Captain Mbaye Diagne (Coki, 18 March 1958 – Kigali, 31 May 1994) was a Senegalese Army officer and a military observer of the United Nations mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR). While the UN and the international community failed to stop the genocide, Captain Mbaye Diagne swiftly acted to save as many lives as he could, thus embodying the ideals of the UN Charter.
Despite UN rules of engagement prohibiting observers from going out to save civilians, from the beginning and continuously Mbaye Diagne carried out rescue missions at the peril of his life. The number of lives he saved is variously given as “dozens upon dozens” and “at least hundreds”. On 31 May, Mbaye Diagne was killed by a mortar shell. He left behind a wife and two children.
Captain Mbaye Diagne was born on 18 March 1958 in Coki, Senegal. After his university studies, he joined the Senegalese army. After serving in the Senegalese Southern region of Casamance, Captain Mbaye Diagne was sent to Rwanda as observer for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) under the authority of Canadian General Romeo Dallaire.
When genocide began in Rwanda, in April 1994, most UN troops withdrew but Mbaye Diagne was part of a smaller group who was ordered to stay in the country. On the first day of genocide, Captain Mbaye Diagne rescued the children of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, moderate Hutu politician who had been slaughtered that same day, on 7 April 1994.
In the following days, Captain Mbaye Diagne saved hundreds of civilians (foreigners like Rwandans) by continuously transporting endangered persons in his UN car to the Hotel des Milles Collines; and while Rwanda had been abandoned to its own fate by the world, he kept saving as many people as he could. Shocked by the atrocious massacre of thousands of innocent people perpetrated before his eyes, he spared no effort to save the biggest possible number of people. Without the use of weapons, and having to deal with genocidal militias, he discussed and negotiated with killers to convince them to let the small groups of up to five people he carried in his white UN car go through.
During two months, the man who was called “the bravest of the braves” continued his rescue missions, until on 31 May 1994 he was deadly hit by a mortar shell while carrying a message to General Dallaire. He was 36 years old.
Yacine, his widow, still remembers: “Rwanda, was his first mission out of Senegal. He had only 12 days to go before coming back home”.
In the increasingly tense and violent world of today, it is urgent to promote and disseminate non-violent education to forge the culture of peace amongst the citizens of the world. Captain Mbaye Diagne is not only a reason of pride for the Senegalese Nation; he is also a bright example of generosity and bravery, solidarity and service, love and altruism for the youth of Senegal, of Africa and of the whole world. Captain Mbaye Diagne also represents the exemplary model of United Nations’ servant, the one who did intervene at the peril of his life to protect human life and materialize the funding ideals of the United Nations Charter and the United Nations Organization, which was built on the ashes of two world wars and a genocide, and on the promise that genocide would happen NEVER AGAIN.
CAPTAIN MBAYE DIAGNE, ICON OF PEACE.