Let me take a moment to wish a happy birthday to this man: Vincent Bagirishya Ndandari. Him and Mama Nono practically raised us in Goma.
Their living room was always full of Rwandans; individuals and families, their dinning table full of Rwandan children and adults. In their beautiful home in Katindo Gauche, Rwandans found solace, human and financial support.
Ndandari was an exemplary good man. The bible says one should visit the sick and the jailed: He did more, he visited them, paid their bills, bails and got them released. He comforted the bereaved and hired the unemployed. He paid school fees for many.
I don’t remember how many nights I spent at their home. Their son, my cousin Sano Nkunda Roby is the first best friend I ever had. I know Papa Vincent, because he found time to play with us the young ones too; I will never forget the African Cup of Nations matches we watched together, or the whistle calling people to come and open the gate – I hope you still do that 😀
Vincent Ndandari is the incarnation of that legendary resilient Rwandan spirit and generous heart; the one that preserved us in exile and made possible our return to motherland. He contributed massively to the struggle to liberate our country; many young men remember going with him to buy parkas or boots, before he could send them to join ‘the Front’. His wasn’t only love for Rwandans, it was a calling, a mission.
We rarely pay tribute to people in their lifetime, but he fully deserves it, and more. He is a true Rwandan national Hero. Even Congolese found blessings in him; he is a noble man.
I just want to say thank you Papa Vincent. For me, and many Rwandan refugees from Goma. Although I was very young, I saw, I was inspired, and I don’t forget where I came from and that I am here, partly thanks to you..
By the way, you still look young and cool. ‘There is no way I can pay you back, but my plan is to show you that I understand; You are appreciated’ -Tupac Shakur.
This story is about Ndandari Vincent, but it is about many valiant Rwandans too. Take that name and replace it with another name, of a Rwandan who marked your experience in exile. We need to tell the story of this illustrious man and his comrades, so that the young ones can also learn about the kind of men they were. Our strength of the spirit as a people.
I think it is our duty to preserve and transfer the memory. to young ones in our generation, but also for our children that have started arriving. I want them to know who we are – who they are. Where we came from and how we managed to do it.
In our thirty years of exile; how we never begged, stolen or killed. How we lived in dignity and integrity, that we earned the trust, love and respect of our hosts. How we brought blessing: success and prosperity to the people and the land we found.
Our return to Rwanda, like the forty tribes of Israel. If Fred was our Moses and Kagame our Aaron, I consider Ndandari and many of his comrades our Joshuas and Calebs; envoys of God, leaders of communities, who brought his people back home into the promised land; where we were able to reunite with our brothers and sisters and live in peace and prosperity.
Today we stand proud and firm, and with the grace of God, we will help the region and even the entire continent to rise.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
– With love, Gatete TK