One good day of 1984, the couple of Edward Karangwa and Faith Grace Dukuze in Masindi town, Western Uganda, were blessed with a baby boy and they called him Thomas Muyombo.
The child did not know that papa and mama would afford to postpone the affection that he deserved like any other child at a tender age.
They did and one element is shocking in the life of the young boy, now Dr Thomas Muyombo, a successful medical practitioner and famous musician whose stage name, Tom Close.
He is very thankful to his parents(RIP) for having taken a bitter but responsible decision to join the battle that intended to restore the right to have a nation, a motherland for all Rwandans.
Tom Close as we will call him from now on will not talk much about his father because he saw him five times in his life because he joined the military while still young.
But he remembers well his mother whom he still used to call “mama muto”, having spent most of his time with his grandparents.
Both parents had a great love for Tom Close and his siblings. They equally, shared a burden with several young and elderly Rwandans to restore their dignity, right to citizenship.
Memories of Tom Close about the liberation struggle and the role his parents played bring him back to the early 1990s around the time when the Rwanda Patriotic Army(RPA) Inkotanyi launched the fight against the then Rwandan regime.
He remembers that he once went to visit his father who was already a soldier in UPDF in Northern Uganda. The father gave him sweets and this was one of the rare occasions when he saw him.
Well, he also recalls that the father once brought him an audio tape with RPF Inkotanyi’s Morale songs, and ‘Hata Tukonde Kama Misumali” hit marked him most.
But the story of how the mother left him to join the father on the battlefield may reveal that there are still more heroes whose stories are not yet heard.
It was a good morning of 1991 when Tom Close’s mother took him to a neighboring shopkeeper only referred to as Johnson and told him “anytime you need notebooks, please see this man, he will always serve you.”
Tom Close did not know much about the fate that was awaiting him. He even did not know why his two siblings were sent to stay with his grandparents in Kiboga earlier on.
The following morning, the mother packed all the school stuff and took him into boarding at Masindi Army Primary School and placed him to the guardianship of her two aunts.
One month, three months, the mother did not come back for a visit.
“I used to think that every female visitor who was coming to see their children at Masindi could be my mother,” recalls Tom Close.
Tom Close was already aware that his father was a soldier and that he joined RPA but he was not aware of her mother’s plan to join the army.
But he would recall that his uncles used to pass by home as they joined RPA Inkotanyi which would mean that she could also have joined.
Despite having his aunts in the school vicinity, Tom Close could not believe that someone could be in place of her mother.
For example, when the time came to lose his milk teeth he could not reveal it to anyone until his grandfather came and helped him.
On the contrary, the mother was sure that she left his son in good hands. For example, the man who was tasked to sell him the books reached an extent to give them for free.
“ I would go to school with a bag full of books, but I would come back empty handed. The man would rebuke me as he would do for his children. It reached a time when he understood that my aunts would not manage to buy me books every now and then. He started to give me for free.”
His mother and his father would have come back for a visit once until Tom Close and his aunts relocated to Kiboga early 1994.
He would, later on, know that his grandfather’s relocation from Joro to Kiboga in itself was a plan his parents had made way earlier to prepare the liberation struggle.
“In fact, we happened to know that our parents prepared a place where they would leave us when they go to the battlefield. They bought some 3 hectares for our grandparents in Kiboga and relocated them from Joro,” he said.
“It was a beautiful farm with banana plantation, fruits and livestock. They thought it so that in the event that they die on the battlefield we should not stay alone, miserable.”
In the Land of “Milk and Honey”
As soldiers, Tom Close’s parents preceded every family member in Rwanda but others followed after the fall of Kigali.
“We were here as early as July 1994 and to my disappointment, the country which grandfather used to call “land of milk” was almost dead following the Genocide against Tutsi; more than a million Tutsi were ye to get decent burrial,” he said.
“I asked him: is this the country you used to tell me? And he said: Son, I am also disappointed.”
Tom Close, two siblings, one aunt and a cousin among other family members did not have so many choices but to stay at the guardianship of grandfather and grandmother.
They found some shelter in the former Commune Murambi, current Gatsibo district in a place called Rugarama and then embarked on the search for their parents.
“My aunt once came to Kigali to try and find my mother but did not succeed,” Tom Close recalls.
However, the parents were equally trying to find a way to reconnect with dear family after giving their best to the country.
Mom! I will Study Hard to Become Your Doctor
There is a scenario that marked Tom Close in his life; how he reconnected with his mother. It was a nice evening late 1994 when the mother drove to the Rugarama village after she knew the whereabouts of the family.
“My mother was escorted by several people who were carrying bags of clothes. I was playing with neighbors when I saw her. We hugged and my mother shed tears of joy,” Tom Close recalls.
“She took me to Kigali with my cousin because we were the youngest of all. We stayed at Gishushu in Kigali.”
At this time, he managed to see his father twice before his death in 1995.
“He was a senior officer who, no wonder, was quite busy with work,” Tom Close said of his father who died a Lieutenant Colonel.
His mother, then Sergeant and one of accountants at the Ministry of Defence took Tom Close to school; La Colombiere – the best school in the city at that time.
In the meantime, she explained to him what she went through and why she was obliged to leave them.
“We were denied our country. We tried to negotiate peaceful repatriation and the regime that was here refused. So, we were obliged to take the arms,” Tom Close quotes his mother.
“I totally understood how that point was relevant; she said they wanted a country with equal opportunities, a country with sound development. I am consoled today when I see the country doing what my parents fought for.”
Meanwhile, Tom Close was not lucky to stay with his mother much longer.
She would die in 1996, but Tom Close had made a promise to her earlier.
“When I met my mother, she had a stomach disease and I promised her to study hard, become a doctor and treat her,” Tom Close said.
“Her death was very unfortunate to me.She was my mum and best friend who trusted me, considered me a mature person despite my age.”
Tom Close was in Primary 5 when his mother died. He returned to the Eastern Province at his grandfather’s.
He had in mind that he had to work very hard to stick to his promise to the late mother.
“In school back in Kibondo village, Eastern Province, I was the only student who passed the Primary Leaving Examination among 90 students, I kept shining up to university,” he said.
Meanwhile, before university, Tom Close, on two attempts, tried to apply for a scholarship to join the military, “to serve the country the way my parents did.”
“It didn’t work,” he said. “God has His ways.”
In the world, Tom Close has now remained(as of close relatives) with his two siblings and some uncles
The two aunts who had stayed with him passed away.
Grandfather also passed away in 2000 and grandmother last year.
In all this, Tom Close would tell you that, “sometimes telling a story is much easier than the experience encountered in that same story.”
However, Dr. Tom Close, Director of Regional Center of Blood Transfusion-Kigali, is a successful artist with several awards on his shelves.
He is happily married, a proud father.
He is aware that many Rwandans contributed to the liberation struggle in several ways but “every person has a liberation story of their own”. He is proud to have born from parents who left a great legacy of patriotism.