"She stood for dignity, self respect and unity of the whole country.”
That is how President Paul Kagame eulogised his former Minister for Gender and Family Promotion, Aloisea Inyumba, who died of cancer on December 6.
Ms Inyumba, 48, died at her residence in Kagugu Sector, Gasabo District in Kigali two weeks after returning from Germany where she had gone for treatment.
President Kagame’s eulogy in Parliament on December 10 was the longest he had ever made and it explains the level of respect the former Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) cadre commanded within the country.
As fate would have it, however, Ms Inyumba, described by many people who worked with her as a patriot and heroine, would not be around to celebrate RPF’s 25th anniversary on December 20.
The President told mourners death had taken Ms Inyumba too soon, before she could join her compatriots in celebrating the silver jubilee of the liberation party.
Alluding to her humility, President Kagame described Ms Inyumba as someone who was ideologically clear and always sought to make amends whenever she made a mistake.
Besides being a longtime RPF fundraising mobiliser and Commissioner of Finance of the then exiled party during the 1990s liberation struggle, Ms Inyumba also helped the current government to topple the repressive regime of Juvenal Habyarimana and build a vibrant nation.
Martin Masozera, her father-in-law, told mourners how he could not wait for his son, Dr Richard Masozera, to marry Ms Inyumba because she was good wife material.
Said Mr Masozera: “She and my son used to come to my home in Uganda. They told me they both were at Makerere University. To me they looked alike and I adored it; I prayed one day they would live together. God heard my prayer and it was answered.”
The deceased’s husband was Dr Richard Masozera, who is the Director-General of Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA).
Dr Masozera said his wife, who battled cancer for a long time, had wished to utilise the “remaining time” in helping to ensure she left behind a united Rwanda.
“When she was away on duty or in hospital, I used to text her every morning, asking how she was doing, and she would reply ‘All is well’,” Dr Masozera recalled. “She did that for months, just to show us everything was okay. She had no self-pity, but she wanted to do something before answering God’s call.”
The widower talked of how Ms Inyumba would seek solace in Aime Uwimana’s popular song, Ninjiye Ahera (Entering the Holy Place) and Gumamo (Remain in Christ) by the ULK Choir during her low moments.
Reverend Antoine Rutayisire, Ms Inyumba’s former colleague at the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, who would become her pastor, also praised the late minister for the love she had for Rwanda and her passion for national unity.
‘She was there’
"At one time I sought an appointment from her and I was surprised when she came to me instead,” said Rev Rutayisire. “She was available to anybody anytime. She later accepted Jesus Christ and served Him while she served her country.”
President Kagame urged the nation to uphold Ms Inyumba’s legacy, especially in the daily struggles the country was going through.
“She was there (in the frontline),” said the Head of State. “Not there as a soldier with a gun, but she was present, doing everything else to support soldiers."
“I personally saw her on several occasions. She was not scared; not even what she saw on the battlefield would prevent her from coming back and visit soldiers and deliver messages to them.”
Ms Inyumba will be remembered as a key figure in championing women’s rights and helping the country to achieve gender parity.
She founded Rwanda Women Network and was a full-time member and the vice-president of Unity Club, a forum set up to develop proactive dialogue among female leaders, besides being a founding member of several women’s associations and organisations in Rwanda.
Messages of condolences were received from, among other people, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; Cindy Hensley McCain, the wife of the 2008 US presidential candidate John McCain; Rick Warren, the popular American evangelist and pastor of Saddleback Church; and Hollywood celebrity Ben Affleck.
Ms Inyumba is survived by her husband and their daughter Nicole Akarezi, 16, and eight-year-old son Noah Cyeza.