The Death of a Hero, Captain Mbaye Diagne

Submitted by: Jennifer Fierberg

Amadou Deme, Former Captain and Military Intelligence Officer of UNAMIR Force under Commander General Romeo Dallaire in Rwanda1994 before and during the genocide wrote a moving tribute to his friend and colleague, Captain Mbaye Diagne. Captain Diagne is remembered as a hero during the Rwanda Genocide in 1994 for his selfless act in order to save hundreds of Tutsi who would certainly have met certain death.

By: Amadou Deme

In Memoriam

Our late Brother in Arms Capt. Mbaye Diagne

In the course of this book “When the Victors Tell the Story, the UN Victims in Rwanda”, I must mention about my late friend, Captain Mbaye Diagne. There is not a single day when my mind would not go toward him, and I still feel kind of guilty. Before going to Rwanda, we shared terrible and stressing moments in the southern part of country called Casamance, where a low-intensity conflict had been going on for many decades, as part of the main ethnic group decided to claim independence of that region, by way of fighting. The situation had escalated so much; and the military, the rebellion and the civilian population, they all lost.

We could be stuck there for half a year without even having the possibility of a few days’ leave to enjoy with our families back home. It was, most of the time, difficult, as we were seriously suffering a lack of staff, our army being very solicited and present in several operations abroad. Therefore, every day around noon, I would stop by him with provisions of fresh meat and vegetables to be cooked, while he would get water at Sopecya. That day, the Force Commander was in Nairobi, and we held a coordination meeting at Diplomat Hotel under the direction of General Anyidoho and Colonel Yaache, along with the officials of the RGF. The meeting finished around twelve thirty, and the Diplomat Hotel was really targeted, as shells were pouring down on it.

Then right after the meeting, as I was heading toward my car, a RGF colonel called me and said that a casualty had been reported at Sopecya runabout, and that an observer likely got killed on the spot by a mortar shell. It felt like I suddenly had a shower, because I broke out in cold sweat; I opened the car, got in, and put my helmet on the wheel. I knew it was Mbaye Diagne. I started the engine and rushed to the spot. While driving, I could imagine the scene: him arriving at that roadblock manned by the RGF, who would be slow as usual to remove the wooden barrier, and Mbaye Diagne showing impatience, and then suddenly, an RPF shell from the Kimihurura area landing near the vehicle.

As a matter of fact, two days before, I mentioned in one of my briefings the potential danger of being on that road, and especially at that location. The RPF mortar that fired the shell could easily have seen the white spot of the vehicle, as they were on a high altitude, and any mortar observer would have seen the potential target directly from their position. I rushed and, from a short distance, saw the vehicle stationed at the roadblock, with the rear glass blown out.

As I approached, I could see the crater of the shell on the tarmac of the road. It was not even necessary to conduct a crater analysis to find out that it came from the RPF position. Then I stopped my car and approached his; he was in the driver’s seat, and his head was on the wheel. Part of his head was gone, and I could see the white pattern of his brain. Despite knowing that he was really dead, I was talking to him while shaking him, until suddenly Colonel Tikoka, the Chief Military Observer, arrived and said to me., “It is OK, Amadou, he is gone.”

And then we had to get out of there as quickly as possible, as other shells could follow. Since the doctor – a nice Ghanaian fellow officer – was at the airport, we put what remained of Mbaye Diagne in my car, and we drove him to the airport. Major Ibrahima Diagne, who was very close to Mbaye, and considered him as his son, cried and joined me. While Mbaye Diagne’s body was being prepared to be boarded in the plane, the Force Commander arrived from Nairobi, saluted the body, and accompanied us, until the plane left with him and Major Diagne to proceed to Senegal, with a stop in Nairobi.

That was a terrible loss.

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