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UEL hosts Rwanda National Heroes’ Day

London's Rwandan community gathers in celebration and commemoration.  

By Lee Pinkerton

Prominent members of the UK’s Rwandan community gathered at the University of East London (UEL) on Saturday to celebrate Rwanda National Heroes’ Day.
Every February, Heroes’ Day is observed in Rwanda and at their overseas embassies and high commissions. But, in a break with tradition, this year’s UK event was hosted by UEL at its University Square Stratford building. 
The day provided an opportunity to learn about the history of Rwanda and the architects of its liberation, and to carry the principles of valour, heroism, and sacrifice into the communities and daily lives of Rwandans in the UK. 
The guest of honour was the Rwandan High Commissioner, Her Excellency Yamina Karitanyi (pictured centre), and in her opening remarks she thanked UEL’s Chair of the Board of Governors, Geoff Thompson MBE, for his generosity in offering the venue.
Mr Thompson said, “We are delighted to celebrate out strong links with the continent of Africa, from where so many of our students and alumni originate.
“As London’s leading university for civic engagement, we make it our business to reach out into our local community. Opening up our USS building to the Rwandan community of London is just part of that bigger picture of outreach.”
Internationally, Rwanda is perhaps best known for its genocidal civil war – a conflict which began in 1990 between the Hutu-led government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front and led to Rwanda being declared a failed state in 1994.  
But that was that more 20 years ago, and over the past two decades Rwanda has established itself as one of Africa’s most thriving economies.
That was the message of the Heroes Day event, the slogan being: ‘Uphold heroism to build the Rwanda we want’. 
Last year, for the first time the Rwandan High Commission organised the Rwandan Women and Youth Empowerment Conference.
This year they combined the youth conference and the Heroes’ Day event, with the guests being mainly young people in the diaspora, including Rwandan scholarship students, community leaders and elders, young artists and aspiring entrepreneurs.