Rwandans should uphold national values and promote heroism as part of efforts to maintain the country’s unity and development.
Officials made the call on Sunday while hounouring Nyange school heroes who were killed by militia 21 years ago.
Yesterday’s event took place in Nyange sector in Ngororero District.
It was attended by living heroes who survived the attack, hundreds of residents and officials.
The event was marked by a Mass at Nyange Catholic Parish and a walk from the parish to the school before officials laid wreaths of flowers on the graves where two of the victims of the attack were laid to rest.
This was the 21st time to honour Nyange students since the gruesome attack in 1997.
Nyange students are categorised in Imena category of heroes owing to their bravery and solidarity when they defied orders by infiltrators, commonly as Abacengezi, to separate themselves along their ethnicity.
On March 18, 1997 at around 8p.m, the group of infiltrators entered the school, and killed a night guard and then started a foiled move to slaughter Tutsi students.
But the students testified to their unity, proved their oneness, solidarity, love, moral righteousness, and patriotism, and defied the orders and refused to separate.
They stuck together, committing to perish together, prompting the infiltrators to shoot indiscriminately at the students.
Six of them, namely Sylvestre Bizimana, Chantal Mujawamahoro, Béatrice Mukambaraga, Séraphine Mukarutwaza, Hélène Benimana, and Valens Ndemeye, were killed on the spot.
About 40 others were injured.
Speaking at the event, yesterday, Governor of Western Province Alphonse Munyentwari said it was an important day to hounour the fallen students as they demonstrated solidarity and oneness of Rwandans and rejected ethnicity.
He urged Rwandans, especially the youth, to uphold Rwandan values, heroism and patriotism if they are to maintain country’s cohesion.
He said that the Nyange students were young but this was never a barrier to them to become heroes, challenging the youth to emulate them.
“We hounour these heroes because of their act of heroism. Let us all be proud of that kind of heroism, let us uphold heroism as the students did despite shortly after the Genocide and liberation struggle,” he said.
“Becoming a hero is not about ones’ age, the Nyange students who became heroes were young, as youth you need to emulate them and strive to always promote heroism,” he added.
He noted that Rwanda’s heroism has its roots in the country’s history despite the bad history that befell the country due to bad leadership.
“Promoting heroism requires sustaining the gains made, ensuring security and upholding values of Rwandans. Let us all do all we can in our means and our positions to promote heroism,” he said.
He also challenged the survivors to always aim higher and encourage more youth to work harder towards heroism.
“You are heroes and still strong not only physically but emotionally as well, your role in promoting unity is critical,” he said.
Former students speak out
Former students who survived the gruesome attack have vivid memories of how the events unfolded.
“History had taught us about ethnicity and we knew our ethnic groups at our age then, events of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi were still fresh. But we defied their orders to separate even at the risk of our lives,” said Phanuel Sindayiheba, a survivor of the attack.
“It was around 8pm as we came from dinner, we heard people shooting and we took cover. They forced themselves into the classroom and ordered us to separate along ethnic lines, one of us said we were all Rwandans, they went out, hurled grenades to us, and later came back shooting at us,” he added.
He said, 21 years later, survivors had picked up themselves.
“We have acquired education up to university level, we have managed to get treatment with support of government and Kabgayi hospital, we are grateful for the protection and support and are contributing to national development,” said Sindayiheba.
The survivors founded Dukomeze ubutwari association, through which they promote heroism values and encourage Rwandans to emulate the same.
Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, the chancellor of the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Hounour (CHENO), hailed Nyange heroes for their acts of courage and bravery.
He urged Rwandans, and particularly the youth, to emulate them.
He added that the place should be improved to become more productive to the youth.