Tributes from East Africa and beyond have continued to pour in following the chilling murder of Rwanda’s top model Alexia Uwera Mupende on Tuesday evening with many recalling her calm and jolly personality.
The murder of Mupende, reportedly by a house help who is still at large, has left the country in shock. She was a few weeks away from her wedding with the Introduction Ceremony slated for February 9, and the wedding a week later on February 16.
News of her murder came through on Tuesday evening, with initial reports indicating that she was killed by a one Antoine Niyireba, who was a domestic worker at her parent’s home.
Niyireba went into hiding.
Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) Spokesperson Modeste Mbabazi confirmed that security organs were hunting for the suspected murderer.
Hundreds of mourners convened at the family residence in Nyarugunga, Kicukiro District to commiserate with the Mupende family.
Available information indicates that she was stabbed on the neck by Niyereba 23, at her father’s home and her body has since been taken to the nearby Rwanda Military Hospital (RMH).
Tributes for the model and actress have continued to pour in from friends and members of the fashion industry as well as celebrities who were shocked by the murder of the model who was one of the pioneering and outstanding models in Rwanda.
At this point one can only ask Why. God. I was excited and waiting for your wedding day. My heart is very heavy. pic.twitter.com/uWd5D1GNHB
— DeeJay Pius (@DeejayPius) January 8, 2019
“My heart is heavy. May you rest well dear Alexia. My prayers to the whole Mupende family,” posted Deejay Pius, while Canada-based Rwandan model Frank Rukundo posted “Rest in Power Alexia. I just learnt about the tragic death of this Angel. Alexia and I go way back to 2001 when we both had aspirations of becoming fashion super models. What a life we live,” he said.
Hope Azeda, the founder of Ubumuntu Arts Festival and Mashirika Performing Arts, which the deceased was a member, eulogized Mupende, describing her as one of the most beautiful and eloquent people she has known.
A dark night befalls!
Soft spoken like rising dawn
As Beautiful as ever
Soft and calm yet eloquent
A heart whose love is innocent
Never heard you yell
Why would anyone dare do the heartless .absolute coward.
Rest well beutiful... we will miss you dearly pic.twitter.com/gOFUGxp1iR
— Hope Azeda (@HopeAzeda) January 8, 2019
“A dark night befalls! Soft spoken like rising dawn, Endlessly tender, As Beautiful as ever, Soft and calm yet eloquent, A heart whose love is innocent, Never heard you yell, Why would anyone dare do the heartless,” Azeda said in poem paying tribute to the model.
“Was looking forward to your wedding next week. Thanks for gracing our lives with your talent and skills. Rest well beautiful. We will miss you dearly,” she added.
— Malaika Uwamahoro ? (@MalaikaWamahoro) January 9, 2019
Azeda said Mupende has been with Mashirika on a part time basis. She took part in the “Dear children sincerely” project which was a collaboration between Mashirika and Stages Theatre in Sri Lanka.
They toured Asia in 2016. She also modeled Ubumuntu online t-shirts.
We’re devastated by the news of Alexia U. Mupende's passing. She was smart, humble, and fun. Friends and family have lost a loving and cheery soul; the fashion industry will miss a hardworking and avid model.
We stand with you in this tragic time.
Rest in Peace, Alexia. ?
— Moshions Rwanda (@Moshions) January 9, 2019
Moses Twahirwa, founder of Moshions Fashion House also paid tribute to Mupende as one of the dedicated models he has ever worked with.
“I have known Alexia since 2011, and that’s when I joined the fashion industry as a model. She was the first female model with dedication and love for fashion I have known,”
“I continued to work with her when I became a designer. She was very professional, humble and cheerful. The fashion industry will miss a hardworking and devoted model. May her soul rest in eternal peace,” Twahirwa said.
My heart is broken. Alexia, my friend and colleague, I will remember your kindness, compassion, faith and determination. Your smile always lit up the room and your passion for the arts will continue to inspire. You are gone too soon but you will never be forgotten. #RIPAlexia? pic.twitter.com/hcxJJUN6xL
— David Toovey (@DavidToovey) January 9, 2019
“My heart is broken. Alexia, my friend and colleague, I will remember your kindness, compassion, faith and determination. Your smile always lit up the room and your passion for the arts will continue to inspire. You are gone too soon but you will never be forgotten,” said David Toovey on Twitter.
Belise Kariza, the Chief Tourism Officer, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) said that an “an angel has been called back by the Almighty” in a tweet eulogizing the deceased model.
— Belise Kariza (@BeliseKariza) January 8, 2019
The Kimihurura-based fitness house Waka Fitness where she was working as Customer Service and Marketing Officer also paid tribute to Mupende.
Our dearest friend, colleague, trustee and carrier of integrity Alexia Mupende passed away last night. We send all our thoughts and love to her family and friends.
We thank you for every moment and your legacy and impact will always be with your WAKA family. pic.twitter.com/K0tetTIfSH
— WAKA Rwanda (@Waka_Rwanda) January 9, 2019
“Our dearest friend, colleague, trustee and carrier of integrity @alexiamupendepassed away last night. We send all our thoughts and love to her family and friends,”
“We thank you for every moment and your legacy and impact will always be with your WAKA family and the thousands of WAKA members that you have touched in the years,” the fitness centre said.
Joselyne Umutoniwase, the founder of Rwanda Clothing Ltd, which Mupende used to model for, said the she was her friend and they worked together on some photo shoots as the face of the clothing line.
You lived your life with such joy...almost always had a smile on your face and everytime we spoke I left with a smile too. I loved how you always danced like noone was watching. #RIPAlexia knowing you left a beautiful legacy pic.twitter.com/Wdoig8KAAM
— Lou (@Louikan) January 9, 2019
“She was very special, one of a kind and we had such wonderful connection and we adored working with her. She was the face of Rwanda Clothing for the last 7 years. We truly have lost a talent,” Umutoniwase said.
Her colleague at Rwanda Clothing Antoinette Twagirayezu also paid tribute to Mupende.
“We have lost an amazing soul and a free minded woman. We will not forget you because you have gave us so much to remember you for. You lit the way of many generations to come. They will learn a lot from you. Let your heart shine like a new bright star in our skies,” Twagirayezu said.
Fashion designer Francis Zahabu said he had no words to express how sad he was feeling following the murder of the model who she met first at Mashirika where they were both dancers.
“I want thank you for your support in Rwanda fashion industry and Art as the greatest Fashion Model and Africa contemporary music Dancer,” said Zahabu, adding that she was kind and humble.
And you now stand in His presence and He I'm certain He said over you, We'll done good and faithful servant. It's tough taking this in. You were a beautiful soul @alexiamupende. RIP pic.twitter.com/MiX3S1X7sn
— Hassan Kibirango (@HassanKibrango) January 8, 2019
Tagging one of her last tweets stating that she wanted to grow close to God in 2019, Pastor Hassan Kibirango of Christian Life Assembly (CLA) said that she now “stand in His presence and He I'm certain He said over you, We'll done good and faithful servant. It is tough taking this in. You were a beautiful soul”.
She has featured in a number of high profile fashion shows and magazines. She was the face of RwandAir’s inflight magazine. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Information and Technology (BBIT) from Mount Kenya University.