Ubutwari 2024: How national heroes are selected

Sangiza abandi

Rwanda, on February 1, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of National Heroes Day. On this day, Rwandans reflect on and eulogise men and women of valour for their outstanding and selfless achievements to the country, which will be observed when there is still no one named to Ingenzi category of heroes. The day will be celebrated under the theme “Heroism among Rwandans, our Dignity.”

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According to the Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO), national heroes are classified into three categories, namely Imanzi (first), Imena (second), and Ingenzi (third).

Ingenzi is a hero who seconds Imena and is famous for their good ideas or outstanding achievements characterised by supreme sacrifice, great importance, and high example.

The Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO), Executive Secretary Deo Nkusi addresses journalists. Christianne Murengerantwari

The Chancellery for Heroes, National Orders and Decorations of Honour (CHENO), Executive Secretary Deo Nkusi addresses journalists. Christianne Murengerantwari

Imena is a hero who seconds Imanzi and who is reputed for their extraordinary acts for the country which are characterised by supreme sacrifice, high importance, and example, while Imanzi is the supreme hero who demonstrated outstanding achievements characterised by supreme sacrifice, outstanding importance, and example, as per CHENO.

CHENO Executive Secretary Deo Nkusi told The New Times that the entity conducts research to identify people who can be awarded medals or can be made into national heroes, or be awarded both.

He indicated that the research that CHENO conducts does not determine which hero category someone will be put in as it is a proposal for people who should be heroes, which goes through different entities until a point when a decision is taken on who heroes are, and which categories they should go to—either first, second, or third category.

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Given this situation, he said the first two categories might get more heroes – as they already have some – while none goes to the third category, or vice versa, pointing out that national heroes are classified based on the scale of deeds they achieved.

He said that research is carried out and more heroes could be identified and that they will be put in categories “which cannot be confirmed now that it is the first, second, or third,” he said, indicating that CHENO conducts research and its results go through vetting of different entities before a decision is taken.

According to him, research in line with identifying more national heroes is always done, “but we cannot release it [its results] unless a decision has been taken. It is something done secretly.” He said the process is long as it involves various entities until the proposed heroes’ list is approved by the Cabinet – as the final decision.

During a press conference held January 5, ahead of the Heroes’ Day celebration, Nkusi said that individuals on which it carries out research are nominated by people, and other entities including various associations and organisations, adding that the process was continuous.

The selection of heroes must be a meticulous process to ensure that heroes are people who represent exceptional and selfless deeds of national interests that inspire others to nobly serve public interests, Nkusi said.

“That is not something we should do in a hurry, it is not a race, nor just increasing numbers. What is paramount is that people have values and realise achievements such that they will become heroes or be recognised in different categories,” he said during the above-mentioned press conference.

To be classified as a national hero in Rwanda, a person shall meet nine criteria, namely proven integrity, patriotism, sacrifice, vision, courage, or bravery, to serve as a good example, truthfulness, magnanimity, and humanity, according to CHENO.

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