The last time I met Patrick Mpazimpaka, it was in June 2014, in The Hague. We were both attending a conference co-sponsored by the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide and The Hague Institute for Global Justice, in cooperation with the National Security Archive at George Washington University.
That conference was said to be the first one and probably the last of its kind to take place, simply because it will never be possible again to bring together those who played a key role in the Arusha Agreement; the leadership of UNAMIR, the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda; former members of the UN Security Council; senior officials from the United Nations, Africa, the United States, France and Belgium; and former diplomats, human rights activists, academics, and journalists present in Kigali before and during the genocide. I attended the conference in my capacity as former UNAMIR Information officer.
I am here today to pay tribute to one of the architects of the Arusha peace accords who have just passed away. Patrick Mazimpaka, the man who was a diplomat by nature with a character, sealed in a cream of humanity, the man who managed to inspire trust to all parties involved in the peace process.
I met Patrick Mazimbaka when, in early 1993, the NMOG, Neutral Military Observer group of the OAU (Organisation of African Unity) convened in Ngondole ( North-west ) the first meeting ever between military officers from the two warring parties together with all civilians involved in the peace talks.
Straight away, there was a clear deep bond between us and for 25 years, Mazimpaka was a true friend to me. My boss at the time, the NMOG Commander, Major-general Ekundayo Babakayode Opaleye, always referred to him as “the wise man”. Mazimpaka was highly educated, speaking very clean English. He was powerful, given his position as the RPF vice-chairman, but he was humble and respectful to everyone.
The UN Secretary general Special representative, with whom I met Patrick Mazimpaka on several occasions, always made sure to have Mazimpaka on his side while engaging in talks with the RPF (Rwandese patriotic front, former rebel-led movement).
Mazimpaka was trustworthy. At The Hague conference, possibly the last international one he attended, representing the RPF, he once again demonstrated his authoritative thinking when we discussed the failure of the international community to prevent or effectively respond to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and to explore whether and how the tragedy might have been averted.
Before P. Mazimpaka, I had another close friend from the RPF, a man of integrity, a soldier, a commander, a statesman: Major Kayitare Intare Batinya. Circumstances of his death have never been explained. He was so popular and loved to the point that a memorial service was organized for him in St Michel Cathedral in Kigali. We gathered there, in 1993, at the heart of the government-controlled area, to celebrate the life of a rebel commander killed in the rebel-controlled zone, and we managed to get away with it. We didn’t challenge anybody; we simply celebrated the life of the man that we all loved.
Goodbye Patrick. I was unable to attend the memorial service organized for you as I did for Kayitare. But the big number of people, who were present, from various backgrounds, is a clear sign that you are “a unifying person”. I will tell the world and the people of Rwanda that you lived and fought for all Rwandans to be free, for them to be united, for all of them to share the wealth of their beloved Rwanda. You served Africa with dignity as African Union ‘s Vice-Chairman and we will all remember that until the last minute of your life, you were loyal to your country and to your Creator, Imana.
Goodbye my Hero, Taha Ntwari. You fought the right battle.