have achieved together.
The RPF has come this far because of the dedication and sacrifice of many of its leaders and cadres.
I would like to pay particular tribute to the many patriots who laid down their lives so that today Rwandans can enjoy liberty and lead dignified lives. In particular I wish to single out the founding chairman of the RPF, Major General Fred Gisa Rwigema, Colonel Alexis Kanyarengwe, Major Peter Bayingana, Aloysia Inyumba and Rutabayiru Modeste.
I also wish to acknowledge others still with us today whose dedication to their nation and to the ideals and goals of the RPF have contributed immensely to our ongoing struggle. Among them are:
Tito Rutaremara, Mugengana Bosco, Protais Musoni, Rugogwe Innocent, Michael Rugema, Bwitare Eulade, Joseph Karemera, Rumongi, Zeno Mutimura, Karenzi Theoneste, and Connie Akayezu.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and we owe our eternal gratitude to all those who have been an indispensable part of the RPF from the start.
The RPF had precursors – there had been earlier efforts by organisations such as the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU) and the Rwandese Refugees Welfare Foundation (RRWF) to confront the very grave national issues affecting their country. But these were largely fragmented.
In December1987, Rwandans living in this region and some from farther afield, imbued with a vision for a free, just and democratic country, convened a meeting to consolidate and breathe new life into these earlier efforts.
In its very first congress, the Rwandese Patriotic Front was formed to correct the effects of several decades of misrule and restore respect for the sanctity of life as well as reinstate full citizenship to all Rwandans, including those exiled in neighbouring countries.
The RPF was always driven by the desire to reunite a fractured country and build a nation in which all Rwandans could live in dignity and freedom.
In addition to addressing political and other injustices, the RPF had a vision for the socio-economic transformation of Rwanda and a plan to set the country on the road to development.
From the beginning, the RPF chose to engage the then Government of Rwanda in making the necessary reforms to restore citizens’ rights. This approach did not yield the desired results and instead extremism continued which left the RPF with no other choice but to wage an armed struggle. The extremist government which had all along ran the country on a divisive ideology intensified its policy of killing sections of the population, culminating in the genocide which the RPF brought to an end in July 1994.
Since then, the RPF has made significant progress in resolving many of the complex challenges facing Rwanda against overwhelming odds. For sure, the country is much better off today than it has ever been.
Under the leadership of the RPF, Rwandans have built a unified nation and, through citizen participation, have succeeded in laying a strong foundation for the country, so that it gains its rightful place.
All this could not have been done without investing in our people by :
creating and making available equal opportunities to all Rwandans in education, healthcare and employment,
empowering women and youth and giving people living with disabilities their rightful value.
Improving the business environment and promoting entrepreneurship.
Good progress has been made in socio-economic development, leading to poverty reduction and increased incomes, Even in the most hostile environments, the RPF did not lose focus and, together with the people of Rwanda, continued to make enduring contributions to the improvement of their livelihoods.
The RPF has, and will always, follow that ideological line which places country, institutions and systems above any individual or other interests.
This ideology fosters open debate and continuous dialogue, embracing divergent ideas from all members and sections of the society towards consensus and a shared vision.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
The road we still have to travel is very long; the RPF has only made a small portion of that journey. We intend to stay the course and remain as forward-looking as we were 25 years ago.
At 25, the RPF is as old as a generation. People born around the time it was formed are now adults. Unlike them, however, our party did not have the opportunity or privilege to go through the normal stages of growth – the RPF was forced to run before we could barely crawl because circumstances required it.
This generation, the youth of RPF and Rwanda, must now be prepared to assume their responsibility and take our country to the next level. The foundation for true transformation has been laid and the opportunity to build on it must be seized.
The RPF welcomes the old and new partnerships with other African movements and political organisations that are working to make Africa a significant global player.
Africa cannot remain on the margins when we have the people and resources to make it a key player.
We Africans must recognise that no one is going to hand that role to us. We have to continue to struggle for it.
Let our celebrations today remind us of how far our country and our continent have come. Let this important milestone re-invigorate us for what lies ahead because the struggle for dignity and prosperity of Rwandans and Africans as a whole is not yet over.