The New Times (Kigali)

7 December 2012

Rwanda: A Journalist's First Encounter With Aloisea Inyumba

My first encounter with the late Honourable Aloisea Inyumba was an experience of a lifetime.

It was July 2008, at her former home in Gikondo, where we had gone for an interview, to profile her experiences during the liberation struggle.

Her exquisite, humble and soft spoken personality that draped her external personality was, as we later found out, in direct contrast with the spirited woman who faced and dealt with danger without flinching.

As a child, she had gone through hardships, discrimination and living like a second-class citizen- this immensely preyed on her mind and she decided to join the struggle. And she knew, as she emphasised, there were hundreds of thousands of others that were going through these unholy grimaces. "I was therefore doing it for my fellow countrymen, my children and their children."

As an energetic and committed fund raiser for the RPF, she was made the Commissioner of Finance. Fundraising to feed, clothe and arm a guerilla outfit was no mean exploit but not insurmountable as she later proved.

A very keen listener and very cautious in speech, Inyumba could effortlessly summon into memory almost all the diminutive and monumental details of clandestine activities, loses, endurances, creativity, conquests and jubilations, in the same measure. And almost in the same tone. Yes, the same tone because even amidst telling you the conquests and jubilations, the graphic and fiendish blizzards of terror, expressive of cruelty or befitting hell visited upon the Tutsis by the genocidaires could drown her soft voice.

As a finance commissioner, she were later to tell us, she had the responsibility, with her committee members, of establishing the regional code-system-zoning and mapping, to reach Rwandans in each region to source for fighters, funds, food, clothes and medicine.

That is how the regions came into being; A- Kenya , Region B- Uganda , Region C- Tanzania , Region D- Burundi , E- Zaire , F-Europe, G- Canada , Rwanda was O. Each country had its code because by then RPF was a clandestine organisation.

She would then visit members in their respective councils to encourage them to contribute with utmost commitment. She was also to confide in us that all regions were very active because people knew this was their struggle and so they all contributed fervently. No specific amounts were predetermined for each group. People contributed in accordance with their capacities.

I believe her persuasive prowess, motherly bearing and cautious approach attracted contributions with ease.

Then she, and her committee, came up with other forms of fundraising; Special-target Fundraising, Materials Department, Production, the Card Project, Special Cells and Individuals.

Her committee exhibited unprecedented insightfulness, innovativeness and frugality. "We were always thinking about the psychology and the mindset-we did not want to engage our members in very challenging and straining fundraising mechanisms. So the tactics kept changing. But the Card Project was one of the most successful," she were to narrate.

And then; "These people knew they were fundraising for purchase of food of their children. We could at times take them (parents) to the bush to visit them."

"In this Card Project, cards were branded with different colours-white, pink, green, purple and red. Different colours attracted different prices. The price tag for each colour ranged from $1, $5, $10, $50 and $100 was the maximum. So people would buy the cards. The Chairman of the High Command, (now President) Paul Kagame, could append his signature on these cards-and for people to see his signature, they could buy all the cards and a lot of money would be raised this way."

At the end of the interview, we had learnt lessons. Lessons of patriotism, selflessness and trust. She never misappropriated any coin. No one ever questioned her integrity. Keeping things simple. She told us the commander, Paul Kagame, always asked them to produce a one-page balance sheet. We learnt, from her interview, the meaning of "Will." The Rwandans that financed the struggle might have been poor, exiled, refugees, stateless and ostracised, but what they had in big supply was the "Will." In fact she ended our conversation with; "The will of Rwandans won this war."

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