As Rwanda celebrated National Heroes’ Day on Wednesday,
thousands of mourners turned up at Nyange Secondary School, Ngororero District,
to pay respect to the six students regarded as heroes.
Sylvestre Bizimana, Chantal Mujawamahoro, Beatrice
Mukambaraga, Seraphine Mukarutwaza, Helene Benimana, and Valens Ndemeye, were
killed alongside a night guard on March 18th 1997 after they disobeyed orders
to separate themselves along ethnic lines.
Residents, along with local leaders, endured the scorching
sun, to remember their bravery and courage they exhibited by choosing to remain
united as Rwandans and not Hutus or Tutsis.
For some of those who survived the killings, memories of the
horrible night are still fresh.
“It was a cold Tuesday evening, shortly after dinner, when
armed attackers stormed the school and gave us strict instructions to separate
from each other so that they could exterminate the Tutsi. When we declined,
they randomly started shooting,” recalls Olivier Murenzi, a student at the
He vividly remembers how one of his classmates and close
friend died as a result of the bullet wounds he sustained.
“My friend (Bizimana) had been shot in the left side of the
chest and his heart, but by the time soldiers intervened, he had passed away,”
said Murenzi. Aloys Murigande, a survivor and former teacher at the school,
said patriotism amongst the students was one of the most emphasized lessons at
“We always taught the students about patriotism and unity
and I believe that is why they opted to die other than to separate,” he noted.
Speaking in honour of the deceased heroes, Innocent
Mbanjimbere, the Executive Secretary of Nyange Sector, urged the public to
learn from the patriotism exhibited by the students.
“The unfortunate death of our beloved sisters and brothers
should not discourage us but should instead inspire us to exhibit more unity
and togetherness,” he said.