Rwanda Heroes’ Day marked at the University of East London

Rwanda Heroes’ Day marked at the University of East London

“Be a proud contributor to the ‘Rwanda We Want’” – High Commissioner Yamina Karitanyi

To mark Rwanda’s Heroes Day in London, Rwandan youth in the UK, students, community elders, friends of Rwanda, as well as representatives of other London-based universities and communities, gathered at the University of East London’s Stratford Campus for a talk and discussion on Rwanda’s Heroes, their history and how the values and principles of heroism can be applied in our daily lives.

Her Excellency Yamina Karitanyi, High Commissioner for Rwanda to the UK, opened with a note that Rwanda’s Heroes’ Day is not only a day of reflection, but also a day “to celebrate the heroes, known and unknown, who have made sacrifices, most of them including the ultimate sacrifice, so that we could live in a Rwanda free from division and be given that unique opportunity to contribute in building the Rwanda we want”.


Mr. Jonathan Kalisa Kalemera delivers talk on Rwanda’s Heroes, their history and the values of heroism

Following a brief video to put the event into context, Mr. Jonathan Kalisa Kalemera, an accountant by trade and one of the elders of the Rwandan Community in the UK, started his talk on Rwanda’s heroes and their history by paying tribute to the heroes saying, “we owe a great amount of gratitude to Major General Fred Rwigema, and all of those who sacrificed themselves for our country”. Mr Kalemera added that Heroes are driven by their dedication to challenge injustice, and selflessness to serve others – values which we can all carry forward.

London-based dance artist and writer, Ishimwa Muhimanyi, recited a specially-penned poem, inspired byhis personal heroes, for the occasion. Talking about his heroes, Ishimwa shared that “a hero doesn’t always have to wear a superman cape; and a hero is one that helps you win and pushes you forward.”

Panelists Soraya Hakuziyaremye, Elidadi Nzayisenga and Yvette Twagiramariya, all young Rwandans based in the UK and who have grown up in the diaspora, shared their perspectives on the theme of ‘upholding heroism to build the Rwanda We Want’, and what it means to them in their daily lives. The discussions were powerful and thought-provoking, touching on issues such as celebrating local heroes and parents who instil values in their children, community integration, and how by coming together more as a community, opening the communication channels and having a stronger sense of self can steer us to greater heights.

Special guest, Ms Arfa Butt, a youth and community development consultant, music and talent director, and board chair, delivered the reflections on the day following the Q&A session. Ms Butt  advised the guests that “everyone of us, not just the Rwandan community, should be accountable to building and shaping our society”. Inspired by the discussions that had just concluded, Ms Butt stressed the importance to continue to have such discussions, to address issues pertinent to the youth to support and empower them to aspire to achieve great things and to build the future they want.

The High Commissioner for Rwanda to the UK, HE Yamina Karitanyi, thanked the University of East London, who through its Chair of Governors, Mr. Geoff Thompson MBE FRSA, availed their facility for what is a first for the University, in line with the shared values of commitment to unlocking young people’s potential and challenging injustice. Her Excellency called on the attendees to “Strive to become the Best Rwandan you can be, be fuelled by your culture, traditions, and heroism inherited from our forefathers, cherish and protect Rwanda’s strides. Be a proud contributor to the Rwanda We Want. All your efforts to achieve those goals would ultimately give you the tools to be the best contributor to any society you now belong to.”

The well-attended event closed on a high note, with a moving and uplifting song performed by Jazz singer and student, Ineza Kerschkamp, supported by guitarist Adam Chinery. Ineza, supported by a live band, will be performing on Thursday 15th February at Oliver’s Jazz Bar, 9 Nevada Street, SE10 9JL. For details, go to the event page here: 

Jazz singer Ineza Kerschkamp sings alongside guitarist Adam Chinery

Panelists, speakers and performers, join the High Commissioner for a photo

Some of the young people that attended

Dr. Anghard Gray (centre) poses a question to the panel

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