Azama M Bwinza: The Audacity to Rescue 7 people from being drowned in Lake Tanganyika
Azama M Bwinza: The Audacity to Rescue 7 people from being drowned in Lake Tanganyika.
Saturday 11th October 2014 will remain a dark day for the people of Kigoma in general and Kigoma North constituency in particular, especially the villages of Mtanga, Kigalye and Kalalangabo Kagongo ward. Ten people drowned in Lake Tanganyika following the capsizing of twin canoes (mtumbwi wa kipe) with more than 50 people in it.
It was a celebratory day at the offset. There was a wedding ceremony in Mwandiga village and the bride and groom with relatives and friends were travelling to their new home in Kigalye village, which entailed travelling first by cars and ‘bodaboda’ and then crossing the lake in a twin canoe. The people in this area cannot afford hiring a boat so for many years, in community solidarity, fishermen offer their ‘mitumbwi’ to be used as transport for social events. Worse, villages along Lake Tanganyika North have only one means of transport which is waterways as no road has been built so far.
At around 1 pm that Saturday almost 50 people including the bride and groom got into the mitumbwi from Kalalangabo ferry and started to sail northward to Kigalye. 1pm after they set sail the mitumbwi turned upside down and what followed is now history.
Amongst the passengers was a 24 year old lady, Azama Mahmoud Bwinza. She is a widow with one child. She was the first to jump into the waters of this second deepest lake in the world and swam to shore. According to her story, she stood on the rocks at the shore to catch her breath and saw others trying to rescue themselves. She heard her younger sister calling out for help. Courage sank in and she dived back into the water. Knowing that Kalalangabo area is one of the deepest parts of the lake, she set off on her rescue mission.
‘I was holding people by their back and pulling them to the shore. I made seven trips and as a result I rescued 7 people including a pregnant woman and 3 children,’ Azama narrated. The last person she tried to rescue died. She was holding on to Azama so firmly that Azama couldn’t swim and both were at the brink of drowning. ‘I had to bite her to leave me or relax and I was exhausted. I went swam back to shore. The woman died.’ Azama explains while crying as the dead was her sister-in-law.
In whatever measure, Azama is the heroine of 2014 so far. The leadership she has shown is rare and her selfishlessness is worth emulating. If only our world had more Azamas.