The United Nations (UN) has honoured Captain Mbaye Diagne, a valiant Senegalese soldier who served in UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda who risked and lost his life to save the lives of Rwandans during the 1994 genocide.
Captain Diagne, served as a military observer at the United Nations Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMIR). As Rwanda descended into bloody chaos, the world stood by and watched while an estimated million people lost their lives.
A devout Muslim, Captain Diagne, however put his life on the line to protect those in danger. Stationed at Hotel des Mille Collines (where hundreds rescued were hidden), Captain Diagne carried out several unsanctioned rescue missions. He took the perilous task of hiding Tutsis and moderate Hutus who were being hunted, he would conceal them in his truck and transport them to safety.
Captain Diagne was killed alone driving back to the Mission headquarters in May 1994, just 12 days before concluding his mission. A mortar fell near his vehicle, which was hit by shrapnel and Captain Diagne died instantly.
In May 2014, the UN Security Council created the Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage in honour of his courageous actions during the genocide.
Speaking at the medal ceremony to award Capt Diagne’s family with the inaugural medal yesterday, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted, “one man, Captain Mbaye Diagne of Senegal, truly set himself apart. He showed incredible heroism while carrying out the noblest goals of the United Nations – preserving peace and protecting the most vulnerable”.
“He was exceptionally courageous. While the world failed to act to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, Captain Diagne was fearless in saving as many lives as he could. He put his own life at risk to rescue hundreds of men, women and children. He bravely and secretly brought them to safety,” Ki-moon said.