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The Rwandan Millionaire Who Kissed Death

by Lillian Gahima
6:33 pm

Alphonse Murenzi, 29, is a Rwandan millionaire. But how he earned his fortune has one of the most painful experiences any human being shouldn’t have to go through.

During the 1994 genocide against Tutsi, Murenzi, then a boy of eight years, narrowly survived a mob of Interahamwe  militias who had butchered the entire village of Nyange in Nyaruguru district in Southern Rwanda.

Murenzi’s family was on the run. His mother, who was pregnant, died on the way. Before her last breath, she told her son Murenzi that, “I will not make it, please take your siblings to safety.”

As Murenzi’s three siblings together with their father continued towards Burundi. Along the way, they were attacked by Interahamwe militia.

They massacred everyone, except Murenzi who narrowly escaped death with wounds and ran into Burundi at a refugee camp not far from Rwanda where thousands of Rwandan refugees had settled.

Murenzi wondered into the camp trying to trace anyone he knew. Fortunately, he discovered his paternal aunt. Months later, after the end of the genocide, the aunt returned to Rwanda with Murenzi.

His aunt enrolled him in school.

Murenzi always wanted to dress up smartly in the school uniform, have all the scholastic materials. “But my auntie could not afford,” says Murenzi.

Two years later, his aunt gave him a cow to raise and sell its milk.

From the milk revenues, he then bought more livestock, such as goats and then poultry. He continued with school while taking care of his business. After college, Murenzi was then earning Rwf70, 000 ($100) per month.

Determined to succeed, Murenzi invested in making charcoal and cutting timber from a small forest on his father’s land, generating Rwf1 million, monthly.

Later, he joined university. “I joined university as one of the wealthiest kids,” Murenzi says.

After graduation, in 2010, Murenzi got a job at the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority, as a mineral tagging manager from 2011 to 2013. He saved as much as he could.

In 2013, he had accumulated Rwf15 million ($21,000) worth of savings from his salary and his businesses.

He then invested in a maize factory at Rebero, a Kigali city suburb. “I had seen the demand of processed and refined maize flour, back in the village life,” he says.

Rebero Super Maize Flour, his product, is now making an annual net profit of Rwf18 million ($25,000) in just two years, now targeting to expand production and export to regional markets.

Murenzi’s success, he says, is driven by something intrinsically powerful. The survival energy. “They failed to kill me,” he says. One might think he would revenge and be a prisoner of anger and agony, yet, he says, “They made me stronger and a fighter instead.”

As the sun dawns, Murenzi drives back home to join his wife and beautiful three children, at his Rwf 40 million mansion in the swanky hilly Gisozi neighborhood.

Despite enjoying his fortune, Murenzi is still haunted by the dreadful images of him watching militias kill his family engraved in his memory.

Murenzi with his children . He survived the Genocide against Tutsi which claimed a million lives

Murenzi with his children . He survived the Genocide against Tutsi which claimed a million lives