Writers Space Africa-Rwanda

Inside Modeste Muhire’s Autobiography, ‘A Tale of Gratitude’ – A Review by Patrick Nzabonimpa

“It is incumbent upon us to transition our family history from the realm of oral recollections and memory into written accounts and records, offering a more reliable and easily accessible means of preserving our ancestry,” writes Modeste Muhire in the introductory chapter of his autobiography, A Tale of Gratitude.

Across its 14 chapters, the book delves into the life of Muhire and the profound impact that people and events had on shaping his journey. Its narrative further pays homage to the individuals who provided support and inspiration, prompting readers to feel a similar connection.

Testimonials from a diverse range of people who know Muhire, such as childhood friends, family, and colleagues, infuse the story with authenticity and offer multiple perspectives. Complementing these accounts are vivid photographs that breathe life into the author’s expedition.

The first person Muhire thanks is his paternal grandmother, who played a crucial role in his life by imparting valuable knowledge and recounting the heroic efforts of RPF Inkotanyi soldiers fighting to liberate Rwanda. Through her stories, he learned about a significant part of Rwandan history concerning those who lived in Tanzania and Zaire from 1959 to 1964. Next, the author extends his appreciation to Julius Nyerere, the former President of Tanzania, for offering his parents and other Rwandans refuge in the country for over 35 years.

Born later in 1978 after their settlement had taken root, Muhire recalls his memories in exile, particularly his role as a cow herder, which delayed his formal education, causing him to begin primary school at the age of 12.

“There was no warmth at school, at home or within the community,” writes Muhire, setting a sense of an environment he grew up in. “The atmosphere was chaotic, with people frequently fighting, especially under the influence of alcohol.”

The author shares various life-threatening incidents he survived, including when his epiglottis was mistakenly cut during treatment for a cough, causing excessive bleeding, and a time when he was thrown into a lake by other children.

To Muhire, returning to Rwanda at the age of 16 was the beginning of his life and the reason for writing A Tale of Gratitude. Chapter five of the book is dedicated to expressing ‘special’ gratitude to President Paul Kagame, highlighting several reasons, including Kagame’s commendable sense of patriotism, role in stopping the Genocide, restoring Rwanda, as well as uniting Rwandans.

Next, Muhire recounts how he resumed school at 17, after his failed attempt to join the military. The author further shares how during his time in secondary school, he occasionally lost transportation to go back home during holidays, which led him to spend those periods at school. Despite several challenges, he excelled in his academics.

His endurance and persistence are further portrayed by a narrative of how he advocated for the proper relocation of his fellow university students for years and eventually became the first Guild President of the former SFB, now University of Rwanda – College of Business and Economics.

Muhire’s spiritual endeavors also make part of the book. He reveals how he wanted to become a Catholic priest but later decided against it due to the priest’s ‘isolated lifestyle’. Instead, after an insightful conversation with Rev. Antoine Rutayisire in 2005, he became a born-again Christian.

In Chapter 10 of the book, the author shares his dating and wedding experiences. One incident that stands out is how he took a bank loan to finance his wedding, resulting in financial constraints and immense stress as he and his wife couldn’t even afford their honeymoon.

Today, the father of five children, advises young people to prioritise discussions about marriage itself rather than getting caught up in the grandeur of the wedding day, underscoring the significance of lifelong commitment and preparing for an uncertain future together.

Chapter 11 shines a light on Muhire’s career journey, highlighting his perseverance and eventual success in landing a job at the central bank after multiple attempts. Currently serving as the Director of Human Resources at the bank, he encourages readers to aim high in their pursuits, reassuring them that even if they miss their original target, they’ll still achieve something great.

“Everyone, at a particular point in time, has a story to tell,” writes the 45-year-old author in Chapter 12. Here, he shares profound insights about life, patience, relationships, and the fulfillment of faith, and stresses that his own life is a miracle, attributed to God’s plans and guidance.

Moving on to the next chapter, Muhire recounts his journey of healing from grief after experiencing multiple family deaths, especially the devastating loss of his mother to a cobra bite and the injustice she faced. He attributes his eventual healing, after 24 years, to the divine power of God.

In the final chapter, Muhire shares his dream retirement plans focused on caring for his mental, physical, social, and spiritual well-being. He urges readers to set ambitious goals, cultivate strong relationships, and embrace a thoughtful faith that will shape their destiny and lifestyle positively.

The copies of Muhire’s A Tale of Gratitude are available at Ikirezi bookshop, Charisma bookstore as well as MTN Venture bookstores.

This review was first published in The New Times.

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