Every year on February 1, Rwanda celebrates National Heroes Day. The day is dedicated to people who exemplified and safeguarded the highest values of patriotism and sacrifice for the wellbeing of the country and its citizens. In Rwanda, national heroes are recognised based on three categories – Imanzi, Imena, and Ingenzi, according to the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO). Imanzi are supreme heroes who demonstrated outstanding achievements occasioned by supreme sacrifice, outstanding importance and example. This category, which only has two people; the late Maj Gen Fred Rwigema and the Unknown Soldier, can only be awarded posthumously. Heroes in the Imena category are reputed for their extraordinary acts for the country marked by sacrifice, high importance and being examplary. The Ingenzi category comprises heroes who are still alive. Unlike the other categories, a list of the Ingenzi heroes has not yet been published. The Unknown Soldier - Imanzi The Unknown Soldier represents all the fallen soldiers of the liberation struggle that ended in 1994 with the stopping of the Genocide against the Tutsi. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is at the National Heroes’ Mausoleum in Remera, next to Amahoro National Stadium, in Kigali. It is a way of honouring the thousands of soldiers whose remains could not be identified after the liberation struggle. Maj Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema – Imanzi Born on April 10, 1957, in Mukiranze village, Kamonyi District (former Gitarama) in Southern Province, Maj Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema died on October 2, 1990, on the second day of the liberation war launched by the Rwanda Patriotic Army. READ ALSO: Fred Gisa Rwigema: A Portrait of a Trans African hero Rwigema was the first commander of the liberation struggle. He was was killed by enemy fire at the beginning of the liberation struggle. He is credited for mobilising Rwandans in exile towards supporting the struggle that was launched after all other options for peaceful repatriation failed to yield any results. His parents were Anastasie Kimonyo and Gatarina Mukandilima. The young Rwigema and his family fled to Uganda and settled in Nshungerezi Refugee Camp in the 1960s following the 1959 pogroms. In 1974, he went to Tanzania and joined the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), a rebel group led by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. Later, in 1976, he travelled to Mozambique and joined the FRELIMO rebels who were fighting for the Mozambique’s liberation against the Portuguese colonial power. In 1981, 27 soldiers, including Rwigema and his childhood friend and current President Paul Kagame, as well as Museveni, started a liberation struggle against the regime of president Milton Obote, in Uganda. Rwigema helped the rebel National Resistance Army (NRA) capture state power in 1986 and he was appointed the Ugandan Deputy Minister of Defence. He was regularly at the front line in northern Uganda during the government’s offensive against remnants of the ousted regime. But despite holding all the above posts, he always held Rwanda at heart. Rwigema is remembered for being among those who greatly inspired the Rwandan refugees to liberate their country, and on October 1, 1990, he spearheaded Rwanda’s liberation struggle. He was shot on the frontline on a hill known as Nyabweshongozi in Umutara region. He is survived by a wife – Janet Urujeni Rwigema whom he married on June 20, 1987 – with two children: Junior Gisa and Teta Gisa. Umwami Mutara III Rudahigwa Charles Léon-Pierre - Imena King Mutara III Rudahigwa was the son of King Yuhi IV Musinga and Nyiramavugo Kankazi Redegonde. He was coroneted on November 16, 1931, after the abdication of his father on November 13, 1931. WATCH: Video: Rudahigwa was King of innovations, positive reforms During his rule, Rudahigwa advocated for the welfare of Rwandans, independence, democracy and fought against injustice through the King’s Court. He married Nyiramakomali on October 15, 1933, but they separated in 1940. He then married Rosalie Gicanda on January 18, 1942. He worked hard to educate Rwandans through the establishment of the Mutara Fund and requested the Catholic Church, through their Jesuits’ order to establish a college in Gitarama but, instead, the college was built in Bujumbura, Burundi. Rudahigwa later set up the Islamic college in Nyamirambo, a Kigali, suburb and another school in Kanyanza and offered scholarships to many Rwandans to study in Europe. Under his reign, he eliminated all forms of slavery and subjugation and advocated for unity and reconciliation among Rwandans. King Mutara III Rudahigwa died under mysterious circumstances on July 25, 1959, in what many consider to have been an assassination. READ ALSO: Sixty-three years later, King Rudahigwa’s death remains a mystery Michel Rwagasana - Imena Michel Rwagasana was born in 1927, in Gitisi, Nyamagana of Ruhango District in Southern Province. He attended Groupe Scolaire Astrida, attaining a Diploma in Administration. He married Suzana Nzayire in 1957 and the two were blessed with four children, but he never got a chance to see his last born because he died when his wife was three months pregnant. Rwagasana attained several distinctive positions due to his integrity. He later became the Personal Secretary of King Mutara III Rudahigwa, from 1954. His unvarying advocacy for unity, independence and denouncing ethnic differences is renowned. He was killed during the regime of Gregoire Kayibanda for declining to embrace ethnic segregation. Rwagasana was a founding member of UNAR – Union Nationale Rwandaise, a political organisation that agitated for the unconditional independence of the country, and was its Secretary General at the time of his death in 1963. Agathe Uwiringiyimana - Imena Agatha Uwiringiyimana was born on June 23, 1953, in Gitore, Gisagara District of the Southern Province. She was the daughter of Yuvenali Ntibashirakandi and Saverina Nyirantibangwa. She got married to Ignace Barahira in 1976 and was blessed with five children. READ ALSO: Agathe Uwiringiyimana: A heroine unfortunate to have lived in evil era Uwiringiyimana became the first woman to hold the position of Prime Minister in Rwanda’s history. She served in the position from July 17, 1993, to the time of her death in April 1994. Prior to that, she served as Minister of Education where she advocated for equal rights among students. During her time in office, she advocated for the rights of women and spearheaded the fight against divisionism. She was assassinated on April 7, 1994, by members of the genocidal regime’s notorious presidential guard. Félicité Niyitegeka - Imena Born in 1934, Félicité Niyitegeka was the daughter of Simon Sekabwa and Angelina Nyirampabuka. READ ALSO: Felicité Niyitegeka ‘was always a heroine’ She was killed on April 21, 1994, during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Niyitegeka is remembered for refusing to part ways with the people who found refuge at Centre Saint Pierre in Gisenyi – current Rubavu District. She was just a casual worker at the centre when her brother – an army officer – asked her to abandon the Tutsi since the military was aware of her activities, but she refused. When the Interahamwe militias came to her house, she already had more than 30 Tutsi refugees in her house. The Interahamwe informed her that she would be spared but her charges would have to be killed. She opted to die with them. Nyange Secondary School students - Imena Senior Five and Senior Six students of Nyange Secondary School were, on March 18, 1997, attacked by remnants of the genocidal machinery – this was during the days of the insurgency – who forced them to separate themselves along ethnic lines. The students refused and the attackers killed six of them, including four girls. Those killed are Sylvestre Bizimana, Chantal Mujawamahoro, Beatrice Mukambaraga, Seraphine Mukarutwaza, Helene Benimana, and Valens Ndemeye. The Nyange heroes are among millions of victims of the decades of bad leadership that attempted to erase Rwandans’ characteristic values that were built around the nation’s common identity since the days of our forefathers. Understandably, events that commemorate these fallen students and all other celebrated national heroes evoke bitter memories. READ ALSO: CHENO urges people to visit Heroism sites February 1 is also a reminder that there are exemplary men, women and children who laid down their lives for Rwanda and whose love for the country should inspire all the people to work hard to advance the same values they strived for.