In Tribute to Ephrem

The editorial staff of Justice Info are in mourning after the death of our Africa editor, Ephrem Rugiririza, on Tuesday November 30 at his home in Kampala, Uganda. We publish here a tribute from one of those who knew him best in his early days as a journalist. They both joined Radio Rwanda in 1991, on the eve of a national cataclysm, the genocide of the Tutsis, through which Ephrem lived with a rare and life-saving concern for accuracy and balance.

In Tribute to EphremEphrem Rugiririza, our editor in chief for Africa, died on Tuesday 30 November. His funeral take place this Friday at 10am in his home region of Musanze (formerly Ruhengeri) in northern Rwanda. © Jean-Luc Mootoosamy / Fondation Hirondelle
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You never caused me pain before, why are you doing it now? Neither in Kigali among false brothers, nor in Arusha among wounded wild animals did you let me down! Indeed, we will never really understand. Now the fatal cloud has carried you away and my heart is too surprised to understand this unexpected departure.

Are there really words to express the loss of a friend, a brother, a fellow traveller in life’s journey like Ephrem? Probably not, unless it is possible to draw them from the depths of this sincere soul, this alert spirit, this pure heart full of love and closed to the narrowmindedness of his time mired in hatred and discord.

Indeed, how many clichés, barriers and prejudices have his smile and his eternal NO brought effortlessly down, without him knowing or doing it to please, so spontaneous has he always been.

When we met in 1991 at Radio Rwanda, the preserve of the Hutu regime [under the late former president Juvénal Habyarimana], he was the only one who had maintained a spirit of kinship to warn me from time to time of the dangers that lurked, including in journalistic reports that could be traps. He saw me and others who were blacklisted [at a time when Tutsis and moderate Hutus were being sidelined] as his fellow mankind – a togetherness that helped him make a difference in the midst of the turmoil and inhumanity of 1994.

When I saw him again on his return from exile, this written part of his life argued, more than our testimonies, for trust and reintegration at a time when most of his colleagues had fled and not returned, pursued by “the eye of Cain” of vengeance and guilt.

If for Jean-Paul Sartre “to choose is to die”, Ephrem’s choices have shown that “to choose is to live”, eternally through the history written in the ink of his life, through his humour, his intelligence. Choices, a sort of umbilical cord that links him to his children Diane, Rémy and Nancy and to the family of Fondation Hirondelle, which he has so enlightened with his wisdom, his stance, his humanism and above all his professionalism.

May his star continue to shine for those who need to learn, understand and love. Good people don’t die, they slip away to see what we do with their gift of themselves.

So Ephrem, rest in peace, beloved brother, you have worked hard!