Seventeen recipients of the Unity Awards are due to be recognised today at a function in Kigali.
The event is expected to be graced by President Paul Kagame. The ceremony will be preceded by the 8th Annual Forum of the Unity Club, to be attended by the First Lady Jeannette Kagame.
The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission in conjunction with the Unity Club earlier this week released a list of the 17 people set to receive the Unity Awards.
The recipients, locally referred to as Abarinzi b’igihango or protectors of friendship pact, will be recognised for their works.
These are Rwandans or foreigners who have shown unmatched deeds in promoting national unity and reconciliation at the climax of Rwanda’s dark periods starting from the 1990 liberation struggle, the multiparty period, Genocide and post-genocide, resurgence war and during Gacaca courts.
According to (Rtd) Bishop John Rucyahana, the president of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, the recognition of Abarinzi b’igihango is meant to inspire others and to pass their legacy to the next generations.
“The recognition of their deeds is not only meant to please them but also to motivate the youth through lessons they draw from their acts,” he said on Tuesday
Rucyahana said unity and reconciliation in Rwanda was on course.
“We are not perfect, but we are doing well,” he said, explaining that Abarinzi b’igihango are protectors of Rwanda’s dignity and its future.
“They must hold Rwanda’s values, patriotism, fight against division, injustice, genocide and its ideology among other exploits that help in building unity and reconciliation,” he said.
Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the vice chairperson of the Unity Club, an organisation that brings together current and former members of the government and their spouses, said the people selected must have accomplished their acts individually.
Unity is and will be the foundation of Rwanda’s progress, she said, adding that all ‘we do would be futile without unity.”
The awarding ceremony will take place during the 8th forum that will bring together members of the Unity club and the civil society.
The event will coincide with the launch of the Unity and Reconciliation Week during which different activities that aim at strengthening unity and reconciliation will be carried out.
The forum will run under the theme: “the protectors of friendship pact embracing Ndi umunyarwanda.”
Since January, the process of selecting the award winners started with 6,000 nominees from across the country.
Among them, 1,816 were selected to compete at sector level. Later, 230 of them were selected at the district level, before the final 17 were selected at the national level.
The selected 17 people that include five Catholic priests will be given a certificate of merit and medals, among other awards. Some are alive while others have since passed on.
The chosen people also include Grace Uwamahoro, who was only 13 years old in the 1994 Genocide when she saved a baby left by its mother who later succumbed to her wounds.
Moments before she breathed her last, the mother pleaded with the passersby to take the baby, but nobody took heed of her. With bravery, Uwamahoro took the baby with her as she fled to the DR Congo.
She resisted the pressure of her relatives who told her to leave the kid and raised her as her own.
The Unity Award recipients
During the Genocide, he led Gasange Sector in Gatsibo District. He prevented killings in this area because of anti-genocide mobilisations that he started early.
In 1990, he was a soldier in Gako, Bugesera District. He was placed at roadblocks to stop people with Tutsi identities but he let them go. During the Denocide, he accompanied 17 people to cross the border to Burundi, among others.
Mgr Servilien Nzakamwita
All his relatives were killed in the Genocide. However, he was not discouraged. He built houses for Rwandans who repatriated from Uganda and Tanzania in Gicumbi District. He is the first Catholic monsignor who initiated visits of prisoners.
He lives in Gakenke District. He was 18 during the Genocide and was a leader in Kibilizi cell, Gakenke. He mobilised residents of his cell not to kill and managed to stop any attack from outside and nobody was killed there.
He is a Genocide survivor and works in conflict management. He founded Inyenyeri, an association for unity and reconciliation in Rubavu District.
He lives in Rusizi District. During the Genocide, he helped 119 people flee to DR Congo and paid ransoms for them to survive.
Father Obald Rugiragonga
He initiated a programme that brings together victims and perpetrators in Rusizi District. Through this programme, 153 families were reunited. He also tours different prisons to teach inmates repentance.
Father Stanislas Urbanik
He is a Catholic priest from Poland. He started his evangelisation in 1992 during the multiparty period. He taught people to live in a brotherly love. His teachings bore fruits when the people he had taught helped him save 600 people who had come to seek refuge at Ruhango parish.
Late Mpankiriho tried to give ransom to killers in order to save people who had fled to his home in Nyanza District. He was killed when he refused to forsake them.
Kabera was a soldier in the then Rwandan army. He was always victimised because he was associated with Tutsi. He was detained and then released. During the Genocide, he was given a gun to kill, but rather used it to protect victims. He was killed for that.
Father Eros Borille
He is an Italian Catholic priest. He led Saint Antoine orphanage in Nyanza during the Genocide and used it to save people. It is estimated that 800 people survived because of him. As the situation worsened, his fellows told him to fly home but refused. He fell ill but refused to be hospitalised till another priest came to be with the refugees.
Father Jerome Masinzo
He is the leader of Butare Diocese since 1988. During the Genocide, he led Ngoma Parish. He helped 1,800 widows of the genocide in rehabilitation.
Father Dion Marius
He is credited with the survival of 15 people who had fled to him in Kacyiru, Gasabo and always resisted attacks of Interahamwe. Soldiers from UNAMIR forced him and other foreigners to leave, but he and another Swiss young man refused. He now stays at King Faisal Hospital.
He lived in Gasabo. During the Genocide, Munyakazi helped Tutsi cross Nyabarongo and was killed when he returned after his young brother betrayed him.
Murebwayire lives in Gasabo. She gathered women and girls and sensitised them through workshops. She provided counsellling and reconciliation talks. She is working as a mediator of perpetrators and victims. She is a champion of Ndi Umunyarwanda programme.
Damas Gisimba Mutezintare
He is the founder and owner of Centre Memorial Gisimba, Nyarugenge. During the Genocide, he gave an asylum to many Tutsi in this orphanage and saved 400. After the Genocide, Gisimba sheltered orphans and paid their school fees.
Grace Uwamahoro, who was only 13 years old in the 1994 Genocide when she saved a baby left by its mother who was going to succumb to her wounds. The mother pleaded with the passersby to take the baby but nobody took heed of her. With bravery, Uwamahoro took the baby with her as she fled to the DR Congo. She resisted the pressure of her relatives who told her to leave the kid and raised her as her own. This baby was named Uwase Vanessa and is now a S6 student at Maranyundo Girls School.