Independence:The state of wanting or being able to do things for yourself and make your own decisions, without help or influence from other people.

For the last decade or so, I’ve written a similar version of what I call, ‘The Independence Day column. In this yearly column I stated, in a myriad of ways, that not only was Independence Day NOT a happy occasion for the hundreds of thousands of Rwandans who were forced into exile because of the upheaval that preceded it, Rwanda wasn’t even independent. Not with the poverty, neocolonialism and aid dependence that had become endemic to our country.

We were like the teenager that thinking they had become an adult because they graduated high school, cried ‘Uhuru’! But then immediately begged their parents to give them a room to sleep in, food to eat and pocket money to spend.

Happily, this year I’m not going to write the same column. I think that the teenager is finally packing his bags and leaving the familial nest, despite the dangers of the big bad world out there.

Independence has been for me, less about an event and more about a journey. It hasn’t been about the lowering of the Belgian flag in 1962, and more about the uplifting of the Rwandan flag in 2020. Since the liberation of the Rwandan people in 1994 by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, we have seen a Rwandan state that ‘wants’ to do things for themselves without the help or influence of other people/countries. What is different today is that the Rwandan state is ‘able’ to do things for themselves without the help or influence of other people/countries.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

In 1994, Rwanda relied 100 percent on foreign aid to finance the budget.

Rwanda’s dependence on foreign aid fell from 86 per cent in 2000 to 45 per cent in 2010. In the 2016/17 national budget, Government was able to finance 62 per cent of the Budget through domestic avenues and in the latest budget (2018/2019) external grants received are estimated to be Rwf 396.3 billion ($ USD 460,814,073) equivalent to 16 per cent of the budget. 84 per cent of the national budget will be domestically financed. So, in short, in 18 years Rwanda has gone from almost 100 per cent reliance on foreign aid to fund its national budget to 84 per cent

This increased self-reliance has given Rwanda the opportunity to raise its head above the parapet and declare to the world “Here We Are”! And thankfully, we are at last, telling the world a good story; a story of growth and rejuvenation.

We are telling the world that they need to visit Rwanda and see why Rwanda is the 5th safest country to walk in at night. Why we are ranked number one in government transparency by WEF and why we are 2nd fastest growing economy in Africa with a growth rate over 7 per cent this year according to the IMF.

We can unashamedly tell the world that we are partnering with one of the biggest brands in sports, Arsenal Football Club. We can tell the world that Volkswagen, the biggest carmaker in the world, is now not only visiting Rwanda, but staying in Rwanda.

The race that we have been undertaking since 1962 is almost on the home stretch.

The victory of self-determination is within our reach and what we need to do is simply keep our eyes on the prize. The prize is the dream of Mwami Mutara III Rudahigwa and other heroes who fought and died in the battles of yesteryear. Let us not let them, and ourselves, down. For the race is almost won.

Happy Independent Rwanda!

By Sunny Ntayombya

The Express News

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