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By: Prestline Jose, MBA
Mbaye Diagne - An Extraordinarily Ordinary Man
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 could definitely be cited as one of the darkest periods of human history wherein more than 800,000 people were brutally massacred within a short span of 100 days. This accounted for nearly 8000 lives every single day. What had started as a minor ethnic clash developed into a full-fledged civil war with the majority Hutus eyeing to eradicate the minority Tutsis or for that matter anyone who showed the courage for an agitation. Death, according to them, could silence everything. While the whole world turned its back, overwhelmed with fear of what lay in store, this is the story of a noble man who helped save hundreds of lives.
Mbaya Diagne, born in 1958 in Dakar-Senegal, was a Captain in the Senegalese army and also served as a military observer for the United Nations Peacekeeping Force. He showed unparalleled levels of courage even in the midst of extreme danger. The triune mandates for invoking the assistance of the United Nations including to monitor the ceasefire, ensure security for civilians, primarily in Kigali, the national capital as well as to oversee the implementation of a demilitarized zone. However, these strict regulations made the UN to be the utterly powerless spectators of such a horrendous crime. Nevertheless, Captain Mbaye was someone who went beyond or even violated the orders of his ranks in order to save people.
In 1994, when the then Prime Minister of Rwanda, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, was assassinated along with her husband, the UN managed to hide their kids within the UN premises with intense fear of being killed any moment. Even the UN Armoured Personnel Carrier could not make it. But the great Mbaye drove all five children single-handedly in his vehicle to a safe destination. Thousands more narrate similar stories of survival which could all be traced back to this amazing man, who displayed unfathomable heights of bravery. They owe their lives to this Mahatma who was not afraid to die.
He had such an aura of charisma by which he could win over the militiamen. He was seen smiling, joking about and confidently negotiating with the attackers in a very composed manner. Despite being a Muslim, he always carried bottles of beer and whisky along with packets of cigarettes which he shared with them at the checkpoints. There were several instances wherein he selflessly surrendered himself and was ready to face the gun when he was caught saving people. He was vanquishing with love and even the rebels with such numb brains and hearts of stone melted and let him free.
He magnified the mottos of a true soldier and displayed exemplary performance even under dire circumstances. However, this valiant soldier was killed when a mortar bomb exploded just behind him as he was driving.
Bob Dylan was perfectly right when he stated that a hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes along with freedom. It is quite upsetting to note that he was never given due recognition during his lifetime and there are hardly any videotapes available that features him. This unsung hero has truly left an indelible mark in this world where people fight for freedom or liberation of all kinds. He sends out a poignant message of how he had sacrificed his own freedom to attain freedom for others.