THE FIRST OCTOBER INVASION: A TURNING POINT TO RWANDA’S HISTORY

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President Kagame interracts with war veterans

President Kagame interracts with war veterans

On first October 1990, Rwanda Patriotic Front with its armed wing Rwanda patriotic army (RPA) clandestinely organized in Uganda launched an armed attack on Rwandan government in the day light at Kagitumba border post. It should be recalled that the majority of the attacking group (RPA) were former members of the National Resistance Army (NRA) that fought a bush war under president YOWERI KAGUTA MUSEVENI which ousted Obote’s regime in 1986.

They belonged to the Rwandan refugee community that fled their country in 1960’s following the massacres and persecution by the sectarian regime of the time.

During the time of escape from their country from 1959, the Rwandan refugee communities encountered immense suffering, subjected to unbearable conditions and their lives were always at stake. Imagine during obote1 regime the Rwandan refugees in Uganda were about to be forcefully be returned to Rwanda to meet the threat they tried to escape, an evil in the face of international law regarding refugees.

This would be the end of the vulnerable human beings at that particular time. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees took charge and the refugees were settled in different jungles in Uganda basically unfriendly to human life.

During the exodus or escape of the Rwandan people, predominantly Tutsis due to persecution in that period, any perceived place for safety became their destination. Some went to Uganda, others to Burundi, Tanzania as well as Zaire today the Democratic Republic of Congo. The means of transport was only foot with long matches in hunger, exhaustion and thirsty in the desperate journeys with uncertainty of their future.

A decade later, in 1970’s, Africa was characterized by turmoil political upheavals dominated by military coups that could not offer any chance of prediction of what would follow next. Amin took over power in Uganda, Mobutu, was in place in Zaire, in Burundi series of coups were going on. Political uncertainty in regard to the state of Rwandan refugees in the host countries remained a real danger and the only resort for these people was simply the grace of God.

It should be recalled that from 1960 to 1967 some members of the refugee community organized themselves and staged a resistance in bid to regain their country and rights in the name of “INYENZI” and launched multiple attacks in the face of a strong Rwanda -Belgian backed military. The outcome was a total defeat.

Following the 1967 defeat of INYENZI, hope was lost, and refugees in all the countries resorted to normal refugee lifestyle in their respective refugee camps. Primary education under trees begun, modest farming started to cope up with hard life, education facilitation was not similar in all countries, restrictions, barriers, prejudice and poverty affected a number of refugees and denied them opportunities to exploit their potentials for decades.

An opportunity posed itself in 1980’s when a bush war started in the jungles of Luwero district in Uganda where the current president of Uganda Y.K MUSEVENI launched a guerilla war that attracted frustrated young Rwandan patriots to join the liberation war. They were not liberating Uganda in essence but had in their mind, a country of their dream that hope had been lost and a refugee status had been taken for granted.

President Milton Obote was ousted in 1986, liberators took power, and an army of basically young men took over power, fought post liberation insurgence in the northern part of the country. It was well evidenced that the Rwandan young military men participated in all the events that transformed the situation in the country and consequently acquired significant positions and experiences that shaped what transpires today in our mother land. The Rwandan military youth in NRA undoubtedly formed the nucleus of what later became RPA that makes this country what it is at this moment.

1st October 1990 is a day of reflection, it is a day of decision, it is a day of realizing a dream, it is a day that all Rwandans across the globe sung and woke up to focus their eyes, ears and minds on their motherland after decades of frustrations and loss of hope to be with and within it. Young boys and girls from all walks of life and from their host countries decided to join the war for determination of their future and dignity.

The heroes made it, as young as they were, determined to their whole, with limited resources. However, the dark days occurred, when RPA was defeated in its initial attacks after the death of its leader GEN FRED RWIGEMA on the second day of the attack. The then government of Rwanda assured its citizens victory over RPA. The statement by the then president of Rwanda was basically a testimony of lack of knowledge of the science of war; RPA had lost a battle or battles but not a war. Another general however, had a task of teaching him a lesson of what a real war is, and whether taken or not, what  transpired in the following years as well as what is currently on board is the most important affirmation of the statement. Battles were lost at times but a war was won.

Few days ahead, 1st October 2015 is coming. What should Rwandan people recall and consider, in their memory of the date? That date was a trigger of events that went on over and again to the present that should as well inform the future.

My arguments today, in this particular writing is about challenging the current young generation of this country near and far with all facilities to enable them make incredible transformation of this country to a desirable future.

With all those ordeals, vulnerable as they were, had nothing at their disposal, no resources ,intellectual or material, no freedom to exercise their potentialities, no guidance from the wise and the elderly, no freedom to exercise their actions, no confidence in their environment, politically as economically, but they did all through hardships and struggle.

What about you? All this was possible because we had men of quality but above all a man of character with a value of courage of both physical and moral components. His willingness to face tough problems and take stands on difficult issues, even when outcome was not assured, has been his unique quality-guess who he is. Tough decisions in uncertain environment bred unexpected outcome that has made Rwanda what it looks today.

It is, at this critical time, that we should relate our present with our past in consideration of the historical milestones that our brothers and sisters made to remake this country. 1st October remains significant in the history of Rwanda, to you who were born after that date, the story shall not be well consumed, but it is your responsibility to track your history.

Some people decided to die for you, decided also to die for others for the sake of a country’s continuity. What was displayed by those guys can simply be named values as: selflessness, moral courage and integrity that should be regarded as the shields of our nation.

All along the way, what made it possible is one single factor that is always not taken care of, as Aristotle said “in arena of human life, the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action”. The qualities shown in action that brought this country back to dignity fall to people you all know, but the future generations should be better by the actions of the current generation. 1st October shall remain a significant date for the transformation of Rwandan history and the livelihood of its people.

‘’The final index to a nation’s destiny is within its people, in their commitment to principles and ideals and their willingness to sacrifice for common good’’ President Dwight D .Eisenhower.

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About the author

Olive Ndaka is the Junior Editor for RwandaEye. An investor and young entrepreneur, she is a quick learner and has contributed many articles for RwandaEye in Kinyarwanda.

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