Govt unveils Heroes Day roadmap

(L-R) The Chancellor of the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour, Pierre-Damien Habumuremyi, Minister of State in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Edouard Bamporiki, and Director of Rwanda Peace Academy Col Jules Rutaremara during Press Conference in Kigali yesterday. Photo: Sam Ngendahimana.

The theme, “Our Heroism, our Dignity,” under which this year’s National Heroes Day will be celebrated, is expected to be maintained for years to come as Rwanda seeks to instill heroic values among citizens.

This was confirmed by the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO) during a news conference in Kigali on Friday, January 24.

The event was held ahead of the National Heroes Day which will take place on February 1.

Pierre-Damien Habumuremyi, the Chancellor of CHENO, said that “after consultations with various institutions, we realised that instead of deciding on a theme every year, it would be better to choose one theme, reinforce and focus on it over the years.”

“This theme means a lot. But, what is important is that every Rwandan should be characterised by heroism in their daily lives, ways of work and behavior. And such heroism earns us pride as Rwandans,” Habumuremyi said, adding that such a theme reflects the journey that Rwanda went through up to now.   

He said that there are four values that reinforces heroism; patriotism, unity, integrity, and loving work which should be well done.

“When we remember the national heroes, we are reinforcing a culture to exalt, pay tribute to heroes as they performed extraordinary deeds for the benefit of our country,” he observed.

Colonel Jill Rutaremara, the Director of Rwanda Peace Academy, said that becoming a hero was historically associated with victorious participation on the battlefield, and was manly but indicated that it has so far been broadened to include civilians, and women who reached outstanding achievements for public interest.

“A country is not protected by the army alone. When a soldier is fighting, they need provisions such as food and military equipment. That brings in the economic aspect. Rwandans should support their army for them to accomplish their responsibilities,” he said.

He also pointed out that defending the country is mainly facilitated by tips from the ordinary citizens.

Heroism Week

The National Heroes Day will be preceded by a one-week nationwide campaign to promote the values of heroism.

The Heroism Week started on January 24-31. Main activities in this Week will include “Ubutwari Tournament”, that will consist of several sports disciplines, conferences and talk shows among others.

On Saturday, February 1, Rwanda will celebrate the 26th National Heroes Day.

The celebrations will be held from villages and embassies (for Rwandans abroad) where Rwandans will gather to honour the ultimate sacrifice and devotion by the national heroes for their country.

The heroes are considered exceptional individuals whose legacy continue to inspire Rwanda and its citizens, according to CHENO.

On January 31, 2020, a concert to celebrate and honour heroes will take place at Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village (former Camp Kigali) starting from 5:30 pm.

According to CHENO, to be classified as a National Hero in Rwanda, a person shall meet criteria namely proven integrity, patriotism, sacrifice, wisdom, proven courage or bravery, to serve as an example, truthfulness, magnanimity (to demonstrate good manners in one’s behaviour, relations and interactions); and Humanity. 

Rwanda’s heroes are classified into three categories: Imanzi, Imena, and Ingenzi.

CHENO defines Imanzi as the supreme hero who demonstrated outstanding achievements characterised by supreme sacrifice, outstanding importance and example.

This category, so far, has two laureates; Major General Fred Gisa Rwigema, and the Unknown Soldier, who represents all the soldiers that died in the struggle to liberate the country.

Imena is the hero who is reputed for their extra ordinary acts for the country which are characterized by supreme sacrifice, high importance and example.

Heroes in this category include King Mutara III Rudahigwa, former Prime Minister Agathe Uwiringiyimana, post-independence political activist Michel Rwagasana, Félicité Niyitegeka a catholic nun who was also a humanitarian and Nyange students.

The Nyange students are recognised for having taken a stand in 1997 when their school in southern Rwanda, was attacked by infiltrators who asked them to separate themselves along ethnic lines.

They refused and in the process, many were killed, while others survived with life-long injuries.

A person cannot be a hero under these two categories (Imanzi and Imena) while still alive.

The third category of heroes is Ingenzi and this is bestowed upon someone who is famous for their good ideas or their outstanding achievements characterised by supreme sacrifice, great importance and high example.

The no one has been named for this Ingenzi category thus far.

“The door is open for Rwandans to name people who they believe deserve this recognition,” Habumuremyi said indicating that the candidate should go under CHENO’s vetting process to ascertain their eligibility.

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