29 Kilometres of Remembrance: Ivan's Story of Overcoming Adversity.

'So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails...'

"We can all triumph over adversity if we choose to remember our experiences but not be defined by them. No matter what life throws our way, we can always find a way to move forward." Ivan Munye.

Walking down the Gatuna road, I could feel the weight of history on my shoulders. It was a road that Ivan Munye, the owner of Cali Fitness, had walked down when he was just six years old. It was a road that had shaped him into the remarkable man he is today. And I was about to learn his story.


My friend Steve Shema and I had planned to run 15 kilometres up and down the hills of Kigali, but our plans quickly changed. I received news that for the 29th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi, #Kwibuka29, Ivan was organising a 29-kilometre  walk from Cali Fitness gym towards Gatuna border post, close to Uganda. The walk and its purpose were something that I couldn't miss.


Ivan's early life was marked by the turmoil of the genocide against the Tutsi. At 6, he experienced the worst of human atrocities. His mother, a Christian, had friends who she believed would keep her children safe, including hiding them and taking care of them should the need arise, as it did during the genocide. His father, a community organizer, was an easy target for the genocide perpetrators.


When the news broke that President Habyarimana's plane had been shot down, Ivan's family knew that trouble was on the way. Ivan and his sister were perched at a family friend’s house in Gatsata. There, they waited for days before being sneaked out by two Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF – Inkotanyi) soldiers. They were to embark on what was Ivan’s longest walk of his young life, towards Byumba - the same road we were now walking on.


They carried only essentials and for three days they walked through the night, avoiding the major roads and traveling during the rains. They finally reached the RPF camp in Byumba and stayed there for about three months until the country was liberated. When they came back, they saw the destruction that had been wrought on their country.             


As I listened to Ivan's story, I couldn't help but be struck by his philosophical outlook. “I survived because I was young and did what I was told. In my early teens, I acknowledged the premature existential crisis that such experiences brought to my life. I had no sense of purpose, no faith, trust issues and failed to form meaningful connections. I constantly wondered whether there was meaning to life. Today, I am intentional in everything I do and how I live my life. I have learnt to rationalise certain things and now have proper words to describe my experiences.


But Ivan's story wasn't just about surviving the genocide. It was about how he had learned to live with his experiences and find healing in revisiting them. The significance of the Gatuna road was not lost on Ivan. He has been taking the walk every year for the past nine years to remind himself of the trauma he and his family went through. He chooses to revisit this part of his life because it gives him healing. It is a way for him to remember and to honour those who did not make it.


Ivan now has a family of his own. His wife, Rose, and daughter, Aya, are a big reason for him to say alive and not dwell on the live or die thought that plagued him in his younger years. Responsibility has shaped him, and he has learned that he is not alone in his struggles. He is one person amongst millions, and behind every person, there is a story.


Ivan also opened up about his struggles with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It is something that he has learned to live with and make the most of. He now runs Cali Fitness gym and Rwanda Fitness Culture, a not for profit that fights non-communicable diseases through sport and healthy living.


Lack of patience, short attention span and hyperactivity sometimes make it difficult for him to work in a team or where his deliverables depend on others, but he has found ways to overcome this. He survives the day productively by making notes to assist his memory and meditates regularly to stay calm. Today, he is one of the most successful fitness trainers in Kigali.


As we approached Gatuna border in Gicumbi, I felt a sense of awe and inspiration. Ivan's story is one of triumph over adversity. He has learned to live with his experiences and to find healing in revisiting them. His generosity of spirit in sharing his story is an inspiration to us all. As President Kagame has said, "Our strength is greater than our trials." And Ivan's strength is a testament to the human spirit's resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity.


Ivan's story had touched me deeply. It is a reminder that we can all triumph over adversity if we choose to remember our experiences but not be defined by them. No matter what life throws our way, we can always find a way to move forward. Like Ivan, we must never forget the past, we must always honour those who have come before us, and we must always hold on to hope.


As Ivan said during the walk, "Throughout the year, we are busy doing life. But it doesn't mean we forget. For personal reasons, I do this walk. It's my way of healing." His words remind us that we must all take the time to reflect on our lives, to remember where we come from, and to find healing in the most unexpected of places.


At the end of the walk, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for having been a part of something so powerful. I felt a renewed sense of purpose, and a deep appreciation for the people in my life and for the power of the human spirit. Ivan's story will stay with me for a long time to come.


Mariam Bajulaiye

02.09.2020 10:14

Mr Gomera, where is the next destination of the boat? May you always find happiness in the next adventure...

Monica Mwove

01.09.2020 07:35

Maxwell, Congratulations once more! You have done well and with great achievement. The world is your oyster indeed.

Ben Mhandu

31.08.2020 13:01


Like prehistoric parietal art the numbers in the footprint tell a story that will remain. It’s been phenomenal!

As you set sail and harness these trade-winds, may that beam, your virtuous que

Hope Moyo

29.08.2020 13:37

Great to read about the footprints you are leaving on a global scale! Proud of you indeed and ‘... may you always catch the wind in your sails ...’ All the best!


28.08.2020 16:08

As you move on in your glorious future may success be always with you. I will always remember your wisdom & guidance. Farewell kule!!!

Reneth mano

28.08.2020 12:22

Max. This is a great footprimt of impressive accomplishment at instutional strengthening and mobilization of funds towards socially impactful investments. I wish you the best in your next venture.

Emily Chakavarika

28.08.2020 01:12

Inspirational and profound! Yes to some good trouble and all the best!!!

Gibson Guvheya

27.08.2020 15:51

Max, absolutely spellbinding valedictory remarks. You and your team have moved mountains. Best wishes to all of you as you journey ahead.

Latest comments

10.08 | 16:04

Continue to rest in peace sekuru

10.08 | 07:11

Till we meet again keep resting in peace sekuru

05.07 | 09:26

Isitshwala, the food of champions! You took me down memory lane with this piece, my friend. And with a smile too!!

21.06 | 10:01

RIP will always be missed

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