This week, Americans, including me, commemorated the 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In public places and churches, and surely in private places, American sang their favorites songs, hymns, and the national anthem. In America the Beautiful, God Bless USA, or Star Spangled Banner, the theme of freedom rang in the singers’ ears:
In God Bless USA:
“That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.”
In America the Beautiful:
“ America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!”
In the National Anthem Star Spangled Banner:
“Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,”
As I was joining others in singing and celebrating, my mind kept coming back to the theme :”That I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free”, “thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand”, or “Till selfish gain no longer stain The banner of the free”. As an American, I know what I am proud of.
As a Rwandan, I asked myself what I am proud of; then, what other Rwandans around the World may be proud of and naturally, I thought about Rwandans, inside Rwanda, and what they must be proud of.
The question to each Rwandan is: what are you proud of? I am not talking about the pride in your parents, children, role models, or personal achievements. My question is about what makes us proud of being a Rwandan today.
When I listen to the anthems, patriotic songs, and other happy proclamations from the most advanced democratic societies, I observe three themes on what make their citizens proud of their country:
- They are proud of being the citizens of their country, because at least they are free
- They are proud of being the citizens of their country, because they feel empowered in their rights
- They are proud of being the citizens of their county because of their able, visionary, and democratic leaders who strive to hold the country together, the people united and their nation prosperous.
Now, Rwandans, why are we proud of being Rwandans?
- Are we proud because Rwandans are free? Do Rwandans have the freedom to pursue happiness? Do they possess the freedom of expression, press, religion?
- Are we proud because Rwandans feel empowered in our own rights and our ability to stand for the rights of our neighbors, be they from the same ethnic group or not?
- Are we proud because the current Rwandan leaders have the respect around the region and the World for their righteousness, the promotion of democratic values and a vision for strong and lasting institutions, the foundations of prosperity and social wellness; leaders who value the life of each Rwandan regardless of the ethnic group, region, religion, or political views; leaders who value peace and unity among the components of our people above their selfish short term interests; leaders who want all Rwandans to feel and be welcomed in their own country?
Rwandans, what makes us proud of being Rwandans after 51 years of independence?
July 6, 2013.
Felicien Kanyamibwa, PhD.
President of National Democratic Congress (NDC) – Congrès National Pour la Démocratie (CND), a coalition between the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana) and Rally for the Rwandan People (RPR-Inkeragutabara).