The family of Callixte Ndagijimana, as well as the survivors of the Mugina genocide, still remember him and pay tribute to him. All of them speak of a man of courage, trust and good reputation, a friend for everyone. They say the genocide in Mugina would not have happened if he had not been killed.
Callixte’s mother, today aged 95, said that she considered her son as her second husband, because her husband died a long time ago. Since he was very young, his mother saw in Callixte an exceptional courage. She was therefore not surprised by his behaviour during the genocide. “I brought him up to be a good Christian and he knew he had to love everyone, his own and strangers, without distinction.”
The last words of this portrait belong to his widow, Olive Mukabalisa. She testifies today to honour the memory of her husband.
“I met Callixte in 1988 when we were in Kigali to take the competitive entrance examination at the Ecole supérieure militaire (ESM), considered at the time as the most difficult and competitive one. We passed it and started our studies. Our friendship was born from a will to protect me. Indeed, rare were the girls that could get into ESM, those who slipped through the net were discriminated daily based on their sex, but also their ethnic origin or their region. This sapped their potential. Callixte did everything to support me morally, we helped each other. At the end of 1989, the ESM organized a ranking examination, Callixte and I decided not to participate. Indeed, the fairness conditions were not gathered. We were then fired.
In 1992, the Mugina population convinced him to become a burgomaster. People knew of his courage, his integrity and ability to face challenges. At that time of political pressures linked to the revival of the multiparty system, the presence of Callixte at the head of the commune was reassuring. He was coherent, persevering and had a great sense of respect for others. More particularly, he was a man of conviction, strong advocate of the truth and justice. A man determined to succeed and to take risks to do so. All these qualities came from the education he got from his mother.
At the beginning of the genocide, Callixte worried a lot about me because he knew that my family had been exterminated. He liked to tell me: “even if I die, never consider that I gave up on you, but that I sacrificed myself to try to save as much people as possible”. I answered him: “ Be reassured, I will leave with you”.
Callixte left me a moral obligation to continue to defend freedom and justice. These values are very difficult to uphold for a person as frail as me, but I fight every day to succeed.
His mother still lives in Mugina, she’s very old. She still has a bit of strength, but also a lot of sorrow. Only three of her six children are still alive today. I try to be close to her and I do everything for her to have a decent life. I pray to God, so he can give me the strength needed to give her the help my husband would have given her.
When I tell the story of Callixte, which is also mine, I feel sick. Every episode takes me long hours and much strength. Even now, as I’m writing I’m shedding tears. I confide to few people. My husband was killed only eight months after our wedding; we hadn’t had any children yet. After the genocide, I never thought of remarrying; I didn’t find anybody worthy of my trust. God is here, and he keeps watch over me. I adopted two orphans. I lead a difficult life because I don’t have a job. I often work as a labourer to provide for the people I’m in charge of and my family. But, I’m able, thanks to my faith, to lead a simple life.
During the national commemorations of the genocide, they never talk about my husband. Even in the commune of Mugina where he gave his live, they don’t talk much about him when they do, it’s only superficially. We’ve never received any assistance from the government by way of recognizing the courage of Callixte. Neither from the National Assistance Fund for Needy Survivors of Genocide (FARG) nor from The National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) or even from the associations for the survivors of the genocide, no one has helped us until now. After the genocide, I had to do housework to pay for my studies in a private university. This was very important to me, like a duty I had to fulfil to honour Callixte’s memory. Indeed, after our dismissal from the ESM, we decided, despite everything, to finish our university studies.
My husband sacrificed his life to protect others targeted by the genocide, even if he knew that he was risking his own life. That was how he was made; it was his nature even before the genocide. When he found out that one person was threatened, he would rush to their rescue, even if he was a stranger. He told me: “I’m going to help them and harm will only reach them after I’ve been destroyed.” 1
1 Extract from an interview with Olive Mukabalisa, the 8th of February 2015.