While the word 'patriot' is slightly overused in our country, it certainly applies when it comes to the late Aloisea Inyumba. Growing up in the refugee camps in Uganda in the 60s and 70s, she knew like other Rwandans in that situation what it is to be disadvantaged and without a home. This instilled in her a fiery desire to return to the mother country.
"We were living in a foreign land with no facilities," she said in an interview last year, adding later on: "I think right at the beginning when I was a young child, I wanted to come home. I always had a passion. I always missed Rwanda."
That passionate love for the country inspired her in everything she did. So when the struggle was finally won and the refugees could return home, her idea, in line with the vision of the country's new leaders, was not about vengeance, but about working together as Rwandans for the development of the country.
"We are saying to a Hutu woman or a Tutsi family, 'Your needs are the same.' Together, we can put up a house, build a new country, and ensure that nothing like the genocide happens ever again," she once explained when she was the head of the Unity and Reconciliation Commission.
She herself had, shortly after being named Minister of Gender and Social Affairs in 1994, employed as her deputy a woman whose husband had been imprisoned for his involvement in the Genocide. Yet for Inyumba, that aspect did not come into play; the woman was qualified, and so she earned the job.
She took the same approach when it came to gender equality: it was not about women struggling against men and vice versa, it was about working together for the good of Rwanda. "The women of this country are 52% of the population," she said last year. "It's just good economics." For Inyumba, it was as simple as that.
And while working in that spirit of patriotism in various functions, she was always humble and self-effacing.
Aloisea Inyumba's death at the age of only 50 is not only a tragic loss for her family and friends but, as President Kagame remarked, "for the nation and all of us." The best way for Rwandans to honor her memory is to emulate her example, by thinking, in all we do, first and foremost about what is best for the country.
As John F. Kennedy famously said, we should ask what we can do for our country, not what our country can do for us. Aloisea Inyumba showed us how to answer that question.