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Life Reflections

Inyumba, RPF embodiment, was out of this world

By December 14, 2012June 6th, 2023No Comments

When baby Inyumba came into this world, we were here. For that, sadly, we took her as one of the many kids around the block, in the sprawling refugee settlement of Nshungerezi. We did not notice her special gift, even as she bloomed before our eyes. That quiet, almost shy, demeanour carried fortitude that’d not yet come out for appreciation. And, to us, that fortitude would not manifest itself until after over 26 years.

It’s true, though. We’d have appreciated it sooner had it not been for the kind of nomadic life we led as refugees, seeking to fulfil educational and, later, financial obligations.

So it was that the next time that we met Aloysia, as we called her, was to witness an unfurled up young lady whose trademark quiet demeanour was intact but, instead of provoking pity, commanded respect. We were then in the ‘A’ branch (Kenya) of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), for which she was finance commissioner at the ‘bush’ headquarters, inside the fringe nooks of Rwanda. She was on one lap of her whirlwind fundraising mission that would see her scour the world for support and funds among Rwandans their friends.

Of course the struggle meant life and death to marginalised Rwandans. This therefore meant that different cadres who came to drum up support were preaching to the converted. There were those condemned to life in exile and those inside Rwanda who’d been relegated to life under oppression. All craved their right to participate in the task of shaping the destiny of their society, though those in the country had no such right of expression.

Still, this conviction had been cast in many people’s psyche and all were almost unanimous. They had the obligation to support those who’d staked their lives on advancing the cause of liberation, militarily if impossible otherwise.

But “almost unanimously agreed” was not 100% unanimity. Even among those easily accessible, there were sceptics. Taking on the then-powerful government to them seemed a cause lost in its conception. Others were happy to settle wherever they were, concerned with their individual lives. And, of course, even those wedded to the cause had their doubts over RPF’s chances of success, their convinction notwithstanding.

That’s how Aloysia’s tenacious patience came in.

She didn’t allow you to entertain those doubts. She pleaded with you, supplicated, almost on her knees, so that you focussed on the suffering of brothers, sisters, in the bush. She showed how the smallest contribution saved the life a compatriot. How an individual had the responsibility of making every Rwandan recognise their obligation. In her low tones; her pleading, almost teary, voice; she beseeched you to look at every Rwandan as a comrade. And that every form of support, moral, material or otherwise, had to be galvanised so the cause of redeeming Rwanda.

Perhaps more than other cadres, even if also hard to outdo, Aloysia made the tenets of the struggle sink in most profoundly. She gave it a life all could identify with. By the time she left for the bush, or wherever her mission was taking her next, it felt like a sin passing a fellow Rwandan without greetings. Taking more than one meal a day felt like sacrilege! She represented a personification of RPF that all aspired for, but knew they couldn’t easily achieve.

All the same, her courage made all try. With renewed enthusiasm, we combed the whole of Kenya in search of Rwandans. Then we discovered big communities of them in the countryside, ‘exported’ there by Belgians during colonial days as a ‘labour corps’ to work in tea and sugar plantations. They hardly had any notion of their original home but now we all became one. Together we mobilised, contributed, set up fundraising campaigns, say it. And every news bit of the ‘bush frontline’ became a sliver of gold!

Then it was history. The RPF armed struggle was over and now another history began, by far more drawn out. That of hauling Rwanda out of the abyss and embarking on the road to development: a long, ongoing and wide-ranging struggle that involves every Rwandan. So, I’ll invoke Aloysia’s name only in one incident.

Kibeho, April 1995. The new RPF government was out, following foreign press reports that there had been a massacre of 4000 persons. In the end, it was established that 330 internally displaced persons had actually lost their lives but, still, precious lives lost needlessly, in the name of resisting government efforts to relocate them on their land. Egged on by legion humanitarian and human-rights organisations that had ringed them in, and held captive by armed former government elements, the displaced spurned all Government pleas to move them out of the camp. That early, the scavenger NGOs had begun their vicious campaign!

To see the pain on Aloysia’s face, looking at these families in those pitiful conditions. As if to twist a knife in her wound, the women turned, bared their backsides and empted their bowls there, where they lived. Still, she was undaunted: she pleaded, entreated, begged the children, mothers, fathers to come out and join their brethren/sistren in a free Rwanda. Not for her, the revulsion we felt.

Aloysia, RPF embodiment; she was out of this world. She belonged to God Almighty above. And thus, this early recall. May her soul rest in peace!

At age 25, RPF should rejoice in the Godly ray of heroes/heroines that have graced its life, living and departed. Aloysia’s departure is a fitting commentary on the valour of RPF cadres.

But, more than anything, Rwandans should celebrate the fact that Inyumba had giants to look up to. And that, even if many are departed, we are not lacking in giants to hold up our banner of Agagciro.

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