Rwanda: Kagoyire Was Exemplary RPF Cadre, Courageous Mother Figure - Former Colleagues

People who worked closely with the late Senator Thérèse Bishagara Kagoyire - be it in public service, in academia or in civil society - have described her death as a great loss not just for her family, but also for the entire nation.

Kagoyire passed away on Monday from Johns Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland in the United States where she had gone to seek treatment for reported liver complication.

An educationist for most of her adult life, Kagoyire died at age 67 and is survived by five children and three grandchildren.

Her death was announced Monday evening by Senate President Bernard Makuza.

Speaking to The New Times, Senator Tito Rutaremara said he did not just know the deceased from the Upper House where they both served, but their relationship dates decades back.

He said she was a long-time cadre of RPF-Inkotanyi, the governing party, adding that her death is a great loss not just for her family but to the entire nation.

"We at the Senate are really saddened by Kagoyire's death. She was a kind and intelligent woman, and was friendly to her former students and workmates," said Rutaremara.

He added; "She was a passionate servant with a lot of ideas in the Senate, both during plenary and in committee sessions. It is a huge loss for us at RPF because she was a kind and exemplary cadre that we were proud to have," he said.

Rutaremara said that Kagoyire was particularly pivotal during research in committee sessions owing to her background in the academia.

Rutaremara said many of her colleagues were oblivious to her health complications until recently, saying that she always reported to work every day like everyone, until when she was referred to India about two months ago.

While in India, Kagoyire's health conditions worsened and that is how the family opted to take her for advanced specialised treatment at the US hospital from where she passed away, according to Rutaremara.

Senate is in talks with the Rwandan Embassy in the United States to see how her body can be repatriated and will work with the family to come up with the funeral arrangements, officials said.

Senate Vice President Jeanne d'Arc Gakuba said she not only considered the deceased a colleague but also a mother figure.

"Personally, I learnt a lot of values from her like thinking positively, self-respect and having deeper respect towards others. She also loved people and was always fighting for development of communities," she said.

Marie Christine Gasingirwa, the Director General for Science, Technology and Research at the Ministry of Education, said it was heartbreaking for her to lose a person of Kagoyire's character.

She said she had known her for many years and they together passionately and successfully advocated for the right to education for girls.

The two are founder members of FAWE Rwanda, an organisation that strives to promote the education of girls, founded in 1997.

"We have lost a treasure in Kagoyire. I was really shocked to hear the sad news because we have been colleagues in many ways, she was a great friend of mine," said Gasingirwa.

Kagoyire has been a member of Senate since 2011 and her term was due to end next month, just a month before the elections for the next Senate.

Before joining the Senate, Kagoyire worked in civil society, where she one time headed Pro-Femmes/Twese Hamwe, an umbrella body for organisations working to promote women rights in the country.

She also worked as a rector at the former Kigali Health Institute, now part of University of Rwanda.

Speaking to The New Times, Emma Marie Bugingo, the Executive Director of Pro-Femmes/Twese Hamwe, said she will always personally remember her for instilling in her the spirit of never giving up on a cause, as long as one believed in that cause.

"I worked with her while I was a junior staff but her courage and determination inspired me a lot and has guided me through my career. We pray to the Almighty God to welcome her to his Kingdom," she said.

While at Pro-Femmes, Kagoyire actively contributed toward fighting gender-based violence, and promoting awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB among others.

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