National Heroes Day is an official holiday for the public and private sectors in Rwanda. This holiday holds annually on the 1st of February. It is a day to pay tribute to those who exemplified and defended the highest value of patriotism and sacrifice for Rwanda and its citizens. It honors national heroes to inspire other Rwandans to excel in all their undertakings.
A day set aside for heroes is not an unusual practice in most countries but what makes Rwanda unique is the details. Rwanda celebrates its heroes in three different categories known as Imanzi, Imena, and Ingenzi.
The Imanzi is any 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 on a battlefield to defend the country’s sovereignty. It also includes Major General Fred Rwigema, who died on the frontline the day after the launch of the country’s armed liberation struggles in October 1990.
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 characterized by sacrifice, great importance, and high example. Unlike the other categories, a list of the Ingenzi heroes is not published.
This year’s heroes day was marked by his Excellency Paul Kagame and the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame laying the wreath in honor of Rwanda’s remarkable sons and daughters at the National Heroes Mausoleum in Kigali.
Sessions, where speakers talk about the Rwandan heroes and how the youth could emulate them, are usually the main event of the day across all villages and in the media.