A tragic start to 2019; may days ahead be better

On Friday afternoon, we sent Samuel Baker home. Yesterday, we escorted Dr. Livingstone Byamungu and his four children, to their final resting places.

Today, some people will be heading to Rusororo again, to say goodbye to the much adored model, Alexia Mupende.

I don’t remember a worse tragic start to a new year, as witnessed thus far, in 2019. In all three incidents, there is one thing in common. None of the victims were ill at the time of their death.

Tragic endings! Baker {drowned in a swimming pool. Livingstone and his four children, crashed to death in a brutal road accident. Alexia simply murdered in cold blood.

Death used to be a distant rumour to the young, as Andrew Rooney once said; not anymore. But Mark Twain said, it’s not the good that die young, it’s the lucky, for by dying young, a person stays young in people’s memories with their brightness shining forever.

Baker, at barely 25 years of age was already pursuing his Doctorate; he was a rising young brilliant economist at the National Bank of Rwanda where in his short stay, had already got the Bank to engage more with the public through communication.

An ardent debater, Baker’s passion for public engagement will be missed. Where the rule at some central banks used to be ‘keep the bank out of the press and the press out of the bank’ he was actively helping cultivate a new attitude at BNR with regular contributions in the press.

In his most recent article published in The New Times on July 5, 2018, Baker wrote on why central banks need to simplify their reporting language to widen their audience reach to the ordinary people who are the actual beneficiaries of monetary policy decisions.

“Central banks need to change their language, to increase penetration and reach. Simple words can make a great difference to readability.  “Inflation and employment” leaves the majority of the public cold.  “Prices and jobs” warms them up,” he wrote.

As researcher Robert Shiller found in his survey, on public attitudes towards inflation, that ‘there is a big communications gap between economists and the public,’ Baker sought to help BNR address that flaw. Fortunately, his efforts were not in vain.

While it was a collective effort by everyone at the Bank, led by a Governor who is equally passionate about communication, Baker’s individual effort should be credited for initiatives such as #BNREngage, a channel through which the public can interact with the central bank.

Onto Livingstone, another good person gone tragically soon.

No matter how 2018 dealt his household heavy blows, with the death of his first born (daughter) in April, the friendly doctor refused to have his jolly spirit broken, he refused to stop being positive, he refused to stop smiling until that tragic accident on Sunday in December.

A day earlier, news of Baker’s tragic death in Paris, had been posted on a WhatsApp group of former Rwandans students at Makerere University with a call on members to contribute to the body’s return back home. Livingstone was among the first group members to pledge.

But he mentioned how he was on his way to Uganda for a wedding, but that he would wire his contribution on arrival; he never arrived. Hours later, news of his own tragic passing alongside his four children would hit the group, leaving everyone crestfallen.

Thousands of people have since thronged his home in Kimironko over the past couple of weeks, with friends and family waiting outside the empty house, for news about his wife, one of two survivors in the accident that claimed the husband and his four children.

On emerging from a two-week coma, the tricky part was always how to break news of the tragedy to her. Hard as it was, it happened. How she will live with that memory, for the rest of her life, only God knows. What is clear is that, her life will never be the same again.

The brutal murder of model Alexia was the last news anyone wanted to hear, after the earlier tragedies of Baker and Livingstone’s family. Once again, a rush of cold air hit the city, leaving everyone who knew the infectiously affectionate lady genuinely downcast.

With her wedding only weeks away, we cry not just for a life lost but also, for the heartbreak of a young man whose opportunity to start a family has been dealt a blow; Alexia was a limited edition human whose love for others was so genuine it felt unreal at times.

Even to those who didn’t know her personally, listening to friends speak of her fondly would make any stranger feel like they not only knew Alexia, but that she was their friend, too.

The saddest thing about this tragedy is the mystery around the circumstances of her murder. The absence of answers to the question of why, has left Alexia’s family and friends distraught.

From her last interview with The New Times, journalist Sharon Kantengwa asked her; “If you had one question to ask God, what would it be? She answered: “What on earth am I here for, what is His purpose for my life? Hopefully, I can fulfill it.”

Email: kenagutamba@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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