From the first hours of the genocide and until his death two months later, the Senegalese Captain Mbaye Diagne refused to turn his back on the Rwandans. He saved, without any weapons, hundreds of people.
“The bravest of the brave”, “the kind of man you only meet once in your lifetime”: this is what people who have met Mbaye Diagne say about him. That says a lot about the man and the beauty of his soul.
For a while an unknown hero, his memory was revived the 8th of May 2014. Indeed, twenty years after his death, the United Nations (UN) created the “Captain Mbaye Diagne medal”, to honour the members of its staff on mission who have committed such actions “in the service of humanity and the United Nations”1. Before, although his widow received a humble financial compensation from the UN, the heroism of Captain Mbaye Diagne had never been officially paid tribute to on an international scale.
In his country, Senegal, Mbaye Diagne remains relatively unknown. In Rwanda, on the other hand, he’s part of the Righteous that risked their lives to save those hunted down. In July 2010, the Rwandan President gave his widow and his two children the Umurinzi Prize, thus recognizing that for his bravery and sacrifice during the genocide “the Rwandan people will always be in debt (to him)”2.
It is therefore our duty to recount the story of Captain Mbaye Diagne.
1 Resolution S/RES/2154 (2014) of the Security Council of the United Nations, 8 May 2014.
2 Captain Mbaye Diagne also appears at the Garden of the Righteous of Padoue in Italy, and was honoured during the 17th anniversary of the genocide by the United States secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.