It was during this period of spring, twenty five years ago, in the hills of Byumba, when you and I first got to know each other, both part of a rebellion movement fighting to liberate our home nation.
I will always remember those comrades who died on the battlefield, in particular you, dear Jimmy Karambizi, because you were one of my battlefield friends who supported me most when I needed it.
We, who have had the grace to survive, sing "Wawili wakufe watatu wapone waliobaki watajenga Rwanda – if two dies three will survive and those who will survive shall go on to liberate and rebuild our nation.” We give you today a vibrant tribute. Just to let you know, in memory of your sacrifices our country has given you two medals: one for liberation, and the other for having stopped the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in 1994 in Rwanda.
Dear comrade, I’m testifying today because your sister, Carine Karambizi, the only survivor from your family, has asked me to do so, but I don’t know where to start because I can’t find the right words. I am trying to reflect and to think because I have the obligation to tell your story to her, an obligation of sharing the memories of all my comrades who died at the battlefield, but your memories in particular are troubling me most because we talked so much about your family.
Comrade, I can’t find the right words to describe your courage, determination and love for your country, to which you never hesitated to give your blood. Dear comrade, I just want to tell you that you did not die in vain because the Genocide against the Tutsi was stopped and thanks to your sacrifice today we live in a country full of peace and prosperity.
We had many difficult times. On a number of days we had to dodge bullets which flew over our heads and took cover from bombs that were falling on us. So many comrades lost their lives on the battlefield and many others were seriously injured. Whenever there was a ceasefire, it was always the best moment, because you and I had the chance to bond and get to know each other better, and learn more about your lovely family whom I had never met.
I would have liked you to be here among us but hey, when you left us I thought the chapter was close and there was no any other chance of reunion! And here again your shadow reappears through your only surviving sister, who continues to testify and keep the memories of her family alive through her descendants until the end of time.
I have the firm conviction that your soul rests in peace because the scriptures tell us that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's brothers!
To you Carine Karamibizi, Comrade Jimmy Karambizi of the 21st Infantry Battalion died in battle, attempting to repel three divisions of enemies from Kibungo, who were attempting to storm Kigali. Your brother fought valiantly and left his life there twenty three years ago in 1994.
I had the privilege of living with your brother in the rebellion fronts of Byumba, Mukarange, Gasambya, Rushaki, Kiyombe, Cyanika, Bwisige, and Kaniga. He was a young man who went to the battle with pride, courage and determination, thinking of the injustices and discrimination to which he was subjected. The Commander in charge of the mines in our company, he was first in line to take responsibility for de-mining: a perilous task.
When I think of my comrades I met in the first days of our liberation war, those beautiful/great, idealistic young men who died on the front, their images never cease to reappear, especially when I meet with their relatives and friends. This impression, I feel it every day, seeing your sister Carine Karambizi and every year in April when she commemorates our loved ones slain in the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi, she always puts your picture in “Mukotanyi's uniform”; I thank her and I admire her courage.
Dear Jimmy, do you remember the promise you made us the last time we saw each other, giving us an appointment to meet at Kigali nightclub? You may be interested in finding out that I went there in your memory once we liberated Kigali. I was with your brothers-in-arms Zeus and Eric, and as we danced we talked about you, your bravery, your love of the country and your friendship. May the land of your ancestors be sweet and light. You can be proud of where you are because, thanks to you, those who hoped to annihilate an entire ethnic group have failed in their plans and today a new generation has seen the day for all those survivors of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis. RIP Commander Jimmy Karambizi.
The best stories I know about Jimmy Karambizi concern his most dangerous and risky missions, mining and demining territories wherever we were fighting. A young man of talent and discipline, he quickly acquired responsibility by being a very young commander. Of course, while Jimmy was the youngest of my comrades, he was the only one I knew who was fluent in the language of Moliere/French. Our friendship had grown over the years. He was a naturally good man, full of love and humour.
Being far from our families and friends, we used to talk about our family lives a lot and also our future plans, as the final destination was Kigali, and Jimmy was the best equipped person to tell us about life there, its beautiful girls and the best places for leisure and fun.
He loved to entrust us who dreamed of Kigali with beautiful pictures of his sisters, his cousins and friends, promising us beautiful girls once we were there —hey, we were young, and full of dreams of the future! Some of these girls came to Mulindi at the fundraising in 1993; it was the thunderbolt, the joy and the promise to see us again! We were overwhelmed as they say, since every day we were afraid of dying, fearful of not seeing these beautiful creatures again.
The sad story, dear Comrade Jimmy, is that what we feared turned out to be a reality. Those beautiful girls of Kigali whom you had promised us were all massacred for the simple reason that they were beautiful and Tutsi. On this spring of April, I commemorate and remember them through this testimony about you. Comrade Jimmy, I will never forget how many times I was in trouble with my superiors because I did not want to hand over my photo albums filled with pictures of the beautiful girls of Kigali. However, as we advanced on the fronts of Nyamirambo, the chances of finding them alive were diminishing day by day, because all the survivors that we were able to save in Nyamirambo kept telling us that all were massacred every time I gave them the names of the families. Later, I learned that your sister Carine Karambizi survived.
Allow me, Carine, to speak in the plural because your brother for us was a star; he was very much appreciated and had many friends, including myself. We knew the names of all the girls in Kigali and as soon as we arrived with pictures in our hands, I asked if anyone knew the Karambizi family: Olive, Carine and Yvonne Shamukiga and so many others, but unfortunately the answer was often disastrous. None of our future ladies survived the Genocide apart from the miraculous Carine Karambizi.
Thanks to the insistence of your sister Carine Karambizi, knowing well that you could have left acts of bravery from which many men could draw heroic serenity, it is my duty to testify to yours: your admirable qualities of simplicity, faith, valour, self-sacrifice and patriotism that make Rwanda proud.
And here, Rwanda as it is today was built by the sacrifices of the valiant fighters of whom I have the honour to praise one, the person of Jimmy Karambizi, whose heroism will be immortalised on"K'Umunsi w'Intwari – Heroes Day".
Rwigema Seka Emery, your Comrade of 21st Infantry Battalion. –
Translated in English by Eric Murangwa Eugene an old friend of Jimmy Karambizi’s and his family.
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