Poem: Aloisea Inyumba, Presente

Aloisea Inyumba, presente


Aloisea, my younger sister,

it was love at first sight.

For there you stood

in the garden of the presidential


along with its sister occupant

and you were both giggling

like Spelman girls

at a Morehouse tea.

I saw in you my roommate

from Uganda

with her proud and honest


her stoic lack

of pretension:

I saw my other classmates

from Kenya, Tanganyika
 Sierra Leone

 the always


Dorcas, Constance,

Mary, Caroline.

Not their real names

at all; though I would not

understand this until much later.

Aloisea Inyumba,

you were able to keep,

to live under,

to offer

with your wise and fearless eyes

who you really were.

For this, we black Americans

might have envied you.

But love of your free look

would demolish this.

And you were so clear!

As we poked into orphanages

and dim and dusty huts

filled with the malnourished

whom you vowed

to feed and properly shelter:

This misery is not part of Rwanda’s dream,

you said.  We will change it!

You showed me places and shared experiences

I could not believe

could actually exist.

A woman’s answer to the question

of homeless people

especially homeless children

is to take them

into one’s home.

Children were not meant

to live in orphanages.  There seemed no doubt

in your mind

about this.


Aloisea Inyuma.

You were the most beautiful

of all the beauties

I witnessed

in your beautiful country.

Zainab, our friend,

also a stellar warrior

for the good of women and children

and by their inclusion

in the health of the world,

also a warrior for the good

of men,

told me of your death.


All I could think of at that moment

was: This too?  How can we bear it?

I was so undone to hear this news I could not weep

until now.

For I remembered not only your tireless work

for your people and your loyalty to your

friends who worked beside you, whether in high places

or in low,

I recalled your generosity.

Alice, you said,

when I said to you:  I love Rwanda!

Come back and live here.

I laughed.

No, you said, in all seriousness:

Come back.  You are home here.

And I tell you what:  When you come back

I will see to it that you are given a plot of land

to grow your garden on

 and, you said smiling impishly,

best of all,

we will give you cows!



Another love of my life, as, apparently,

they are the love of the lives

of many Rwandans.


What is the dream, Aloisea?

Let us make it clear again,

as the world reawakens

to possibilities

until now

barely thought:

Is it the peaceful nation

in which every child is wanted

and adored;

where every woman

has a voice?

Where every man’s dignity

is rooted in nonviolence?


Oh, my beloved sister,

to walk with you in a garden

of collards and tomatoes,

to rest on a hillside in Rwanda

flanked by our cows….


Other women of Africa

will live this dream

after us.

But it is you who

in your brief years

saved it


 for us all.


Rest in Well Done.  Beloved sister

of our clan.

 Aloisea Inyumba
Minister of Gender and Family
Kigali, Rwanda