Yahaya Nsengiyumva – a hero who risked his life to save others during Genocide against the Tutsi

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The whole team at the Kigali Genocide Memorial and the Aegis Trust has been greatly saddened by the passing of Yahaya Nsengiyumva, a father, friend and beacon of hope who risked his life to save others in the midst of the unimaginable horror of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

Yahaya passed away and was laid to rest on Monday 6th November 2023, following a long illness.

During the Genocide, Yahaya demonstrated extraordinary compassion and resilience in saving the lives of more than 30 people who he hid in his house in Karabaye, Kicukiro, in Kigali.

Genocidaires attacked Yahaya’s house when people sought refuge in his home, but he did not abandon them and fought back. By the will of God, Yahaya told us during an interview in 2004, a rocket-propelled grenade fired at the house failed to explode.

Yahaya spent countless nights trying to protect people. One who survived, Beatha Uwazaninka, fled to his house when being chased by a member of the Interahamwe. She recalls Yahaya standing with her in his yard, telling the killer to leave.

When asked ten years later why he risked his life to save others, Yahaya quoted the Quran; “whoever saves a life, it will be as if they saved all of humanity.” He did not know that this was also a Jewish saying in the Talmud.

“Together with other tales of courage and compassion, Yahaya and Beatha’s story found its place in our permanent exhibition at the Kigali Genocide Memorial as an embodiment of humanity’s potential for goodness, even in the face of evil,” says Freddy Mutanguha, CEO of Aegis and Director of the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

“Our thoughts are with Yahaya’s family at this challenging time,” says Aegis Trust Founder Dr James Smith. “As we remember and pay tribute to him, we honour his humanity and resilience. His legacy of hope and courage will inspire generations to come, reminding us of the profound impact one person can have in the face of darkness.”

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