During the time of the guerilla war that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led against Juvenal Habyarimana’s government from October 1990 to July 1994, national and international journalists visited the rebellion’s base at Mulindi in the region of Byumba. They asked RPF’s strategists if their war was not going to make their Tutsi compatriots massacred by Hutus. More than anything else the rebel movement’s grievances were more about ruling the country at any cost than finding peaceful solutions to the then prevailing Tutsi refugee situation. The answer to the question was that you cannot have an omelet without breaking the egg. RPF was ready to sacrifice its Tutsi own people to achieve its political aim. And that is the way it happened. Among Tutsi extremists who were leading the rebellion, there was quite an agreed understanding about the worth of Tutsi who had stayed and lived peacefully with Hutus. They were seen as traitors.
As true as it could be, there are peaceful revolutions which call for a bit of courage only of getting out, and saying loud what one feels strongly about. The case of Barack Obama becoming the first Black American president in the history of the United States, or Nelson Mandela ending the Apartheid system in South Africa, these are revolutions which occurred without shedding people’s lives in the thousands, or millions. In each of these situations, and many others alike, remarkable courage is however necessary to get to objectives intended.
On October 29th, 2010, Ms Victoire Ingabire, Leader of FDU-Inkingi, a Rwandan political party of the opposition, told her visitors from her prison’s cell in Kigali that, ‘You can never get a revolution without sacrifices. The only weaponry you need is your courage. You all have it embedded in you. Free it and our people will be free forever.’ She asked her supporters to communicate that message to all Rwandans wherever they are.
What defines courage? It is its unusual characteristic when it is on display. It is characterized by stepping out from our normal comfort zone. It is changing who we normally are, thinking outside the box and being different. It calls for a certain degree of selflessness when its expression is for the good of many. In this situation it is highly compassionate towards the conditions of those it intends to rescue. Courage demands a special look at our everyday realities. We don’t stand still when courage is embedded within us. We take action. This is what Victoire Ingabire is inviting Rwandans to understand. She and those made of the same breed have at the moment brought tangible changes to the Rwandan political landscape. Nothing will ever be the same again. Deo Mushayigi, Me Bernard Ntaganda, Frank Habineza, and many of their supporters inside the country and elsewhere are working for that revolution which calls for sacrifices but does not sacrifice lives in the thousands or millions to bring change.
June 24th, 2010 should then on be remembered as a day when ordinary Rwandans, a few hundreds, came out to tell RPF regime that they wanted an end to multiple injustices the entire population is suffering from since Paul Kagame took power in 1994. Me Bernard Ntaganda, chairman and founder of Parti Social Imberakuri, is credited for having led that action. The demonstration was brutally crashed by the government’s instruments of repression. Police forces and the judiciary worked hand in hand to ensure protesters were beaten up, tortured and detained. Me Bernard Ntaganda has since then been in prison and continuously mistreated.
Being courageous is sometimes daring to go a different path. When Ms Victoire Ingabire came back to Rwanda from exile in January 2010, she set an unusual tune for RPF regime though this was what the government was meant to be doing. She explained that, ‘It is very important for all of us Rwandans with our different ethnic backgrounds to understand that we need to come together in unity and with mutual respect in order to develop our country peacefully. The reason we came back is therefore to find ways collectively of starting off on that roadmap towards unity, working jointly to end injustices in our country, addressing as one issues of getting Rwandans to live freely in their country.’ RPF government had claimed and continues to claim working for these necessary prerequisites of any sustainable development. For Ms Victoire Ingabire to advoacte for what she said publicly was like discrediting the government’s work. But she translated what was missing in everyday experience of any Rwandan.
The revolution Ms Victoire Ingabire started by getting back to her country despite multiple obstacles to stop her from being there is ongoing. The courage she has demonstrated so far should inspire many among Rwandans. They owe some audacity to the memory of those who departed undeservedly. They also owe it to future generations of Rwandans who need to live in a better Rwanda free from current injustices.