Retired Colonel Thaddee Gashumba is the treasurer of Kigali Veteran Cooperative Society and the owner of Hillside Day and Boarding Primary School.
He was among the liberators that ended the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. He was born on April 15TH, 1953 in Namayumba Luweero Triangle in Mpigi District. His parents left as refugees in 1942. He is the third child among six siblings.
“My father died during the Luweero Triangle massacre and we didn’t get the chance to bury him while my 90-year-old mum lives in Rwamagana,” Gashumba said.
Although his childhood dream was not to join the army, at 15 years something happened that changed his life forever.
“My dad was greatly tortured in my presence when he tried to go and visit his relatives in Rwanda. While at the boarder of Rwanda, army men questioned his whereabouts and we were imprisoned for a week.
What I experienced that time changed my life. When we were released I promised my father that I would become a soldier and one day we would visit our family,” Gashumba disclosed.
In 1973, he joined the Ugandan army before getting recruited into the National Resistance Army liberators during the Guerilla Warfare with Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in 1981.In February 1991, Gashumba joined the Rwanda liberation struggle.
“I had talked to the Late Fred Gisa Rwigema and told him that I had organized over 1,000 soldiers of Rwandan origin that were willing to fight and liberate their motherland. He told me that I would be informed of the time we are to set off.
“However, I had the news on BBC Radio (British Broadcasting Corporation) that the liberators had attacked Rwanda two days later after launching their first attack. I was amidst the war against the rebel Lakwena in a place called Parabeke on the Uganda-Sudan boarder.
“I sent a soldier called Claver to find out if news was real since there were rumors that the Late Fred Rwigema was also killed. We were devastated by the bad news. I then identified myself to Division Commander, General David Tinyenfuza and explained my mission. He was surprised but he gave me a go ahead.
I sent the first batch of 400 soldiers with Claver although he later died,” Gashumba narrates.
The Retired Colonel joined the rest of the group in February 1991 at a place that was known as Kaborogota – Mabale in Ntugamo between the boarder of Rwanda and Uganda.
He held several posts throughout the liberation struggle for instance; he was the Commanding Officer in Mutara Region, Operations Officer for ‘C’mobile among others.
“The liberation struggle of the National Resistance Army of 1981-1986 was different from the Rwanda Liberation struggle of 1990-1994 because we had support from all Rwandans from every part of the world. Every Rwandan wanted to go back home therefore they did their best to achieve this,” he said.
As a soldier, death is always at your forefront. Gashumba has terrible stories of his survival while in the army.
“I survived death several times, I’m always grateful to God because I am still alive. One of the many incidents that I will never forget was my first attack during the Rwanda liberation struggle.
“It’s as if it was yesterday, as the Operations Officer of my team, we attacked Nyagatare at night yet we didn’t know the terrain of the place. When it turned broad day light, we found out that we were surrounded by our enemies.
“They had tanks and killed many of my soldiers in the crossfire. I was shot in my thigh during the scuffle so in I crawled and hid behind a house. By chance some soldiers saw me and dragged me back to our camp. But the enemy still followed us with a helicopter.
“Luckily, the operations officer of our enemies called Nsabimana was badly wounded and the helicopter was called back to take casualties, that is how we survived,” Gashumba said.
In 1998, he was granted retirement by President Paul Kagame.
“I’m still energetic and any time I’m called to serve my country I am willing do so. As a veteran, together with my fellow veterans, we formed several cooperatives to cater for our daily needs. For instance we run the Kigali Veteran Cooperative Society (KVCS) which deals with parking tickets,” he said. Over 300 veterans are employed by the cooperative.
Besides his busy schedule, he is married to Christen Batamuriza and are blessed with four children.
Christen Batamuriza, his wife, says her husband’s character didn’t change after he retired from the army.
“He is polite and very down to earth. He loves us so much and it can be proved by the way he aims at making each one of us happy,” Batamuriza said.
Gashumba’s 10-year-old daughter, Rachel Teta said that his father finds time to take her swimming and plays games with her.
“Although daddy is a busy person, he also helps me with my home work especially mathematics,” Teta said.
Dish: African food
Colour: Green and Yellow
Music: Kinyarwanda music
Soccer Team: - APR (Locally) and Arsenal (International)