The New Times (Kigali)

2 February 2013

Rwanda: Kagame Pays Tribute to National Heroes

Rwandans across the country yesterday paid glowing tribute to the country's heroes and heroines, with pledges to walk in the footsteps of those who paid the ultimate price to make Rwanda a better place.

The Heroes' Day was celebrated at the village level, the smallest administrative unit.

"We remember and honour our Heroes who laid down their lives so that today Rwandans can enjoy liberty & lead dignified lives," President Paul Kagame said on his Twitter account yesterday.

In Remera

At the national level, President Paul Kagame laid a wreath at the Heroes Mausoleum in Remera, Kigali, before families of the heroes buried there did the same.

It was around 11am when President Kagame arrived at the Heroes Mausoleum to pay his respects.

His car slowly entered the Mausoleum, as if in solemnity with the occasion, stayed put briefly, near the entrance, before the President emerged and headed straight to the imposing heroism monument where several dignitaries waited.

After shaking hands with them, the Head of State took his place among the officials and then the national anthem was sung.

Thereafter, the Head of State was invited to lay a wreath on the heroism monument. He stepped forward, laid the wreath, bowed to the heroes buried at the Mausoleum, before stepping back.

Next to lay the wreath as the Dean of the Diplomatic corps in Rwanda, Uganda's High Commissioner Richard Kabonero, who did so on behalf of all the envoy accredited to Rwanda.

A moment of silence for everyone at the Mausoleum to honour the country's heroes followed as the army band's melody accompanied it.

President Kagame and the other dignitaries then left the Mausoleum, wrapping up the five minute event.

"It's more useful to send important national days to the village level because it gives local people who know each other a chance to talk about and share ideas around such important national issues, instead of following the events on their radios and televisions," the Minister of Sports and Culture, Protais Mitali, told reporters after the wreath-laying ceremony.

Families lay wreaths

Three hours after the official ceremony, family members of all the fallen heroes laid to rest at the Heroes Mausoleum arrived to pay their respects. As they laid wreaths on the tombs of their respective fallen relatives, some of them struggled to hold back tears.

For many of the Heroes' families, visiting the graveyard is both difficult and worthwhile.

"I feel like I can barely stand up but I am at least happy because I will be remembering her more today," Gaspard Hangimana, the brother of the late Agathe Uwilingiyimana, told The New Times after laying the wreath on the heroine's tomb.

Hangimana and his daughter, Angelique Mpinganzima, had travelled to Kigali from their home in Muhororo village, Southern Province, to pay respect to the fallen former prime minister.

The heroes laid at the Mausoleum include Maj. Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema and the 'Unknown Soldier', both of who are in the Imanzi category, and represent the ultimate price during the liberation struggle from 1990-1994.

Those in the second category (Imena) include King Mutara Rudahigwa III, Michel Rwagasana, Uwiringiyimana, Felicite Niyitegeka and the Nyange Secondary School students.

This year's Heroes' Day was marked under the theme, "Heroism is the Foundation of Dignity and Development."

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