Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Unsung Hero Mbaye Diagne



Last year i watched a very nice documentary called "Ghost's of Rwanda" in PBS.They telecasted it to commemorate the 10 anniversary of the genocide.It had a wonderful piece about a man named Mbaye Diagne.I was impressed by his story.I felt sad that the world media has ignored this guy, who has single handedly saved Thousands of lives.It would have been a very different story if he would have been an american or european.Today is the death anniversary of Capt. Mbaye Diagne.

Capt. Mbaye Diagne was a young Senegalese army officer who served as an unarmed U.N. military observer in Rwanda.During the genocide the world was just watching as all the big powers pulled back their forces from rwanda.The U.N forces were ordered not to intervene in the conflict. In what was left of the UN forces many were from african nations and they didn't even have enough ammuniations. So the U.N forces were just watching the genocide happening.

But the unarmed Captain Diagne evidently resolved to disobey the U.N.'s standing orders of not to intervene. Rather than being in the secured UN buildings, He plunged into the horror and began risking his own life to save others.He rescued the children of the moderate Prime Minster Agathe Uwilingiyimana, after 25 well-armed Belgian and Ghanaian U.N. peacekeepers surrendered their weapons to Rwandan troops. The Rwandan troops killed Madame Agathe (and, later, ten Belgian peacekeepers), while the unarmed Capt. Mbaye -- acting on his own initiative -- hid the Prime Minister's children in a closet.

In the days and weeks that followed, Capt. Mbaye became a legend among U.N. forces in Kigali. He continued his solo rescue missions, and had an uncanny ability to charm his way past checkpoints full of killers. On one occasion he found a group of 25 Tutsis hiding in a house in Nyamirambo, a Kigali neighborhood that was particularly dangerous. Capt. Mbaye ferried the Tutsis to the U.N. headquarters in groups of five -- on each trip passing through 23 militia checkpoints with a Jeep-load of Tutsis. Somehow, he convinced the killers to let these Tutsis live.

On May 31st, Capt. Mbaye was driving alone back to U.N. headquarters in Kigali when a random mortar shell, fired by the Rwandan Patriotic Front towards an extremist checkpoint, mistakenly landed next to his Jeep. He was killed instantly.

Capt. Mbaye, a devout Muslim, was one of nine children from a poor family on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal's capital. He was the first in his family to go to college. After graduating from the University of Dakar, he joined the army and worked his way up through the ranks. After his death, he was buried in Senegal with full military honors. He was survived by a wife and two young children.more .

Mbaye always worked alone, he would bring a group of peoples from somewhere to safe hiding places and the next day they would be gone.Nobody knew from where he bought them and where he took them.To this day nobody knows how many men, women and children this insubordinate martyr managed to conceal in hiding places throughout Kigali and the surrounding countryside. Nor does anyone know the number of people he was able to smuggle, sweet-talk, bribe and backslap past checkpoints manned by murderers . Thousands possibly.

Excerpt from interview of Gregory Alex, head of the U.N. humanitarian assistance team in Rwanda.

How would he get through?
That's just the way he was," said "People laughed. Even they [the genocidal militiamen] have, or had, some attachment to a real world where there's real laughter. Even in all this gore, hatred; as long as you can have that brief glimpse of his smile, or laugh about something that's good, you'll grab onto it. And with Mbaye I think that's what everybody did. At all those checkpoints, they all knew him.

Mark Doyle(BBC World Service)
How was he able to get through these checkpoints and rescue people?

I remember once I was very grateful I was in Mbaye's car. We were going to see an orphanage. We got stopped by the government militia, and the militia man leaned through the window with one of these Chinese stick grenades which look a bit like sink plungers, but they're not sink plungers -- they explode and kill you if they go off. And he started waving it under my nose, because he thought I was Belgian -- because at the time the Belgians were perceived by the government to be pro-rebel -- and so this militia man thought because I'm white and driving around -- and most of the white people who lived in Kigali at the time, the majority were Belgian -- he thought I was Belgian. So he said to Mbaye, "Who's this guy? Is he Belgian?" and if Mbaye had said the wrong thing at that point, then I've no doubt that we'd have all been killed.

And what he did was he just joked. He said, "No, no -- I'm the Belgian. I'm the Belgian here, look -- black Belgian." And he broke the tension of the moment, and once the tension of the moment had been broken, he said, "No, no -- in fact, look, this guy is the BBC. Here's his badge. He's a BBC journalist, he's British, and he's got nothing to do with Belgian." And this kind of put the military man off guard a bit and he no longer wanted to kill us. And I just wonder[ed] if a Canadian soldier or a French soldier would have been able to do that, to joke with this guy and potentially save my life and the life of all the other people around who would have been killed by this stick grenade.


Read more about Captain Diagne

Comments:
Wonderful article ...

and posibly much powerful than schindler's list

Wonder why can't this be taken as a movie :)
 
nice site and some great reviews. I came here via a Google search for "Suraj ka Satvan Ghoda". :)

Saaransh, Pyaasa are some of my favorite movies.
 
Enna orey padam-a paarthu thallareengala? :)
 
ramki,
yes it would be, but stories about black guys are always given less importance.. sooooo..

ashwin,
thanxs.The world through your magnifying glass was also nice.

praveen,
nan patha padathuley, oru 10% than enga mention pani irukkaen. innemey than neraya ezhuthaporaen :).
 
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