On May 31, 2023, it was twenty nine years since this gallant Senegalese warrior was murdered in Kigali doing what his conscience demanded : saving Tutsi from the marauding genocidal forces of the Habyarimana regime and the thuggish criminal INTERAHAMWE.

Capt Diagne, (36) was dealt a wrong card. With only twelve days till his completion of duty in Rwanda under the UN peace keeping force (UNAMIR), it is reported he called his wife, Yacine Mar Diop, to tell her how much he was looking forward to coming home, but cautioned her that “death is lurking all around us” he could not be sure if he would be home, timely.

Alas, it was not to be.

Having served in Rwanda for one year Diagne is credited with saving well over 1,000 people and was relentless in so doing, even though it was against his superiors’ orders, including the Force Commander, Gen Romeo Dallaire. It is reported that while they were aware of Diagne’s brave rescues but would not publicly condone his breaking orders, they were in awe.

In the words of France’s current Ambassador to Rwanda, Antoine Andre, Capt Diagne’s “sacrifice brought honor to Senegal and the UN.” No truer words were ever uttered — words that shamed and caused discomfort and consternation among Rwanda’s enemies, genocide deniers and negationists in Paris, Brussels, DRC, and who cares where else, who to this day toot the convicted felon, Paul Rusesabagina, as the real “hero”.

In recognition of his bravery and extraordinary service, the UN created the “Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage.”

In the months before his death, even though as a military observer he was unarmed, Capt Diagne had risked his life, again and again, to save hundreds of people.

“In Rwanda, he called me often to tell me about the situation there. Sometimes (I even heard the shots),” remembers Diagne’s widow. She adds, “And I told him to be careful because he had young children.”

“He was a jovial, generous man” who “loved helping others,” his widow says. “His life was short but he lived it as if he had lived many years. He did that well before leaving,” she recalled.

Rachel Chitete sobbed as she received the Capt. Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on behalf of her husband

At the time of his untimely and extremely sad death, Diagne’s daughter, Coumba Kane Diagne, and his son, Serigne Cheikh Mbacke Diagne, were four and two years old, respectively. To these two, and their mother, a grateful nation owes them sincere thanks and recognition.

In the words of BBC journalist Mark Doyle who worked closely with Diagne and witnessed his bravery in action, “He was a very dynamic person …he was always rushing around with maps under his arm.” Doyle goes on to say that Diagne distrusted the media. “Why do you keep saying that these militia are killing the Tutsi?” To which Doyle answered, “Well, because they are.”

Diagne responded, “But if you keep saying it it’s going to make our job more difficult.” That is the kind of dedication and determination this gallant son of Senegal had.

At the time of Diagne’s death Kigali was under siege and in turmoil that a coffin could not be found to send the body home in dignity. They ended up wrapping Diagne’s body in tap and covered it with a UN flag.

At the airport, Mark Doyle happened to be there to bid his friend farewell. He says, “I remember bursting into tears with a colleague of his, a Senegalese captain, and the captain said to me, “You’re a journalist; I am a soldier. Now you’ve got to tell the world what Mbaye did. You’ve got to tell the people that he saved lots of lives, even while the UN was shamefully pulling out its troops, he was saving people’s lives. Please tell the world.”

Asked what he meant to him, Doyle said, “He was a hero. He was the guy that in every movie that’s ever made you have the guy that is the tragic hero … But this one’s real. This man was a hero to people he didn’t know and people he did know, to people who didn’t have a clue.”

Not so, Rwandans knew, do care, and forever will hold Mbaye Diagne’s name in high esteem. When the world turned a blind eye, and the UN refused to intervene, one gallant Senegalese soldier rose to the occasion and in so doing paid the ultimate price.

RIP, Captain. Your name and deeds will forever grace our history.