Why you won't see festivities during Rwanda's independence day

Rwanda did not really gain independence on July 1, 1962, according to Senator Tito Rutaremara.That day, he explains, the country got a good chance to claim its independence but the regime at the time simply "squandered" it.

Rutaremara on Monday, June 29, told The New Times that he disagrees with people who think that July 1 is not celebrated because "it is actually a holiday."


He said: "The problem is not that day in itself. Other African countries got independence on that day. But the issue is that the people who got independence opted to remain colonised."


Rutaremara's views are not so different from those of former Senator Antoine Mugesera, who was a 20-year-old student in 1962.

Mugesera was among the Rwandans who, on July 1, 1962, witnessed the Belgian flag lowered and the Rwandan flag hoisted as a signal of the end to the Belgian rule.

In the recent past, Mugesera told this paper that the true meaning of independence was not achieved 58 years ago.

What actually happened was "a paradox", Mugesera noted, explaining that Rwandans were deceived.

According to Mugesera, the ethnic divisions that developed into hatred in schools and workplaces, culminated in the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.

Dr Raphael Nkaka, Vice Dean at the School of Governance in the University of Rwanda's College of Arts and Social Sciences agrees saying that, "we cannot, legally, say that independence happened."

The academic explained that over nine decades ago, there existed colonial era legislation - the law of August 21, 1925 on the Government of Ruanda-Urundi - that governed Rwanda and Burundi as one colonial territory.

Nkaka said: "That law was like a constitution. And even after this independence of 1962, that law continued to be applied."

 "So, legally, we were not independent. But, politically, we were independent."

Apartheid-like party took reigns of power

Genocide researcher Tom Ndahiro agrees with the former Senator, calling Rwanda’s July 1, 1962 event as the ‘fake independence’.

Among other things, Ndahiro noted that Kayibanda's party "of racists and fascists" did not actually want independence because it was "created to serve the interests of colonial masters.”

Ndahiro reiterated: "Rwanda's 'independence' on July 1, 1962, was nothing but a triumph of evil, when an apartheid-like party PARMEHUTU took reigns of power from their creators, the Belgian colonists."

"There were (at the time) hundreds of thousands of innocent Rwandans languishing in neighbouring countries as refugees who had run away for their lives."

The Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) was a political party founded by the first elected President of Rwanda, Grégoire Kayibanda, in June 1957.

Kayibanda's party emphasized the right of the ‘majority’ ethnicity to rule and asserted the supremacy of the Hutu over the Tutsi.

In 1962, Rutaremara said, when the party that really sought total liberation of the country -  the Rwandese National Union (UNAR) - demanded independence from the Belgians, its members were harassed and expelled. The party was then dissolved in 1963.

The Belgian colonialists then supported PARMEHUTU to gain control of the country, under a sham independence.

Rutaremara said: "UNAR wanted total, or real, independence but it was expelled by the colonialists in collaboration with PARMEHUTU. On the so-called independence day, a bad choice was made; to remain under the control of the colonialists, instead of full liberation. Full liberation came on July 4, 1994."

July 4, 1994 is the day the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) captured power and stopped the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It marked a turning point in the country's history.

Nonetheless, Rutaremara stressed that whatever the case, July 1, 1962 is not forgotten because it is a day the regime at the time got a good opportunity to liberate the country but squandered it.

"They simply blundered and opted to remain colonised instead of independent."