It is terrible to think that only twelve days of his mission were left before he could have gone back home. Three days before his death, he calls his wife, Yacine: “I will soon come back to Senegal. You have to pray for us”. During that last call, Mbaye talked a lot to her about death. Yacine remembers: “I was very upset. He never talked like that. I think that what he saw there deeply affected him”. In order to protect his two children, Cheikh and Coumba, only aged of 2 and 4 years, Yacine decided not to tell them about the death of their father for two years. “They wouldn’t have understood”, she says.
Today, they know their father was a hero. Cheikh, Coumba and Yacine perpetuate his memory, with the Association of Captain Mbaye Diagne for the culture of peace (Nekkinu Jàmm, in Wolof). A videotape, filmed by the soldier in May 1994, was found and put on the internet by his widow and the lieutenant colonel Babacar Faye. These images reflect everything Mbaye Diagne was: humoristic, harrowing and deeply human.
Nobody knows how many men, women and children owe him their lives. In 2011, the US Department of State talked of roughly 600 people. But whatever the number, twenty years later all those who remember the captain pay tribute to him. Thus, during the session of the Security Council of the United Nations the 8th of May 2014, the representative of Rwanda reminded them that Mbaye had understood better than anyone the mission. The politician concluded his speech, in tears, highlighting that the medal Captain Mbaye Diagne constituted: “a tool of introspection by the United Nations, guaranteeing the fact that humanity will always be protected by the community of the nations guided by principles and moral rules rather than only by the actions of exceptional courage of individuals1”.
No matter how much time you spent with Captain Mbaye Diagne, you would always leave with a smile. His smile was full of humility. As with all the righteous that we portray here, Mbaye is a real lesson of courage, hope and tolerance. A disarmed soldier who saved so many civilians, a devoted Muslim who saved so many Christians. A man of humanity well above the orders, well above all mandate.
1 United Nation