There is an old Kinyarwanda proverb that goes that when your father doesn’t love you, he will give you a bad name and the opposite is also true. This means that if your parent gives you a good name, good luck follows you and so does bad omen when the name is not exactly a good one.
This why naming a child was a very important affair in the traditional Rwandan culture. Naming a child was a careful, well thought process, for in the name, it was believed your fortunes or misfortunes lied.
To believe this, one has to look at Ntakirende Ntirandekura’s story to perhaps appreciate that a name could actually mean a lot, at least if you are the superstitious type.
Ntirandekura, whose name loosely translates to “He (God) is yet to give up on me”, is a moving miracle. His other name, Ntakirende, means “Who should I cry to?”. So to speak, both names in one sentence would mean “Who should I cry to? He (God) is yet to give up on me”
Complicated? Not so much. Here is why. On April 13, 2019, Ntirandekura was having a normal evening at home in Subukiniro Village, Rugogwe Cell, Uwinkingi Sector in Nyamagabe district, when he saw unknown people walk into his home.
“It was in the evening after 7pm. It was dark, they walked into the village, forcing people to open for them. Whoever attempted to ask who they were, they reacted by beating up that person. They terrorised us and started ransacking our homes,” Ntirandekura recalls.
The attackers were members of the National Liberation Forces (NLF), an armed terrorist organisation under the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a coalition of political parties founded by Rusesabagina, former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu and others.
The rebel outfit carried out armed attacks on parts of South Western Rwanda between June 2018 and April 2019, killing scores of people, injuring many and looted goods and foodstuffs worth millions from locals.
Ntirandekura recalls that when they realised that the attackers were up to no good, he decided to engage them, after they attempted to steal his cow, his main lifeline.
“I took it upon myself to fight them when they went for my cow. When they tried to lead it away, I blocked it and continued to ask them who they were and why they wanted to take my cow,”
“They said ‘how dare you question us?’ One of them brought out a gun and shot me 4 times. The ones I faced were about six. They were dressed in military fatigues and spoke a language I did understand,” Ntirandekura further recalls.
One of the bullets got him in the left armpit, near the heart, another one on the shoulder and two on the left arm, going through the rib cage but miraculously, true to his name, he survived. The bullets were successfully extracted.
“They said I was giving them a hard time and an order was given to clear me. After shooting me, I fell down unconsciously until the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) came on the scene and they evacuated me for medical attention,”
“I can’t say I have fully recovered. They left me with permanent disability,” the 34-year old father of four says, adding that himself and his wife Odette Uwamahoro are yet to fully recover after their cow, which was earning them income through selling milk, died after it was stabbed by the attackers.
“They hacked it on the milk udder and it could not recover,” he says of his beloved cow, adding that if he had means, he would attend the court case of Callixte Nsabimana and make his problem known and maybe seek compensation.
Asked whether he knows Paul Rusesabagina, Ntirandekura said he had never heard of him until the time he was arrested but the person he knew well was Nsabimana, the NLF Spokesperson, who is currently facing 17 charges, including terrorism, forming an illegal armed outfit, murder and others.
He however said that now that both men have been arrested, what they want is justice and compensation for what they lost in the attacks by the armed assailants who came from Burundi.
“What we want is justice on our part. I want to be compensated what I lost, along with all the people in our area who were affected by the attacks,” says Ntirandekura.
His sentiments are shared by Alivera Mukarulinda, 62, and her daughter Chantal Ayingeneye, 37, who also say they were set back by the attackers, who on the fateful night went away with 6 of their goats, cereals which were in storage and money.
Life has never been the same for the women-led household, which has since received two goats from a government social protection programme to restart life but they still believe someone has to be answerable for their loss.
However, the residents of Subukiniro Trading Centre, located on the edges of Nyungwe Forest, in one of the remotest parts of Nyamagabe district in Southern Province, say someone has to pay the price for the mess they created in what used to be one of the safest and greenest villages of Rwanda.
“At first, we were scared, thinking that they will come back but the army restored normalcy and local leaders assured us that no such attack will ever happen again in our village. We want to thank the government for restoring peace and stability,” Ayingeneye said.
“We now sleep up and go about our work without any problem,” she says, reiterating the need for justice to be served.
The arrest of Rusesabagina has reopened the healing wounds of the residents of the village who say their shops and houses were ransacked, leaving them with nothing but the need to start afresh.