Gilbert Mwijuke remembers Henry Hirwa, Aloisea Inyumba, Jonathan Rutare, Whitney Houston, Athanase Sentore and all those who passed on this year
As a product of the eighties and a child of the nineties, I grew up with my finger on the record button of my father’s Panasonic, waiting to rip I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) or I Will Always Love You from Radio Sanyu (now Sanyu FM) in Kampala, onto a cassette.
I was a child who knew nothing about love, but knew what it was to love a melody. And oh, Whitney was beautiful! A desirable beauty.
In fact, she was too good to be true. Her voice was rich, supple and often magnificent. To most of us who adored her, Whitney was a fun-loving but good girl. However, somewhere along the way, our idol kind of fell off, deteriorating through years of cocaine use and an abusive marriage. She died on February 11 in Beverly Hills, California. She was 48.
On December 6, the country woke up to news of devastation – Aloisea Inyumba, one of Rwanda’s most revered leaders, had died from complications due to throat cancer. Inyumba died at the age of 48, according to official reports. At the time of her death, she was the minister for gender and family affairs.
“She was a leader in every sense of the word… She was unique and selfless. Her work and her legacy remain alive within us,” President Paul Kagame said of the woman she first met in 1985.
Inyumba had been actively involved in the liberation and rebuilding of Rwanda and was an active member of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), which put an end to the Genocide that claimed the lives of an estimated 800,000 innocent Tutsis in 1994. She will forever be remembered for her passion for unity and development of Rwanda as a nation.
The man who made the “giant leap for mankind” as the first human being to set foot on the moon died on August 25, aged 82. According to Wikipedia.com, Armstrong underwent bypass surgery on August 7, 2012, to relieve blocked coronary arteries. He died in Cincinnati, Ohio, after complications resulting from the cardiovascular procedure.
After his death, Armstrong was described, in a statement released by the White House, as “among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time.”
A White House statement said: “Armstrong had carried the aspirations of the United States’ citizens and had delivered a moment of human achievement that will never be forgotten.”
He emerged in the early 2000s as one of his generation’s greatest R&B voices. The young and effervescent Hirwa set out as a dancer with Cool Friends Crew before teaming up with Skizzy to form KGB (Kigali Boys), the two-member group that would later churn out chart-toppers such as Abakobwa b’iKigali, Ruhurura, Arasharamye and Bibi.
A little more about Hirwa: He was born in Bujumbura, Burundi, in 1985, to Ladislas Kayibanda and Olive Mukazera. He was their only son, and had three sisters, among them reigning Miss Rwanda Aurore Kayibanda Mutesi. He received his primary education in Burundi before returning to Rwanda with his family. He then went to APAPE for his secondary education before joining Kigali Institute of Management (KIM). The 27-year-old singer drowned in Lake Muhazi on December 1. Sad story.
When he was elected prime minister of Ethiopia in 1995, Zenawi stated that his party’s victory was a triumph for the thousands of TPLF-fighters who were killed, for the millions of Ethiopians who were victims of the country’s biggest famine during the past regime.
At the time, Ethiopia was a country rich only in lost hopes and broken dreams. In fact, what comes to my mind when I think of the Ethiopia of that time are the words of Isaiah 18, which I read in the King James Bible when I was STILL a devout Christian: “Woe to the land shadowing with wings, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia… Go ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled, a people terrible from their beginning hitherto; a nation meted out and trodden down.”
Meles Zenawi presented himself as the swift messenger in Ethiopia, lifting his country from the ruins of civil war and transforming it into one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.
It’s as well that after his death, President Paul Kagame heaped praisse on the fallen gallant leader. “Zenawi did not court greatness,” Kagame said in a statement, “…he led a humble and simple but very meaningful life.” Zenawi died on August 20, aged 57.
Mid this year, death robbed the Rwandan football fraternity of one of the country’s most talented soccer players. Amavubi midfielder Patrick Mafisango was killed in a tragic road accident in Dar es salaam, Tanzania.
According to sources in Tanzania, Mafisango, who was hitherto playing for Simba Sports Club, died en route to hospital after the car he was driving veered off the road as he tried to avoid a motorbike. The DR Congo-born footballer was 32.
In March, the local music industry lost one of its finest, Athanase Sentore, the legendary tunesmith whose works include torching tracks such as Dushengurukanye Isheja and Nimurambe.
He died at Fortis Hospital in Mumbai, India, at the age of 80. But Sentore will certainly live on through his enchanting music – or at least through his son, Intore Masamba, who is also a bona fide local music star.
J. Christopher Stevens
Most of us had never heard of J. Christopher Stevens until that fateful day when he was killed in an assault on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The day was September 11. Stevens became the first United States ambassador killed in an attack while on duty since 1979. He was 52.
The young Rwandan basketball player died mysteriously in Florida, USA. Breathing his last at the age of 17, Rutare is one of those who went too soon.