When news broke that Zula Karuhimbi had passed away, many could do nothing but admire the legacy she has left behind.
Karuhimbi, who was in her 100s, is mainly eulogised because of deeds of humanity, fearlessness and selflessness she exhibited during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
She passed away on Monday evening due to illness, according to sources.
Despite horrible events nearly 25 years ago, when human beings turned animals and Interahamwe militiamen launched attacks on Tutsis killing them in thousands in a day, Karuhimbi stood firm and vowed to protect the hopeless Tutsi who sought refuge in her home.
She was physically weak but mentally strong. She had the will to save those who were hunted and she managed against all odds.
Having grown up in a traditional healers’ family, Karuhimbi is credited to have managed to help over 100 of Tutsi survive the Genocide by threatening killers that she had magical powers she could use to kill them.
Karuhimbi is revered as a heroine in Musamo Village, Ruhango District, where she lived and was almost loved by everyone in the area. She lost her two children to the killers as she tried to save Tutsis, according to her previous testimony.
Her bravery was also recognised by the government and, in 2006, President Paul Kagame awarded Karuhimbi with Umurinzi, Rwanda’s Campaign against Genocide Medal (CGM) for her courage and determination to stand against the Genocide.
The medal is her pride, a token she always went to bed with every night, according to her previous testimony.
In 2009, a tree was planted in her honour in the Garden of the Righteous in Milan, Italy. Karuhimbi was flown to Milan for the occasion.
Attempts were also unsuccessfully made to have her nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
Many people took to social media to mourn the passing of the old woman who not only left the legacy on earth but also whose actions will always be remembered.
“She rescued 150 Tutsi during the Genocide in the current Ruhango District. Zula Karuhimbi defined the real meaning of humanitarian action, may her soul be blessed and besieged in eternal peace always. Her memory will be honoured forever,” said Jean de Dieu Milindi, a Genocide survivor and a co-ordinator of the association of Genocide survivors students’ association said.
The former Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary General-elect of Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), Louise Mushikiwabo, said she was optimistic the woman’s reward was granted.
“May her soul rest in peace!! Her reward is guaranteed, am sure!” wrote Mushikiwabo on her twitter handle.
The Rwandan Ambassador to Geneva, François Xavier Ngarambe, also eulogised Karuhumbi as one of the greatest daughters the country has had who will always be remembered and respected.
“One of the greatest daughters of our country passed away; but her legacy will last forever. Armed with only her courage and generosity, she was able to repel crowds of militias and saved lives of over 150 persons. We will always remember her with love and respect. RIP” Ngarambe tweeted.
“When I visited her in April 2014, Zula Kaluhimbi showed me her Campaign against Genocide Medal she was awarded in 2006 for sheltering over 100 Tutsi during the Genocide. For her bravery, Zula had lost two of her children to the killers #RIP,” said Jean Pierre Bucyensenge, a former journalist who visited and covered Karuhimbi’s story four years ago.