Rwanda, Public Holidays, Speeches, Grégoire Kayibanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, Public History, Democracy, Development, the Nation.

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Since independence, Rwandan governments have made it a culture to commemorate some events considered as important. These include the dates of 28 January in remembrance of the Gitarama proclamation of the Republic and abolition of Monarchy on 28 January 1961; 25 September to commemorate the victory of Party of Movement of Emancipation of Hutu (PARMEHUTU) victory of legislative elections, and 1 July to celebrate the Rwandan independence that took place on 1 July 1962. Other important dates include the 1st of January of each year when the Head of State used to address the nation and the 5th of July to commemorate the accession to power of President Juvénal Habyarimana on 5 July 1973.

This paper seeks to make a number of arguments. First, it attempts to highlight the fact that those dates or events were given an unequal emphasis during the First Republic (1962-1973) and the Second Republic (1973-1994). Secondly, it argues that commemoration was not just about the recalling of past events. It was most importantly about seeking a new interpretation of those past events in the present conjuncture. In this regard, past events were given a new meaning and a new emphasis to justify or support political interests or to project future strategies.

Methodologically, this paper does two things. It first assesses the speeches of leaders, especially of President Grégoire Kayibanda and President Juvénal Habyarimana, during those commemorated dates by reporting their overall content. In this regard, it shows how heads of state were key actors in shaping the memory of the nation and acting as custodians of public history. It also shows how the content of those speeches were a combination of past events and their significance in the present, i.e., at the moment of their presentation.



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