February 1 maybe another ordinary day, but one on which all Rwandans take stock of the heroic actions by outstanding Rwandans who – in their own ways – contributed to what this country is today.
It is important that at such a moment in time when our country is rated as the most stable and safe nation in the region, and with our economic performance looking impressive, we take a look at how far we’ve come, and then, look straight forward to where we are headed.
What is clear is that we’ve come from far, but we are also headed for an even further destination. The achievements that our country has made recently are by and large out of the sacrificial efforts and conviction from some Rwandans.
But again Rwandans are the custodians of the future of their own nation. This national duty calling has never been trouble-free, the reason why thousands of Rwandan men and women, paid the price with their own blood.
And certainly never will this noble calling be a painless undertaking. The bottom-line however is that we cannot afford to let go of this calling for the price that comes with it is far less than the price of abandoning it.
The ultimate price each of us needs to pay if we are to successfully undertake this challenging but indispensable national duty is ‘good citizenship’.
Simply put, good citizenship is leading a life that is favourable to yourself, your neighbour and the world around you. A good citizen understands that he or she has a responsibility to the community, nation, environment and law.
This responsibility shapes someone into an honest, compassionate, respectful, and courageous person. It is these values that get someone to do the right thing even when it is unpopular, not to embezzle public funds even when noone is seeing, and not to trespass the law even when there is no police officer in the vicinity.
A good citizen would not seek to evade taxes, or grab what belongs to others. These traits are not innate; rather they are instilled in ordinary people.
Generations pass them on to generations. It is only appropriate therefore that while we commemorate the good citizenship traits held by our fallen comrades, parents, children, friends and countrymen, we not only embrace the same virtues, but also inculcate them among the young.
It is of no value for children to only hear about the names of the fallen Rwandan great men and women without understanding what made those people great.
There is need for every parent, civic educators, local leaders and schools to begin educating their children about good citizenship values and telling them that they too can do the same as their heroes did.
We all need to always remind the young that they can do much greater things, if only they can love their country, fight corruption, respect the law, and have responsibility to their surroundings.
However, the elders can only succeed in their teachings if they themselves can take the lead in setting the example. For it serves no purpose when a teacher tells a pupil that all Rwandans are one, and then after a parent tells the child the opposite.
And so is the reverse. Such acts only serve to undermine the strength of our nation, making it – and its occupants – a laughing stock the world over.
Telling a child that he or she should always take responsibility of their actions might be a simple lesson, but which can turn around the future of our country.
Similarly encouraging the young to take part in community activities even at their tender age instils a sense of responsibility in that child for the rest of his or her life.
Just make it a point and tell your child that littering is not good, and you will see what difference it brings to your home. Similarly, we can make this nation as strong as any country could ever become if only we could nurture the young ones into responsible citizens.
Most great societies of today have humble beginnings, but it is that sense of wanting to lead and to thrive as one people that have made them what they are now.
The United States is a manifestation to that. Four decades ago Israelites had no territory they called home.
Many other societies have had to craft strong nations out of countless warring and weak communities. In our case, apart from the recent dark chapter in our history, the ancient Rwanda was a place dreaded by all foreigners – united under one centralized administrative structure, a concept they had learnt from nobody.
Over the past fifteen years, the post-Genocide Rwandan leaders have proved that there is no nation so under not to be salvaged. They have driven their point home through grand policy actions, innovation and consistency.
And like our fallen heroes, they are giving their own contribution towards the achievement of this dream of a great Rwanda. This citizenry contribution is what the young need to be told about, and be encouraged to play a pivotal role in ‘Team Rwanda’.
Happy Heroes’ Day!
The author is Rwanda Workforce Development Authority (WDA) Marketing & Communication Specialist