Rwandan liberation icon Mazimhaka dies aged 69

Thursday January 25 2018

Patrick Kayumbu Mazimhaka

Patrick Kayumbu Mazimhaka was one of the RPF founders and among those who led the Rwandan liberation struggle from the front. He died on January 25, 2018 at a hospital in India. PHOTO | FILE 

By EDMUND KAGIRE
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One of Rwanda’s leading political figures during the liberation struggle, Patrick Kayumbu Mazimhaka, has died aged 69 at a hospital in India, the family said on Thursday.

The retired politician passed on following complications after a surgery, his daughter Anne Mazimhaka said.

The ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) condoled with the family following the news of his death.

“The @rpfinkotanyi family wishes to extend its condolences to the family of Comrade Patrick Mazimhaka who passed away in India. May his soul Rest in Peace,” the party said in a tweet.

Mr Mazimhaka was a seasoned politician, diplomat and academician.

He served as the deputy chairman of the African Union Commission from 2003 to 2008.

He also held various ministerial dockets in Rwanda and was as special adviser to the President on the Great Lakes Region.

Mr Mazimhaka was the spokesperson of the mainly Tutsi rebels in the 1990s when RPF launched an armed struggle against the then Rwandan government.

He was later elected the vice-chairman of the party in 1993, a position he held until 1998.

When RPF came into power after the genocide, he was appointed the Minister of Youth, Sports and Cooperatives and later as Minister of Rehabilitation and Social Affairs. He also served as Minister in the Office of the President.

In regional diplomacy, Mr Mazimhaka took part in the 1998 Lusaka ceasefire agreement and the 2002 Pretoria agreement that led to an end in the fight and disarmament of Rwandan militia in Democratic Republic of Congo and the withdrawal of Rwandan forces.

Side-lined

He retired from active politics after his stint at the African Union.

His absence from the limelight fuelled speculations that he had been sidelined by the ruling party, a fate that had befallen some senior RPF cadres.

But his family denies the suppositions.

“He was patriotic to the core until the end. He was very proud of what Rwanda has become under a visionary leadership. He was a loyal friend, a generous soul, and a true leader,” Anne told The EastAfrican on Thursday.

“He loved his family fiercely. He had a quiet dignity about him at all times,” she added.

Ms Mazimhaka said of her father: “His dedication to his party and his country never wavered for as long as we have known him.”

“He was incredibly proud of the country he and others fought so hard to liberate. Proud of the vision, proud of the accomplishments, in awe of how far we have come and he was happy to be able to have served the country nationally, regionally, internationally and to then be able to retire in the very country that he loved,” she said.

Early life

Mr Mazimhaka was born on April 26, 1948 in Rwanda before his family fled to neighbouring Uganda in 1962 following ethnic tensions that began in 1959.

He attended Ntare School before joining Makerere University in Kampala for his undergraduate studies, obtaining a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology. He received a Master’s of Science degree in 1975.

He became a lecturer at the Faculty of Science at Makerere and rose through the ranks to head the Department of Geology.

In 1981, he moved to Kenya where he briefly worked as a consultant with a mining company and later relocated to Canada with his family.

While abroad, he joined the Rwandans in exile who were determined to return home and went on to become a key figure in the struggle that led to the RPF taking power in July 1994 having ended the genocide against the Tutsi.

He is survived by his wife Prof Jolly Mazimhaka, three daughters – Anne, Joan and Sharon, and two grandsons.

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