On Thursday, we travelled to a place that to most people, symbolizes the end of life, to lay to rest a young woman whose life was brutally stolen by armed robbers; just over 90 days ago, the victim, a 32-year old last born of nine had wedded.
Perched atop a hill, at its mention, Rusororo evokes memories of when relatives and friends gathered to see off a beloved one; it is a memory most would prefer not to reminisce.
The deceased young lady, Quesie, was shot dead, Wednesday, when armed robbers attacked a Bank of Kigali branch at Buhanda in Ruhango, Southern Province. She had just embarked on two life journeys, marital and career-wise, when she was killed.
As a newlywed, she was hoping for a long happy life of motherhood. You didn’t have to have attended the funeral to imagine the young husband’s grief; he was shaking his head the entire time, in absolute disbelief of the tragedy that had befallen him.
The day she was killed, at around midday, they had talked on phone, the easiest medium of maintaining a long distance relationship; she told him she had a headache; he consoled her to stay strong; at 6pm, she was fatally shot in the head during the messy bank robbery.
“It was a sign from God,” the husband said in a message that was readout during the funeral.
Professionally, Quesie, who was a cashier at the Bank of Kigali branch, was barely two years in the job and according to a statement read by her employer at the funeral, she was at the beginning of what was a burgeoning long career laden with huge potential.
At the funeral, one could easily tell, Quesie was a darling to many a person; the burial ground itself was filled to capacity with over a dozen social-groups to which she was a member, all braved the afternoon rain to attend her funeral.
One group in particular stood out. Customers of the branch where Quesie worked, wearing black t-shirts with the deceased’s image, gravely marched to her grave to lay a festoon of flowers; with the heap of all wreaths placed, it can be said the girl was buried in flowers.
Bank of Kigali’s CEO, Dr. Diane Karusisi who attended the girl’s vigil at her home in Kanyinya was among the earliest arrivals for the requiem mass at Gisementi before heading for her burial at Rusororo where she placed a wreath on behalf of the bank’s management.
Her executive humility is a signature among the country’s new crop of homegrown CEOs who put people at the centre of company success; this species of indigenous leaders is gradually helping put an end to an era of haughty alien Dutch uncles in Rwanda’s corporate circles.
In a statement to this column, the bank said Quesie was among the pioneer ‘customer champions’ or employees trained to ensure exceptional customer experience in branches. The deed by customers at her funeral was certainly a positive appraisal of her performance.
At the end of the funeral everybody left Rusororo sad. They had just participated in the premature finale of a young woman’s life. It is a memory that will live on; evoked from time to time at the mention of Rusororo.
But in my view, Rusororo should be associated with the beginning not the end of life. Since the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) headquarters was inaugurated, Rusororo got itself a new status which has since seen the market value of plots located in its neighborhood swell!
A new neighborhood of a fairly high-income middle-class is emerging evidenced by the palatial villas that are cropping up in varying architectural design around the magnificent RPF headquarters. In five years’ time, it will be in the league of Nyarutarama, Kibagabaga and Kagugu.
But the current image of Rusororo as a national graveyard is a stumbling block to its newly acquired status of an emerging up-scale residential neighborhood for Rwanda’s ever growing middle-class. The name Rusororo creates conflicting images in one’s mind.
To some, the mention will mentally run them to the cemetery. To others, it will run them to the location of the beautiful RPF headquarters, which to most of us, historically, symbolizes the end of death of millions to ushering in a new era that gave chance to life afresh.
Yet to those in whose minds Rusororo represents end of life, the idea of buying a home there would only mean, moving closer to the end. That is a depressing image for property salesmen.
The more appealing story, the one I prefer, is Rusororo as a representation of a new beginning; symbolized by the inspirational headquarters of the RPF that ended mass murder and ushered in a chance for mass life.
Since Thursday, the image of those white tomb-heads is stuck in my mind. It is scary. But come to think of it, don’t we need a new strategy? I mean, how sustainable is Rusororo as a national graveyard? That space will be no-more in nine years; we can bet.
Anyway, let’s find a new graveyard. Far from the building that symbolizes a new beginning. After that, let’s embark on a long process of rebranding the place, with a new name and a story.
The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.