Established in 2009, The Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO) officially started operations in 2014. CHENO is in charge of Heroes Day commemoration which has been celebrated nationally since 1999. This year, the day will be celebrated under the theme “Heroism is making choices that fit us”.
The Chancellery sets up guidelines and preconditions for one to be recognised as a hero. These include patriotism, sacrifice, truthfulness, altruism, humanity, exemplariness among others.
According to Nicolas Rwaka, the Director of Research at Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour, heroism and development are inseparable.
“Development and heroism go hand in hand. There cannot be development without values and bravery of citizens. When people sacrifice themselves for others’ sake, they are doing that for the common good and national development.
The progress the country has made is due to heroism. Every Rwandan should think about their role in sustaining this progress and choosing a good direction for the nation is heroism,” he said.
“Rwandans should always be cognisant of past heroic acts and teach the youth to emulate them. They should participate in civic activities, visit places that indicate heroism in order to espouse heroism”, he noted.
Making citizens embrace heroism
Nobody is born a hero. Thus, heroism can be inspired and nurtured. It is within this framework that the Chancellery initiated different programs to promote heroism in the country.
The Chancellery conducts mobilization and creates awareness on heroism among the citizens through different platforms including the media. Officials participate in talk shows on Radio stations and TV programs to teach people about heroism.
The celebrations of Heroes’ day are held at village level to ensure citizen’s involvement. The chancellery works with the local government in communicating messages of heroism.
Clubs of culture and heroism have been created in both primary and secondary schools across the country. Sector and district education officers have also been trained to make follow ups on the functioning of those clubs.
In addition, The chancellery prepared a curriculum to guide those clubs and is looking into creating more clubs in Universities and higher learning institutions in the future.
The civic program “Itorero” is also another way used to teach people about heroism. Itorero was a recurrent event that was conducted throughout history, during which people were taught values that helped them become good citizens and servants of the nation. Although Itorero was repealed by colonialists, it was reinstated later and is used to encourage citizens to uphold heroism.
Throughout history, Rwandans used to recognise heroes especially those who killed most enemies during wars. The heroes were awarded medals such as Uruti, Impotore and Umudende.
Although the practice was dejected during colonial times, it was later reintroduced and CHENO is in charge of recognising and honouring people with outstanding acts.
According to Rwaka, the reward for the heroes is recognition since the equivalent of their acts cannot be found.
“The acts of the heroes are priceless. Thus, recognising heroes, Rwandans or foreigners whose valor contribute to the nation’s development is priceless.
He explains that not all brave people are heroes. Some are decorated with medals and declared as heroes while others are eligible for National Order awarding.
Umudende is the medal for heroes whose acts generally contribute to development, Umurinzi for those who fought against the genocide and Uruti for those who showed bravery in the liberation war.
The chancellery plans to provide more medals such as the medal of sacrifice, culture and foreign cooperation, among others.
To help the living heroes (former Inyange students) live an esteemed life, the Chancellery signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Kanombe Military Hospital and King Faisal Hospital to help them access healthcare. It advocates for and works closely with them so that they can inspire the public.
The Chancellery in partnership the Ministry of Sports has organised a match on Heroes Day between Rayon Sports and APR FC. The money collected from the match will be used to support war veterans and living heroes.
As its mission stipulates, the Chancellery has to identify, thank, honor and celebrate the memory of Rwandan citizens or foreigners who distinguished themselves by acts of Heroism and other acts of bravery serving as good examples. In that regard, the chancellery has been conducting research on people to be recognised or be declared heroes.
There are 53 existing national heroes classified in three categories initiated in 2001, namely Imanzi, Imena and Ingenzi.
Vetting of people to be recognized as national heroes is underway and 35 people have already been examined out of 200 candidates under scrutiny. After the research, the new heroes will be categorized and approved by Cabinet.
CHENO initiated a five-year strategic plan (2015-2020) that will direct plans and policies.
In order to preserve heroic acts and endorse heroism, various programs have been implemented while others are in the pipeline.
For instance, a monument was constructed at Groupe scholaire Inyange and fallen heroes from the school were given decent burial.
The Chancellery conducted a feasibility study on the national heroes’ square and decided to refurbish the memorial. In view of that, the body projects to construct a national heroes’ mausoleum at the current heroes square at Remera. The mausoleum will consist of a library, research center and gallery, guides and orientations, among others. It is expected that it will be completed in the next three years.
In Rubavu, a house in which Félicité Niyitegeka, one of the heroes, lived in will be renovated.
The Chancellery plans to put sign-posts at certain locations where heroic acts happened in memory of heroism. The locations are in Nyamagumba in Musanze district where Michel Rwagasana died, Kagitumba in Nyagatare district, where Fred Rwigema died.
Improvements will also be made at the tomb of King Rudahigwa in Nyanza district and Remera in Kigali.