In the vast hills of Northern Rwanda lies Gicumbi District, straddling the major road from Kigali to Kampala.
It’s here that President Kagame and RPF Guerrillas camped for almost four years as he led a decisive war against the regime of Juvenal Habyarimana.
The area is hilly, providing the much-needed natural shield Kagame needed to protect his troops from mortar shelling and aero bombardments.
Having captured the area in the early 1990s, Kagame was keen on maintaining good relations with its residents – building a solid relationship that has spanned decades
When residents were informed that Kagame would be in the area to rally support for his presidential candidacy, thousands turned up to show their solidarity.
Kagame started his speech by evoking memories of the RPF struggle, reminding his audience of their participation in the war that ended the 1994 genocide.
“We lived here with you and you helped us win the war of liberation,” said Kagame amid loud cheers from the crowds.
“The battles fought from this area were about changing this history and regaining our dignity,” said Kagame.
“Those who sacrificed their lives did not die in vain.”
The Liberation Museum featuring the Liberation Monument, monuments of deceased military personnel, Heroes’ Gardens, residence of the Chairman of the High Command, trench of the Chairman of the High Command, RPF Conference Hall and residences of the RPF Chairman and key staff members has since been constructed in Mulindi, Gicumbi.
The Mulindi RPF base is seen a symbol of resistance against the genocidal forces of the time.
Kagame urged his supporters not to “accept to be dictated to with useless lessons,” emphasizing, “What RPF has fought for, lost people for, we cannot let it go to waste.”
He asked: “How can you tell me how to live when it is you I fought to regain my livelihood? Those who had sleepless nights, went without food; did not do it to be told how we should live our lives.
He said the former colonial leaders “told us to live on our knees, begging them for our livelihood and accepting crumbs, and called it democracy.”
Kagame’s comments come against the backdrop of heightened criticism of his leadership.
Human rights activists accuse him of being intolerant to dissent, jailing opponents and suppressing civil liberties – charges he vehemently denies.
Speaking today, Kagame urged Rwanda to “continue to stand up for our dignity, our livelihood, our country.”
He said elections used to be defined by killings but that the current electoral process is being conducted under an atmosphere of safety, unity and joy.
“Election time used to be about insecurity and killings and that was called democracy. Today, we are the kind of people we should be building a country we deserve,” he observed.
“We have learned our lessons from our past. Today, we are a people who draw strength, brotherhood and unity from each other.”
He also recalled that 4 million Rwandans voted for the referendum that saw the presidential term limits clause scrapped from the Constitution hence paving way for his reelection.
Kagame said “this election is about respecting the will of the people,” and “choosing how you would like to continue this journey of development, unity and security.”
Rwandans go to the polls on August 4.