Rwandans, and friends of Rwanda today Thursday, February 1st 2024, marks the 30th Heroes Day celebration, a day on which the country pays tribute to its nationals who demonstrated the highest values of patriotism and sacrifice for the well-being of the country and its citizens.
Heroes Day celebrations will be observed on a national level as well as by Rwandan Diplomatic Missions across the world.
This special day for Rwandans will feature activities including discussions under the theme “Our heroism, our dignity”.
Apart from the main ceremony, Heroes Day will be celebrated at grassroots level across Rwanda, where Rwandans gathered together at the village level will also pay tribute to the heroes that shaped the future of the country.
Heroes Day is a moment in time that Rwandans of all walks of life acknowledge that the prosperous Rwanda of today is attributed to the sacrifices made by national heroes of whom the country is forever grateful for their bravery and heroism.
Heroes Day in Rwanda is typically preceded by a week-long nationwide campaign about the values of heroism, which mainly focuses on encouraging Rwandans especially Rwandan youths, to embrace a culture of heroism in their daily lives.
Young Rwandans are urged to stand in the heroes’ shoes and work hard to uphold their legacy in terms of promoting national unity, patriotism, integrity, hard work and peaceful co-existence.
Several activities held during the heroes’ week included discussions about heroic values and sports games such as football, handball, basketball, sitting volleyball and cycling.
The Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO) is 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.
Rwanda’s National Heroes are therefore classified into three categories named in Kinyarwanda as Imanzi, Imena, and Ingenzi.
The Imanzi category is the highest order, featuring people who even sacrificed their own lives in the interest of the nation. This category consists of Major-General Fred Rwigema, who died on the battle field on the onset of the liberation war, and the “Unknown Soldier” representing all soldiers who lost their lives in the liberation.
The Imena category includes people with proven track record such as King Mutara Rudahigwa III, Rt. Honourable Agathe Uwilingiyimana (the female Prime Minister who was murdered by genocidal government forces within just hours of the start of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi) and Nyange Secondary School students who during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi were killed by the Interahamwe militias after refusing to divide themselves along ethnic lines.
While the last category, called Ingenzi is for living heroes who have exemplified good ideas or his/her outstanding achievements are characterized by supreme sacrifice, great importance and high example.
Thirty years after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Rwanda, a country that was a synonym for a nightmare around the world continues to epitomise the value of heroism.
In lieu remaining stagnant in her unfortunate history, the East African country has remarkably rejuvenated into an exemplar on the African continent over a relatively short period where unprecedented reconciliation and industrial perseverance has prevailed under President Paul Kagame’s leadership.
Currently Rwanda’s economy is projected to grow by seven percent in 2024, up from 6.3 percent in 2023, ranking top in East Africa.
It is also projected to be the third fastest growing economy on the continent this year. Rwanda will mainly count its economic projected growth of seven percent on sectors such as tourism, services, trade and investment.
Other factors that have contributed to Rwanda’s positive trajectory in addition to the strong economic growth is the substantial improvements in living standards.
Rwanda was one of two countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that achieved all the health Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Under-five mortality declined sharply between 2000 and 2020 and the maternal mortality ratio also dropped, as did the total fertility rate.
A strong focus on home-grown policies and initiatives in Rwanda has also contributed to significant improvement in access to services and human development indicators.
Rwanda’s journey from an extremely low base to impressive milestones thus far including reconciliation among Rwandans after the devastation of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi remains today’s generation’s fight to keep it and even thrive above and Heroes Day offers a time for Rwandans to reflect on this journey.
The author is a Counsellor at the Rwanda High Commission in Lusaka