25 April 2004

While several U.N. senior officials have a lot to be embarrassed about in Rwanda, there was one courageous and creative hero who should be remembered better. By all counts, Captain Mbaye of the Senegalese battalion braved murderous barricades to do his duty. Unarmed except with a winning smile and easy approach, he secretly smuggled women and children in his jeep and hid them in basements before finding a safe way out. That noble follower of the true Islamic faith risked his life every day to defend Christian believers huddled in threatened churches. The BBC correspondent who was aware of this one man humanitarian expedition agreed to keep it quiet at the time to help save more civilians. Eventually, someone informed the murderers. One day while driving his clearly marked U.N. white jeep, Captain Mbaye Diagne was killed by a mortar. His colleagues draped his body with the U.N. flag, solemnly -- and helplessly -- walking through the streets of Kigali.

Ten years later, those of us who remember that brave young Senegalese pay tribute to him, to his dedication and to his true belief in human brotherhood. He gave the ultimate price. But neither the U.N. Secretariat nor his own government has compensated his family adequately. While making all these ceremonial declarations, it will be more befitting if one of those senior officials made a special effort to reach out to his family at their day of remembrance and their time of need.