AT about 9.30a.m yesterday, a white casket with silver fittings draped in the national colours was ushered into the Parliamentary Buildings by Police pallbearers led by the police brass band. Amidst a sombre mood, the deceased Minister of Gender and Family Promotion, Aloisea Inyumba, lay in state on the floor of Parliament.
President Paul Kagame and the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, were among the mourners who paid their last respects to the late Inyumba, credited for being a selfless leader, full of courage, patriotism and a great cadre of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).
Inyumba succumbed to cancer at her home in Kigali, last Thursday, two weeks after returning from a German hospital where she had gone for treatment.
"She was a very good cadre and ideologically clear, she was more than just a minister, governor, senator........those are positions that come and go; Inyumba was not just another leader, that's the difference," Kagame eulogised Inyumba, whom he reappointed to Cabinet in May last year.
The President expressed distraught for the loss of "one of the most hardworking RPF party officials" at the time RPF is about to celebrate its Silver Jubilee on December 20.
Kagame praised the deceased for her dedicated service during and after the liberation struggle, describing her as a "fearless cadre" of the RPF, who put her life on the line for the good of the liberation movement and the country.
The President, who said he first met Inyumba around 1985, eulogised the late minister as a trusted and patriotic cadre who had the ability to cultivate a good working relationship with anyone and to bring rivals on the same table.
Kagame said Inyumba's character symbolised Rwanda's own experience of perseverance and triumph, and urged the nation to uphold her legacy.
"Today we bid farewell to her body, but her values live on. She showed us that we must be a country defined by dignity, respect for ourselves, self-reliance and knowing what we stand for," the President said.
Kagame stated that the late minister worked tirelessly for others, for her country and often put herself last. "Even when she was not feeling well, Inyumba wanted to continue working hard and with dedication."
The Head of State noted that Inyumba was always the same in all circumstances and no mission was impossible to accomplish with her on the side.
During the 1990-94 liberation struggle, the young Inyumba would move on an empty stomach even when she had money he had mobilized for the fighters, the President said.
Kagame narrated how Inyumba felt weak in March and was granted sick leave but, true to herself and the love of the country, she never stopped working. Later, I practically forced her to go for treatment, the President.
After family members, friends and officials viewed the body at parliament, Inyumba's body was then taken to Christian Life Assembly (CLA) in Nyarutarama, Gasabo District, for a requiem mass.
At the church, it was a somber mood as thousands of people, including family and friends, senior government officials, diplomats and friends of the deceased from Uganda, US, South Africa, Tanzania, Tunisia and Liberia, gathered to say final goodbye to the late minister.
She was later laid to rest in Rusororo Public Cemetery, Rusororo sector in Gasabo.
Andrew Mukinisha, a Senior Pastor at CLA who led the mass, hailed the late Inyumba as a devoted Christian and God-fearing person. "She is gone but her legacy still lives on," Mukinisha said.
The late Inyumba, who was the last born in a family of six, is survived by a husband, two children - a girl, Nicole Akarezi aged 16, and a boy Noah Cyeza, 8 -, mother and siblings.
"I thank God for her life and almost 17 years of fruitful marriage with her and our two wonderful children. She was not just my wife, but my friend, and she loved all the people irrespective of their backgrounds," eulogised Dr. Richard Masozera, husband to the late minister.
Masozera narrated the pain her wife went though during her last moments on earth. "She was feeling a lot of pain but never did she feel self-pity. I would ask her how she felt but she always told me that she wasn't feeling that bad."
"During her last days she loved listening to two songs 'Guma muri Yesu' (stay in Jesus Christ) and 'Ngiye Ahera' (I am going to a rightful place) and these songs got me scared until she breathed her last," Masozera lamented.
Nick Masozera, the deceased minister's brother in-law, read out condolence messages from British author Linda Melvin, American televangelist Pastor Rick Warren, Cindy Lou Hensley McCain, wife to US Senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, among other dignitaries.
Earlier, Cabinet Affairs minister Protais Musoni eulogised Inyumba on behalf of those who had worked with the fallen minister over the years, as did the central bank vice governor and chairperson of Unity Club (an association of current and former senior leaders and their spouses), Monique Nsanzabaganwa.
They both described her as a heroine, and exceptional and charismatic leader, who will be dearly missed.
Inyumba was born on December 28, 1964 to Innocent Nzabamwita and Jeanne Mukaruhara in Rwanda, before the family fled to Uganda after her father was killed during the Tutsi pogroms of 1963-64.
She was raised by her mother in Nshungerenzi, a refugee camp in Southern-Uganda.
Inyumba went to Rwamurunga Primary School in Nshungerezi before joining Mary Hill Girls High School in Mbarara, Uganda.
The late minister held an Honors Degree in Social Work and Social Administration from Makerere University Kampala, Uganda, and a Masters of International Relations from the Irish American University and the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy.
She was also awarded an honorary doctorate by La Roche College in the United States. The late Inyumba was a board member of Women for Women International (Washington, DC), and the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace in Kigali.
She was the Minister of Gender twice - first during the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and then from May, 2011 until her death.
In between, she served as the Executive Secretary, National Unity and Reconciliation Commission; Governor, former Kigali Ngali Province; and Senator.
Until her death, she was the commissioner in charge of international relations on the RPF National Executive Committee.