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HEROISM: A VALUE RWANDANS OWE BOTH COUNTRY AND BEING


By : Abel Buhungu
Head of Rwanda Diplomatic Mission in Sudan

Heroism could be defined as the character that embodies the highest values of patriotism and sacrifice for the wellbeing of a country as well as its citizens even when at risk of one’s ultimate sacrifice. Rwandans annually celebrate Heroism on 1st February to honour our Rwandan ancestors that back in history created the nation of Rwanda and passed the baton of this invaluable virtue to latter generations that against many odds sacrificed to stop the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi and saved the country from total destruction. Celebration at the national level will be preceded by a week-long hive of activities including conferences, radio and TV talk shows showcasing Rwandan Heroes and the value of heroism in Rwandan history.
During this celebration, Rwandans honour all those who out of love for country and humanity have over the years in history stood against all evil that risked totally annihilate the nation of Rwanda. It is a time Rwandans celebrate the resilience and ingenuity of those that have for twenty-nine years now after the 1994 genocide against Tutsi helped turn-around the country’s fortunes after decades of state-engineered hate and discrimination against a part of Rwandan population, economic stagnation, impoverishment and ignorance suffered at the hands of the pre-July 1994 Governments. The theme for this year’s celebration is: ‘’Ubutwari mu Banyarwanda, Agaciro kacu’’ (Our Heroism, Our Dignity). The Diplomatic Mission along with the Rwandan Community in Sudan (RC-S) shall host the 29th National Heroes Day celebration on Friday, 3rd February.
As we may remember, Colonial Masters found Rwandans united as a nation-state and initiated the divide and rule policy so as to conquer and rule over them. They disparaged the Rwandan culture and values and banished related institutions such as Itorero (traditional school) which historically inculcated and nurtured discipline, patriotism and other vital Rwandan values. This divide and rule policy later metamorphosed into the hate and discrimination among Rwandans leading to first pogroms against Tutsi in 1959. Hutu stooges gloomed to carry on with this policy were handed independence in 1962. The post-independence leadership escalated hate and discrimination resulting in cyclic massacres against Tutsi and their resultant exodus into neighbouring countries for over three decades. By 1990 over one million Tutsi were stateless with others inside the country disenfranchised. Rwandans in general were impoverished and yearned for real change.
With peaceful means having failed and objective conditions for real change very prevalent but only by coercive means, a liberation struggle was launched by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) on 1st October 1990. Genocide planning and preparation got intensified and under the glare of the International community including the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (MINUAR) deployed in Rwanda in 1993. Bizarrely when genocide begun on 7th April 1994, MINUAR chose to withdraw the bulk of its force leaving approximately 15% only. It is only through the RPF’s military campaign against the genocide that this apocalypse was stopped and the country liberated on 4th July 1994.
The Heroes day we celebrate annually was thus enabled by the restoration of peace, unity, dignity as well as hope for and among all Rwandan citizens by through a liberation struggle. This came after decades of misrule characterized by hate and discrimination, ethnic cleansing as well as impoverishment and a deliberate choice of limiting access to education and exposure to the outside world to the privileged inner circle of the ruling class (known as Akazu) to ensure absolute power and control.
In recognition of the invaluable contribution by our ancestors during nation formation, those who heroically stopped the 1994 genocide against Tutsi and others that either resisted/fought the genocide ideology or saved some lives at own risk, Government of National Unity formed after stopping the genocide established the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO) to identify, categorise and award Rwandan Heroes with national medals of honour. This national recognition also aims at instilling this virtue within Rwandan youths. The revered Rwandan Heroes are classified in three categories as follows: (1) Imanzi; (2) Imena; and (3) Ingenzi.
Indeed, following decades of bad governance under an autocracy that thrived on ignorance, fear and lack of communication and debate among Rwandans, Rwanda suffered the worst form of crime. Twenty-nine years after the successful stopping of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, Rwandans have reconciled and the country enjoys stability with impressive progress across all sectors visible to all and sundry. This is thanks to the resilience of Rwandans and a Government that has initiated and effectively implemented national policies that are people-centred. Current Government established is reputed for resuscitating Rwandan values; rebuilding social cohesion; fighting against genocide-related impunity; initiating Gacaca restorative justice system which positively impacted national reconciliation and helped deliver transitional justice by adjudicating over a million genocide cases within only ten years, from 2002 to 2012; replaced ethnic-based collective identity with civic identity of all Rwandans; empowering Rwandan women and youths; repatriating over three million refugees hitherto held hostage in Eastern DRC for continuous replenishment of the FDLR genocidal/terrorist force which advocates for a forceful return to Rwanda and is a menace to Eastern DRC; delivering stability and security for all Rwandans; delivering ongoing economic transformation; and rehabilitating Rwanda’s image in the community of nations.
Rwandans continue to harvest fruits of unity of purpose and are forever thankful to those that have over the years helped deliver peace, stability and ongoing economic development.
Against the backdrop of past suffering, Rwandans over the years developed a strong urge to support and protect the most vulnerable and in an exemplary manner now contribute towards the attainment of global peace. Rwanda continues to play a leading role in efforts geared towards attainment of peace around the globe including in: Mozambique, C.A.R, South Sudan, Haiti and until 2021, here in the Sudan.
Meanwhile, subject to the objective causes of any conflict, communication and debate by all involved parties is a prerequisite for peaceful resolution of such a conflict. Speaking for Rwanda and as a serving diplomat in Sudan, we are encouraged and commend ongoing rapprochement between the leadership and different political stakeholders that aim at sustainably and peacefully resolving the conflict that has bedevilled the country for long. With the enormous economic endowments and a rich value system of the Sudanese people, attainment of peace will undoubtedly be a major ingredient for their much desired better future.
We regrettably note the adverse loss of values and unity of Rwandans back in history caused by colonialists and later aggravated by the two post-independence Rwandan leaders. We are however today reassured and forever thankful to those who under the very able leadership of President Paul Kagame, salvaged the country, revived Rwandan values and reincarnated unity among Rwandans following the liberation of the country from the hands of her villains. The steadfastness with which leadership has since prioritized provision of public goods to all Rwandans without discrimination is a solid source of sustainable peace Rwandans have worked for and continue to enjoy. Contemporary Rwanda is moreover comforted by ongoing multifaceted civic engagements aimed at readying Rwandan youths to in time take on the baton for posterity with the right tools, knowhow and love for country.
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