Saturday, July 12, 2014

We must work hard to own our liberation

By Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Minister of Health

Published in the NewTimes Rwanda on 7th July 2014

Twenty years after the end of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, this July fourth makes me reflect on what the events we remember today have brought to me as a Rwandan, as an African, and as a woman, a mother, and a daughter. First and foremost, I have come to understand that, to truly honor the sacrifices of our RPF’s brave soldiers—who laid down their lives so that Rwandans might live in a country free of discrimination, free of the fear of violence based on one’s background, and free to pursue lives they value—we must work to own our liberation.

Thanks to our heroes, I now live in a country where all have an equal chance, whether you are the nation’s newest baby girl in the most rural district, or whether you are the head of Parliament. Thanks to this foundation, we have the opportunity to build the future we want through dialogue and transparency.

In this reborn Rwanda, our society is far from homogenous; this is such a blessing, because it is our diversity that fuels the engine of innovation behind recent progress. Certainly, many serious challenges lie ahead, and we have so much more to achieve in order to give all of our brothers and sisters the opportunities that they deserve. But we are continuously progressing each day to achieve that vision, and on this July fourth, I hope we do not take these efforts for granted.

In today’s Rwanda, every citizen inside our borders or living all around the world—whether they support the government’s efforts or hold different views—identify themselves as Rwandans with pride. Today, we celebrate the blessing of our shared identity as Rwandans, and pursue with renewed purpose our mission to accelerate the journey to shared development by transforming our Vision 2020 into our daily reality.

Many of our international friends see Rwanda’s recent achievements as a miracle of humanity, compassion, forgiveness, inclusivity, and progressive thinking that some claim could never be replicated elsewhere. But on this July fourth, as we reflect on a journey spanning twenty years, it is clear that this is no miracle. Anything that we have achieved has been through the determination and shared efforts of millions of Rwandans to liberate our country from the spirit of division, from fear, from ignorance, from the consequences of bad leadership, and from the oppression of poverty.

If we still have a long way to go, we are proud of what has been built to date. In this spirit of reflection, I feel a strong sense of gratitude to the Rwandan Patriotic Front for having halted the Genocide, and for protecting our people and our nation these past two decades. By helping more than two million refugees and displaced citizens to return home to peace and security, by making our communities free from discrimination of any kind, and by building the foundations of a democracy based on human rights, the sacrifices of our countrymen and countrywomen and the leadership of our President Paul Kagame have brought us here today. The liberation of 1994 recovered our dignity; the daily work to liberate our minds is making us proud Rwandans and proud Africans.

With this legacy, the Rwandan people can address the greatest challenges we have face by owning them, working to take full responsibility in the face of complexity, and harnessing the creativity of our people to find the solutions our nation needs. If we carry this spirit forward, we will truly own our future for the next 20 years and beyond.