10 December 2012

Rwanda: Fare Thee Well

Photo: New Times
The late Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Aloisea Inyumba (file photo).

THE late Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Aloisea Inyumba, who succumbed to cancer last Thursday, will be laid to rest today after a state funeral at the Parliamentary Buildings in Kimihurura.

Inyumba, 48, passed away from her home in Kagugu, a Kigali suburb, two weeks after she returned from a hospital in Germany. She is survived by a husband and two children - a daughter aged 15, and a son 10.

MP Gideon Kayinamura, a relative to the deceased, told The New Times yesterday that the body of the late minister will leave King Faisal Hospital at around 07:30a.m and taken to her home for her family and friends to pay their respects.

Thereafter, at 9:30a.m, the body will be taken to Parliament where it will lie in state.

At Parliament government officials and members of the public will pay their last respects.

The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the president of the Senate, and a representative of the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, are expected to eulogise the minister.

The Secretary General of the RPF - the party the fallen minister belonged to and served at the top level - Francois Ngarambe, will also deliver a eulogy in honour of Inyumba.

Later, at 11:30a.m, a requiem mass will be held at Christian Life Assembly in Nyarutarama, Gasabo District, before mourners head to Rusororo Public Cemetery for burial, at 2 p.m.

Inyumba, who served as the gender and social affairs minister in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and then made a comeback to the Cabinet in May, last year, is specially remembered for her commitment to the wellbeing and empowerment of Rwanda's women and children.

Her death sent shockwaves across Rwanda and beyond, with many describing her as a heroine, exemplary leader, loving mother and friend. Several personalities in and out of the country sent out online tributes.

Writing on his Twitter page, President Paul Kagame described Inyumba's death as "a great loss for RPF, nation and all of us at a personal level".

He said Inyumba was "among the best of RPF and national leaders."

Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi tweeted, "Inyumba has been a collaborator who has always merited my trust. I will miss her wide and hearty advisory assistance. Inyumba had a dream: Rwanda Diaspora living peacefully like brothers and connected with their mother-land. RIP."

Olivier Nduhungirehe, First Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the UN, wrote, "Your body is gone but your soul survives. Your hands are gone but your deeds remain. Your feet are gone, but your friends will always be there".

Tributes for the fallen mother of two also came from international celebrities.

Former Miss France Sonia Rolland tweeted, "All my condolences to Aloisea Inyumba's Family...We have lost a very special woman."

Hollywood star Ben Affleck wrote, "Deep sadness to lose a friend & hero, the remarkable Aloisea Inyumba, Rwanda's Minister, Gender and Women in Development".

International evangelist Rick Warren tweeted, "We grieve with Rwanda in the death of our dear friend Min. Aloisea Inyumba. We pray for Dr. Richard and children".

Winnie Byanyima, Director of the Gender Group at UNDP, said, "We mourn the loss of a dear sister, one of Rwanda's greatest patriots, Hon Aloisea Inyumba. A senior member of the RPF, a freedom fighter."

Praises for the departed minister also came from journalists. Ugandan journalist Arinaitwe Rugyendo said, "I met departed Rwandan icon Aloisea Inyumba at President Paul Kagame's official residence a year ago. She was so down to earth."

James Smith, CEO Aegis Trust, twitted, "Inyumba has left us too soon. She was our friend and inspiration. Rest in Peace."

Anne Heyman-Merrin, founder of Agahozo Youth Village for Orphans, said, "Agahozo-Shalom mourns the passing of Minister Aloisea Inyumba and extends condolences to her family and to the nation of Rwanda"

Barbara Barungi, an African economist, wrote, "Rwanda's Inyumba was a role model, a woman with strong conviction and dedication to national freedom, inclusiveness, gender equality and development.

She spent the better part of her adult life as an RPF community mobiliser and was in charge of the party's finances during the 1990-94 liberation struggle that ousted the genocidal regime.

By the time of her death she was a commissioner in charge of international relations on the RPF National Executive Committee.

After her first stint in Cabinet, Inyumba went on to serve as the Executive Secretary for the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (1999-2001), during which time the country was going through a critical phase of truth-telling, reconciliation and healing - from the Genocide and its after-effects.

During that period, she actively spearheaded a national adoption campaign to place Genocide orphans in homes.

Later, she was appointed the governor of the Kigali Ngali province before joining the country's inaugural Senate in 2004, and in May 2011 reappointed to Cabinet.

She spent her last days urging the public to adopt children from orphanages and to raise them as their own, with the view of phasing out orphanages.

As a result, several orphanages have already folded with former occupants now in foster homes.

The late Minister attended Rwamurunga Primary School in Nshungerezi before heading to Mary Hill Girls High School in Mbarara district, Uganda.

She later joined Makerere University in Kampala where she graduated with an Honors Degree in Social Work and Social Administration. Inyumba also held a Masters in International Relations from the Irish American University and the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy.

She was also awarded an honorary doctorate from La Roche College in the United States.

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