Cameroon: Remembering Diomède Nzobambona, a Caring Mentor, Leader and Innovator

press release

On Sunday, August 22, Diomedes was walking as usual, this time in the streets of Bamenda, in Cameroon, when he was attacked by armed men in the middle of the afternoon. He succumbed to his injuries the next day.

While in the field, Diomedes Nzobambona had a ritual. He liked to walk long hours every weekend, sometimes under a blazing sun. In Mali, he was called "the man of the march on the seawall from Mopti to Sévaré," recalls Jean-Nicolas Marti. "To clear his mind, he walked along this track strewn with rice fields and palm trees over an area of eight kilometres."

It was in his native country, Burundi, that he joined the ICRC in 2003 before moving with his family to Canada. "He was very committed and dynamic. When he arrived in Canada, he immediately continued his humanitarian approach by contacting the Canadian Red Cross. Then he absolutely wanted to go back on a mission with the ICRC," describes his colleague and friend, Philippe Mbonyingingo.

Diomède carried out humanitarian missions in Mali, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Iraq and Yemen. When told that he didn't choose "easy" assignments, he would naturally retort, "This is the job! "

In 2012, when the city of Gao fell into the hands of armed groups, a dozen ICRC staff spent 48 hours lying low before evacuating to Niger overnight. Among them was Diomedes. "We shared a lot of strong moments together. He helped me negotiate our exit. I remember an extremely calm man," Philippe said.

Determined, curious and meticulous are words used to describe Diomedes, who worked on water and sanitation issues for ICRC. "You had to see it! He spent a lot of time reading and researching on the computer to always be on the cutting edge of innovations," said Philippe. In Mauritania, he challenged himself to increase the number of water points to resolve conflicts between humans and animals.

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