Rwandans honour their heroes

Rwandans honour their heroes

Rwandans marked Heroes’ Day last friday, with celebrations taking place in villages across the country.

Discussions to observe the day were held under the theme, “Sustaining heroism in a vision we have chosen”.

The theme was picked to inspire the youth in maintaining the highest values of patriotism and sacrifice for the wellbeing of the country and its citizens.

In the capital Kigali, Senate president Bernard Makuza and Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente led other government officials, representatives of the diplomatic corps, and families of the country’s celebrated heroes to lay wreaths at their graves at the National Heroes’ Mausoleum in Remera.

The Minister for Sports and Culture, Nyirasafari Espérance, told journalists at the mausoleum that Rwandans, especially young folks, need to learn from what characterised the country’s heroes and try to emulate their ways.

She encouraged parents to raise their children in a way that helps them to grow up with great courage.

“Heroism starts at the family level. It’s incumbent upon parents to teach children about values of heroism at an early age,” she said.

She urged the youth to move away from distraction and work harder to build their country.

“We should learn from what characterised heroes and make their good values part of our daily life,” she said.

The Chancellor of the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO), Pierre-Damien Habumuremyi, equally urged the youth to always celebrate and learn from national heroes.

“The country is stronger today than before thanks to efforts made by citizens. Those who were chosen as national heroes were chosen so they can serve as an example for others to learn from,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Celebrated national heroes are in three categories: Imanzi, Imena, and Ingenzi.

The Imanzi category, the highest order, features people who registered utmost achievements at the expense of everything, including their own lives.

They include Maj Gen Fred Rwigema, who died on the frontline the day after the launch of the country’s armed liberation struggle in October 1990, and the ‘Unknown Soldier’, who represents all the men and women in uniform who lost their lives during the campaign to liberate the country.

The Imena category comprises of people whose track record includes extraordinary acts for the country and were characterised by utmost sacrifice.

This category includes King Mutara III Rudahigwa Charles Léon Pierre, Michel Rwagasana (special adviser to late King Rudahigwa), and Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the female prime minister who was slain by genocidal government forces within just hours of the start of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Others in this category include Félicité Niyitegeka, a Catholic church assistant who offered shelter to fleeing Tutsi during Genocide only to be killed by the Interahamwe militia alongside the people who she had hid in her house at a parish in Rubavu District; and the Nyange Secondary School students, whose school was attacked by the remnants of the genocidal forces and Interahamwe militia on March 18, 1997 (six of the students were killed on that fateful night).

Adria Umurangamirwa, now aged 83, told The New Times yesterday that her friend, the late Félicité Niyitegeka (a hero in the category of ‘Imena’), was indeed a person in service of humanity.

“I always think about her a lot and I thank her for what she did. I was never surprised that she died for us because her love was amazing. She always loved those in a vulnerable situation and the needy,” she said after laying a wreath on her tomb at the Remera mausoleum.

Phanuel Sindayiheba, 42, one of the surviving Nyange heroes, said at the mausoleum yesterday that paying tribute to the country’s heroes reminds him of the responsibility to carry on with life.

“Whenever we meet here it’s always a good sign that life goes on,” he said.

Sindayiheba explained that what heroes went through might be a sad story but what matters today are the lessons from it.

The Ingenzi category is comprised of living heroes but their list is yet to be published.