As the nation gears to celebrate Heroes’ Day, on February 1, to many, particularly generations that came after liberation struggle, it may just sound like another holiday.
Heroes Day is the day that we remember and honour Rwandan stalwarts who shed blood, sweat and tears to ensure that we all enjoy a life of freedom as now exists. It is a day we pay homage to the great stewards of our heritage and culture.
Rwanda's heroes are celebrated in three main different categories — Imanzi, Imena, and Ingenzi.
The Imanzi is the supreme hero who demonstrated outstanding achievements characterized by supreme sacrifice, outstanding importance and example.
Belonging to this category is the Unknown Soldier – any soldier who perished during the liberation struggle and those who may in the future shed blood in a battlefield to defend the country’s sovereignty.
The Imena category comprises heroes known for their extraordinary acts for the country marked by sacrifice, high importance and example.
The Imena category includes King Mutara III Rudahigwa Charles Léon Pierre, Michel Rwagasana (special adviser to late King Rudahigwa), and Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the female prime minister who was slain by genocidal government forces within just hours of the start of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Ingenzi category comprises heroes who are still alive, but who are known for their good ideas or outstanding achievements characterised by sacrifice, great importance and high example. Unlike the other categories, a list of the Ingenzi heroes is not published.
The theme for this year’s heroes day is “Our Heroism, our Dignity,” and the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO) has organised a one-week nationwide campaign to promote the values of heroism with activities, including sports competitions and events including information sessions.
However, beyond these activities, more effort is needed to educate the young generation in the true value of heroism and patriotism beyond public service, where we have many ordinary Rwandans who deserve to be celebrated too.
Here we speak of many who work hard each day, are leaders in their communities and make a positive difference without as much as a whisper of how much they are doing and have done.
However, every generation finds its own definition of patriotism based on the challenges at hand.
For example, in this increasingly digital era, where misinformation is a common problem but is exacerbated in digital social media due to the speed and ease with which it can be spread without confirmation of truth, a heroic act may be as simple as dedicating time to fact-checking information before sharing it or countering misinformation or propaganda.
Happy Heroes Day!