boogie_doggie (boogie_doggie) wrote in west_africa,

Unsung African Heroes: Capt. Mbaye Diagne...

I recently saw the excellent PBS Frontline documentary 'Ghosts of Rwanda'.
I'd also seen 'Hotel Rwanda' when it was playing the theatres and remember being outraged after the movie about the events portrayed, sickened by the callous slaughter of human beings, and sad because I knew first-hand that the seeds for such barbarism where still widespread throughout Africa.

(True story: During my 3 years in the University of Benin... my parents got me a transfer to the University of Lagos after the events described here ...the lecturers and students declared a strike to protest SAP and IBB sent the Army onto the campus, chasing everyone out into the streets of Benin city while shooting into the backs of students with live ammunition. Hundreds of people were arrested, some have never been heard from to this day, and you don't even want to know what happened to the women. It started as an adventure for me and my friends that day and quickly became a screaming nightmare, the worst part being the burning alive of a soldier that had been separated from his group. Set against the bloody beatings I saw the army give out that day and the bodies along Ugbowo Rd, it was hard to feel any sympathy, and I still can't... even today. Here's a link for background scroll down to the 'Nigeria' entry...)

The best thing about 'Hotel Rwanda' was the message that even in the middle of atrocities, some blessed people will always rise above the madness and be the best examples of the human race. It was about a hotel manager that sheltered people of the victimised tribe in his hotel while frantically pulling strings and calling in favours to get them out of the country. This was in the face of staggering worldwide indifference to the ethnic cleansing that was taking place. The manager was portrayed by Don Cheadle, and he has commendably become very active in various African related issues.

The documentary covered much of the same ground but also took the time to show people like Kofi Annan, Madeline Albright, Bill Clinton and others explaining their actions and in some cases, straight up apologizing for their errors... They also claimed that such apathy in the face of ongoing genocide would NEVER ever happen again in the civilized world... only we're now watching the same thing all over again (with much of the same quibbles over language) in Darfur, Sudan.

The documentary also made me aware of Mbaye Diagne. This amazing man was from Senegal, he was a UN Aid worker, and in the words of his fellows 'he had the brightest smile in the whole of Rwanda'... in the middle of the genocide this man could charm his way into anyone's good graces... a talent he used to set up an 'underground railroad' to get people out of Rwanda to safety. He actually used the same hotel featured in the movie as a staging point. He died in Rwanda, a totally random mortar shell killed him. I felt like crying when I saw this, an emotion that was mirrored by the people who knew him, that spoke about him during the documentary. I wanted to write something about this saint, during the research needed I found that several people had already done so, and apparently with far better resorces than I have. No doubt they felt the same way about this Giant of Africa.

Here are the links:


RIP, Go with God.
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