The Culture of heroism for national heritage is an aspect that concerns every Rwandan. The Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO) is a National Institution that is among other things, responsible for the identification of persons or groups of persons who have distinguished themselves in performing heroic acts and in rendering exemplary service to the nation.
Through CHENO, Rwandans are able to know about and associate with their history and those that sacrificed their lives in helping the nation on the road to attaining freedom, peace, welfare, good governance and development.
The Director of Research Unit at CHENO, Rwaka Nicolas, says that Rwandan National Heroes played a very important role in achieving the country’s freedom, making it incumbent for the current generation to honour their contribution.
The Government of Rwanda established CHENO in 2009, being the organ responsible for heading all activities related to identify persons deserving to be called National Heroes and those to be awarded with National Orders and Decorations of Honour.
“The youth and all Rwandans must know about these heroes and remember their greatness and the sacrifices they have made. They are taken as role models
who did their best to let us enjoy the freedom that we have right now. Their memories and greatness should always be remembered,” he explains.
CHENO encourages youth to participate in clubs of “Culture and Heroism” in secondary schools, higher institutions of learning and Universities in order for them to learn more and to understand the importance of Rwandan heroes.
“It is important for the young generation to know and have National Heroes as role models that will inspire them to know and inculcate in their lives values related to heroism such as integrity, humanity, patriotism among others., that why we have the National Heroes Day as a special time for all Rwandans to remember and honour Heroes.” he explained.
He says that the youth should know that what distinguishes Rwanda from other nations is its historical culture and heritage, i.e. the main factors that shape and nurture an individual.
“We uphold relatively high ethical and moral standards that are extemporary to the youth” says Rwaka. CHENO follows a certain criteria in choosing who should be awarded for their outstanding acts and the category that they belong to.
Rwandan National Heroes are categorized as ‘Imanzi’ which is the first category, ‘Imena’ which is the second category and ‘Ingenzi’ respectively.
Former Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) commander, late Maj. General Fred GISA Rwigema and Unknown Soldier are National Heroes of the first category.
In the second category are late King MUTARA III Rudahigwa, who eagerly advocated for the welfare of Rwanda and its independence, Micheal Rwagasana, who worked as the personal Secretary of king Mutara, and later refused to embrace ethnic segregation rather opted to die for Unity and independence of Rwanda.
It also includes Agathe Uwiringiyimana, the first woman to hold the position of the Prime Minister in Rwandan’s history for her advocacy for equal rights among
students and right of women. There comes also Felicite Niyitegeka who is known for refusing to part ways with 43 Tutsi who found refuge in Centre Saint Pierre located in Rubavu District and last but not least students of Nyange Secondary School in the then Kibuye Prefecture, present day
Ngororero District, who were massacred by infiltrators from DRC during a raid on the school on 18 March 1997.
The students were killed after refusing to be separated along ethnic lines of Hutus and Tutsis as ordered by those infiltrators. Their response to the killers was single and clear: “We are all Rwandans”.
According to Rwaka, Rwanda has more heroes and as the Chancellery goes on with its work, more heroes will be identified and approved.
“We look at three things while carrying out our research for outstanding people to be awarded medals or decorated as heroes. It is the responsibility of Rwandans to propose a candidate that they think deserves heroic recognition.
The sacrifice that one did that involved risk, the exemplary act and the importance of the activity to the Rwandan society,” explains Rwaka.
A form on CHENO website (www.cheno. gov.rw ) can be downloaded and filled with the names of the person who they feel has done significant contribution qualifying him/her to be considered a hero.
“Where state building is concerned, Rwanda has travelled a rather difficult path and we are continuing to struggle for our future. We have an independent and democratic state where the main actors are linked with the past and should be recognized,” concludes Rwaka.