Robert Nkurunziza lives and works in Kigali, Rwanda, while his newly married wife Claudette Umuhoza has been living, working and studying in Toronto, Canada, having emigrated there from Rwanda several years ago.
Until March this year, and several thousand miles apart, the two simply did not know each other.
On the afternoon of Friday August 12, the two tied the proverbial knot in a civil marriage in Remera, Kigali that was preceded by a traditional family introduction ceremony.
How it started
The couple first made contact through a visiting Rwandan pastor in Toronto, Canada where Claudette Umuhoza is based.
In Canada, she is studying Counseling at the Canada Christian College. She specialises in Christian Counseling which is based on the Bible.
“It’s for everybody but based on Bible principles. So whenever I counsel somebody I wind up by giving examples from the Bible and showing how Jesus can change their life. I would say it’s the same thing as being a pastor, that’s why I’m studying Theology and Counseling,” she says.
“The pastor was at our church for three days for overnight worship and prayers and I was one of the ushers in church. I was the one who was tasked with serving him and so we were able to talk,” Umuhoza explains the course of events that set her and her new groom on the nuptial path.
“He asked me where my husband was and I told him I was not married. Then he said ‘wow … you are a nice person, you are beautiful and you’re not married. How come?’”
“I told him I was waiting for God’s time. He told me he knew someone – he called him his son - and that he wanted the two of us to meet and then we would see from there.
“I thought he was joking but he was serious. He asked for my telephone number and again asked me to meet his son. He told me his son was nice and serious and wanted to settle down in marriage.
“He asked me if I was sure I wanted to get married. I told him I was waiting for God’s time,” she recalls.
She recalled her earlier prayers to God for an ideal man:
“I told God I wanted a man who had never been married, had no kids, and is dark skinned and kind. I told God everything I wanted and when I saw his picture I realised that God was answering my prayers. After the crusade, the pastor asked if he could share my contacts with Robert and I agreed,” Umuhoza says.
On March 29 this year, the couple started initial communication via the social networking site, Skype.
“He told me he was serious and wanted to get married as soon as possible and I told God ‘wow, this is just what I’ve been praying for as well’. I told him let’s pray about it. We spent three days praying about it together on Skype,” she says.
They continued talking and praying together until they both decided it was time to meet face to face.
Umuhoza decided to make the journey down from Toronto to Rwanda to meet her future husband.
“I had to be the one to come over because getting a Visa to Canada wouldn’t have been easy for him but luckily, I have a Canadian passport so for me it was easy. By coming to Rwanda we knew that God had opened the way for us so we decided to hold a civil marriage to formalise our union.
“When I came everything was good. Everything he had told me on Skype was true –the smile, the dark skin, so I was happy,” she says.
She recalls the first emotional encounter at the airport, when she was all shy and jelly-kneed at the prospect of meeting a stranger, while he tried to act like he had known her for many years.
“He just came out of the middle of so many people and hugged me as if he already knew me and gave me flowers. I was so shy but I tried not to show him that I was bashful. I saw true love in him that first day that we met.
“He gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers and that same evening, took me to a restaurant called Car Wash for African food. After that evening I went home. The next day we hooked up and went to church and when the pastor saw me seated with him he said ‘Go and get married’.
“I took this as confirmation from God that our marriage was supposed to be. After that church service I went with him to his home, and from that day I have never left his home. It’s now our home. I’m so happy,” she says.
Robert was born July 10, 1985 in Nyanza District in the Southern Province. He attended Kirambi Catholique Primary School (Southern Province), APPEKA High School (Eastern Province), and Cavendish University Uganda from where he graduated with a degree in NGO Management. He also holds an MBA in Marketing from the National Institute of Business Management and Administration in Chennai, India.
Presently, he is the Marketing Manager at Mount Kenya University Kigali campus. He explains that his wife Claudette embodies all that he had ever wished for in a wife:
For a wife, he wanted a woman with “a good heart, who knows God, and is respectful of all people.”
“I got all that in her and even appearance-wise she is very beautiful,” he says contentedly. “When asking God for a wife I was very specific. I told God I wanted a woman with an open mind, not a foreigner, a Rwandan.
“My wife can be very crazy when she wants to, and very serious when it’s time to be serious. If she is happy about something she will tell you and if she is unhappy about something you will see it.
“Here in Rwanda and Africa in general we’re a bit ‘withdrawn’ as a society in that someone will tell you ‘no, I’m fine’ when they are not okay. For her it’s different. If she’s crazy she’s crazy, if she decides to fight it’s a fight. She is a very principled person.
“She has what is called true love. I met her via social media. When we talked the first time on Skype she was shy, but after about 10 minutes we were chatting as if we had known each other for years.
“She asked me what I intended to do in the next five years and I told her I wanted to complete my PhD, find a job, get married and have two kids,” he recalls.
All this happened in March, and on June 14, his dream woman landed in Kigali.
“When I went to the airport to pick her it was as if I was going to meet an angel. I took her a big bouquet of flowers and hugged her. When I felt the pulse of her heart against mine I knew immediately that she was mine.
“After the airport she went to her home to rest a bit and refresh up, then at about 11pm I took her to Car Wash Bar and Restaurant for some Nyama Choma.
“Since then it’s been paradise. I say paradise because everything I ever wanted I have found in her,” he says.
After the civil wedding the couple hosted guests to an after party at Plus 250 Bar and Restaurant in Kicukiro.
I tagged along with the band that was hired to play music that evening. The main act of the night was veteran local Afro-beat singer Mako Nikoshwa.
“I first saw Mako Nikoshwa seven years ago as a Rwandan in the Diaspora,” Umuhoza explains her choice of artiste.
“We went to Nyamata as members of the Diaspora Forum and he was brought to sing for us. He sung two songs and I came to know him. I never saw him again until I went back to Canada. Then from nowhere, as I was on Facebook, I read that Mako was about to die. I saw his pictures and I froze. I prayed and fasted for him for nine days. I told God please don’t let him die, but instead beseech him to give his life to you. After a while I started reading that Mako was gradually getting better and I kept praying for him. When we went to visit Robert’s parents in Nyanza, we went to eat out in the evening and we again met Mako performing. This was at the end of June. I watched his performance and took pictures of him. I walked up to him and told him I liked his song Agahinda because it addressed me and my husband directly. Then we told him of our upcoming civil marriage and asked if he could perform and he agreed. It was beautiful,” says Umuhoza.