Monday, December 24, 2018
This BBC obituary of Zura Karuhimbi is the most inspiring and informative article I've read all year.
Karuhimbi was a native of Rwanda. As a young girl, she lived in the country when its colonial overloads, the Belgians, "decided to take the population of Rwanda, and split them into clearly demarcated groups - complete with identity cards, laying out whether they were Hutu or Tutsi." (I didn't even know this history before reading the article - how horrible!) Apparently not content to simply divide the population, the Belgians also decided to start preferencing one group (the Tutsi) over the other (the Hutu), giving the Tutsi "access to better jobs and educational opportunities." Cue lifetimes of civil strife.
In 1994, when Karuhimbi was perhaps 76 (her exact birth date is unknown), hundreds of thousands of Tutsi were killed by Hutus in what is known as the Rwandan Genocide.
Karuhimbi, herself Hutu, hid Tutsis, Burundians and even three Europeans in her home, protecting them from certain death. Karuhimbi did this without any weapons. She was considered a witch and used her reputation to threaten would-be killers and protect many.
"[E]very single one of the people Karuhimbi had risked her life to save had survived."
In 2006, Karuhimbi was awarded the Campaign Against Genocide Medal for her work during the genocide.
It turns out, Karuhimbi's good work wasn't limited to the 90s. During another bout of tension in 1959, she helped one Tutsi mother protect her young son by disguising the small boy as a girl. "That boy, she said, survived - and went on to become the man who presented her with the medal, President Paul Kagame."
An amazing tale, an amazing woman. An inspiration for us all.