Capt Augustine Iyako: Gone is a Patriot
On August 12, 2011, I was one of many people who gathered at the Christian Life Assembly Church to bid the last farewell to Capt. Augustine Iyako, who died in a car accident on the morning of 6th August 2011 in Kigali city.
He was 53 years old. After the funeral service, his body was laid to rest at Kanombe Military Cemetery, next to other gallant sons of our country who left before him.
Iyako’s death was sudden and great shock, not only to his young family, but to his many friends spreading across and beyond our national borders.
Many a word of sorrow were shared during the funeral service. Also shared were words of appreciation for his contribution to the liberation struggle and later his role in setting up a modern national broadcasting service that would put Rwanda in the lead on the African continent.
In a condolence message from H.E President Paul Kagame read by General James Kabarebe; the Minister for Defence, Iyako was described as having been characterised by passion and love. Passion for what he believed in and love for his country that he served gallantly.
One of the people who worked with Iyako was Nkubito Bakuramutsa and I quote words he put on Urubuga Webpage upon hearing the sad news of Iyako’s death: “Iyako had a passion for unified communication and constantly looked for ways to mix both digital broadcasting and broadband through a return channel that he worked hard to include in all converters.
This was simply cutting edge technology as it could enable the reach of broadband to the majority of Rwandans and Africans. I have mentioned several times and will do it again today, Iyako was simply a genius.”
Iyako will be remembered for other exemplary qualities that he possessed, not least his love for humanity; a quality that made him touch other people’s lives in a special way.
He had a gift for friendship, his open frankness and warm personality and wide knowledge of things Rwandan, especially its history that endeared him to us all.
He related with the rich and the poor, the humble and the powerful and always retained his humility that truly was his nature.
A testimony to this was the profile of the people who turned up for his burial—ranging from the young to the old; the learned and the uneducated; the poor and the rich—he was truly a man of the people.
Iyako was my long time childhood friend. We first met in 1969 in Kajaho Primary School in Nshungerezi refugee settlement in Western Uganda. Our friendship and comradeship that started that year lasted through the decades only to end two weeks ago by this tragic accident.
As teenage refugees, we were in the same class at Mutolere Secondary School across the border in Bufumbira, western Uganda. I remember one afternoon as we sat in the school’s playing field in a depressed mood after being viciously bullied by two big local boys and repeatedly reminded that we were refugees and we should not be at their school—we were too small and weak to put up a fight and so we took all the humiliation in silence.
After a while, Iyako stood up, stared at Mt Muhabura which is within easy sight of the school and said to me: “You know we must study science; make a powerful machine gun, put it on top of Mt Muhabura and shoot the bad leadership in Rwanda out so we can go home.”
In retrospect, little did I know that his statement was in a way prophetic and that the powerful machine gun in reality would turn out to be the giant 40-metre Kalisimbi masts Iyako was to work so hard to implant 39 years later.
This innocent teenage dreamer would also grow up to play the role he dreamt in liberating his country. He went on to study engineering, and through his energy and intellect, contributed significantly to advance Rwanda technologically and position her globally; a country his childhood was denied its right to dream from.
He will probably be remembered for his work on the Kalisimbi project that is meant to provide a multipurpose ICT transmission system to facilitate the provision of associated services in Rwanda and the whole of Comesa region.
Iyako was humble by nature, intelligent and humane; always there for everyone. He always sought for the truth and could neither be chilled nor flattered out of his position of perpetual enquiry.
Some called him a dreamer and yet his quiet modesty covered great courage and ability with rare intellectual competence. He was a very kind man and he helped many in need.
Captain Iyako was an excellent national cadre who served his country with distinction and never strayed from his roots and we all his friends shall be proud to have known him.
My friend, May the Almighty God rest your soul in eternal peace.
Ambassador Ben Rugangazi