Rwanda pays tribute to fallen US Congressman
The Rwandan government yesterday paid a glowing tribute to a fallen US Congressman, who, in 2010, received a medal from President Paul Kagame for his “articulate condemnation” of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Donald Payne, who passed away on Tuesday after a battle with colon cancer, will also be remembered in Rwanda as the man who introduced legislation in the American Congress for the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Genocide against Tutsis. He died at 77.
“Congressman Payne was a true champion of human rights. He took the time to understand what was happening around the world, particularly in Africa, and advocated on these issues with passion and conviction in the US Congress,” Foreign Affairs Minister, Louse Mushikiwabo, told The New Times yesterday.
Mushikiwabo, also the Government Spokesperson, added: “We, in Rwanda, appreciated his efforts in trying to tell his country and the world the truth about the genocide that happened here 1994. On behalf of people of Rwanda, we join his family and his government in mourning the death of this extraordinary man.”
Payne was the first African American elected to Congress from New Jersey and a tireless advocate for Africa during his 12 terms in the Congress.
In 2010, he was awarded by President Paul Kagame with the ‘UMURINZI’ – ‘Rwanda’s Campaign against Genocide Medal.’
In the citation for the medal, it was indicated that the US official assisted in finding workable solutions to the political and humanitarian crises Rwanda faced in 1994.
“Your work as head of a Presidential mission to Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide, to assist in finding workable solutions to the political and humanitarian crises our country faced in 1994 was invaluable,” reads part of the citation.
In his condolence message, US President Barrack Obama said: “Michelle and I were saddened to hear about the passing of Congressman Donald Payne, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.”
“By any standard, Don lived a full and meaningful life,” he added.
In the Congress, Payne is described as “a trailblazer” and “a tireless campaigner for justice.”
Speaking to The New Times yesterday, the spokesperson of the U.S Embassy in Kigali, Susan Falatko described Payne as a great friend of Africa.
“He had particular friendship with Rwanda. In August, last year, he was in Rwanda where he held talks with top government officials and visited Butaro hospital,” said Falatko.
“We mourn the passing of Congressman Donald Payne. It is a real loss for his constituents but also for the global community, in particular Rwanda and, indeed, all Africa.”
During his time in Congress, Payne, a Democrat, was known as a champion of education who worked to make college more affordable. Widely praised as a tireless advocate for his constituents, he also had a strong interest in global issues and became a de facto ambassador to Africa.
Payne authored the Sudan Peace Act, which sought to end the conflict in Sudan and facilitate famine-relief efforts in Darfur, and frequently traveled to Sudan to assess conditions there.
At the time of his death, Payne was the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights in the U.S. House of Representatives.
As a founder of the Malaria Caucus in Congress, Payne helped secure $100 million in foreign aid to treat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
By profession, he was a teacher and an insurance executive.
Contact email: edwin.musoni[at]newtimes.co.rw