Rwanda’s unresolved secret history
Journalist Timothy Kalyegira of the Daily Monitor writes about the Rwanda’s unresolved secret history.
The June 19 attempt on the life of the former Rwandan Chief of Defence Forces, Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, was the final event in a slowly gathering cluster of incidents, trends, and question marks over Rwanda since 2006.
That was when the now-retired French anti-terrorism Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere issued arrest warrants for nine top Rwandan army officers (including Nyamwasa) whom he implicated in the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential jet on April 6, 1994.
Since the attempt on Nyamwasa’s life, story after story in the Western news media have focused on nothing but the theme of a country once on the path to recovery from genocide in 1994 and now headed for self-destruction.
As if to snub Rwanda, the deputy director-general in South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs, Jackson McKay, said last week, on June 24, that Nyamwasa had applied for political asylum and had been granted it, despite earlier appeals by the Rwanda government for him to be extradited to stand trial.
“It is hard to imagine that a shooting in Johannesburg could spell instability in the distant heart of Africa,” commented London’s The Economist — one of the world’s most influential news publications – on June 22. “But that is what has happened…opposition within Mr [Paul] Kagame’s own set may be brewing…Rwanda has had a number of unexplained killings. For example, Seth Sendashonga, a moderate Hutu who served as interior minister after the genocide, was shot dead in 1998 in Nairobi…Dozens of Rwandan army officers are thought to have been shot, have disappeared or have had accidents. Some harboured secrets and knew about cover-ups of government revenge killings after the genocide.”
For the first time, a major Anglo-Western publication, reported on the assassination of Sedashonga at all or in a sympathetic light and with a subtle hint at who might have ordered that shooting in Nairobi.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper in the United States, in its June 23 edition echoed this new air of suspicion over President Kagame after the arrest of Peter Erlinder, the lawyer of the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire: “Civilised nations don’t throw defence attorneys into prison. That Rwanda did suggests that Kagame has something to hide…”
The African Bulletin of June 30 suggested a reason that Nyamwasa could have been targeted: “[T]he arrests, the leaks and assassinations abroad, successful or not, accumulate…General Kayumba [Nyamwasa] is potentially the main rival of Paul Kagame. The two men first met in Uganda and they worked together in the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Between them, they know all about big and little secrets of the Rwandan authorities…Paul Kagame begins to irritate even his biggest supporters…”
The Associated Press published a story with this headline on June 29: ‘Rwanda’s Hutus live in fear of attacks, repression’ and the BBC World Service, in its main world news on June 28, broadcast a news item on a new report by a human rights group on the flight of Hutu refugees in Uganda who are being hunted down, arrested and some even killed.
This marks the first time since the ruling RPF government took power in Kigali in 1994 that the mainstream media in the English-speaking Western nations has portrayed the Hutu of Rwanda as victims. On June 29, the Rwanda government fought back. Radio Rwanda, in a news broadcast, said: “President Paul Kagame has criticised the international rights groups like the Human Rights Watch which have continued to tarnish Rwanda’s image by publishing baseless information aimed at undermining the country’s efforts of the last 16 years.”
The Western media largely ignored Kagame’s press conference and the barrage of criticism has continued. The question then is: Has Rwanda been making concrete strides in these 16 years, as Kagame said, or was it a case of 16 years spent glossing over dark, sensitive secrets and unresolved conflicts within the ranks of the elite in power in Kigali?
Because the RPF was an English-speaking group at the time it invaded Rwanda in 1990 and its mentor, President Yoweri Museveni was still admired by the West, this aura rubbed off on the RPF and it received consistently positive coverage from the Anglo-West’s news media right through to and after the RPF’s victory in July 1994.
But, as an exiled Rwanda journalist Charles Kabonero told KFM’s Hot Seat show on Friday, June 25, there was never press freedom in RPF’s Rwanda from the beginning in 1994.
So while the regional and world media focused on the genocide and Hutu’s role in it, there was never sufficient attention given to these highly sensitive reports and rumours of Tutsi-on-Tutsi assassinations and mysterious deaths.
The recent attempt on Lt. Gen. Nyamwasa’s life, the exiling of the former foreign intelligence director Col. Patrick Karegeya, several journalists gunned down or in exile, ambassadors fleeing into exile from their posts in Europe — and most of these being Tutsi — have puzzled many in the English-speaking West. The truth is, had the West not romanticised the RPF and had the RPF not muzzled the media, none of the recent developments would have surprised anybody.
The RPF from its founding in Uganda in 1989 was always steeped in intrigue. When President Museveni praised the late Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigema at the Liberation Day ceremonies at Kigali’s Amahoro Stadium on July 4, 2009, a mummer went through the crowd and tensions rose within the Rwandan army.
This seemed strange to observers, as this was the equivalent to praising Nelson Mandela and it stirs controversy in South Africa’s ANC party. Barely had the RPF’s guerrilla war started in October 1990 than four of its top officers Maj. Gen. Rwigema, Maj. Peter Bayingana, Maj Chris Bunyenyezi and Maj. Frank Munyaneza were dead, murdered in still unexplained circumstances but the killings clearly a work from within the Tutsi rebel ranks.
A Tutsi from Mbarara in western Uganda and former FRONASA soldier, Maj. Adam Wasswa, was the deputy commander of the RPA to Rwigyema at the time of the Rwanda invasion.
On July 28, 1991, as Maj. Wasswa was travelling in a Toyota Land Cruiser with Kagame for an RPF High Command meeting in Rwanda, the vehicle is said to have been involved in an accident. Wasswa died. An RPA Captain Kairangwa in the vehicle also died. To this day, the facts of this accident have never been explained.
For the last 10 years, President Kagame has focused Rwanda and the eyes of the West on economic growth, fibre optic Internet cables, laptop computers to schools, and creating an image of effective, disciplined government and the making of an African Singapore. Swept under the carpet were all the dark skeletons of the RPF dating back to 1990.
Source: Daily Monitor.