On 1 October 1990 Rwandese soldiers invaded Rwanda.
They had rallied round Rwigyema, 'Commandant Fred',
who'd created the Rwandan Patriotic Army,
and crossed the sparsely populated Mutara into Rwanda.


Rwigyema was known as a fearless fighter,
a commander who always led from the front.
His death caused immediate fears for the morale of the troops.
It was Paul Kagame who saved the RPF.

excerpt from A PEOPLE BETRAYED
by Linda Melvern, pages 27-30:

...When Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA) took Kampala by force in January 1986, it was the first insurgent movement effectively to take power from an incumbent African government. Uganda was a country shattered by the brutal rule of Idi Amin and his successors. Museveni re-established an effective central government.

The original decision by Museveni to resort to guerilla warfare against Amin's successor, Milton Obote, was taken in 1981 when, with only thirty-five men and twenty-seven weapons, known as the Popular Resistance Army, Museveni attacked the police military school at Kabamba. There were two Rwandans in this small group. One of them was the popular and charismatic Fred Rwigema, and the other, the secretive, sober and intelligent Paul Kagame. Both fighters would be instrumental in Museveni's ultimate success and both learned that it was possible for a small group of insurgents to launch an armed struggle with few resources and overthrow a government.

The Rwandans were natural allies of Museveni. During the Obote regime the Rwandan refugees had been persecuted, a reason enough to help him. In 1982, when the refugee crisis occurred and Rwandans were trapped on the border between Uganda and Rwanda, many young Rwandans, rather than remain powerless and persecuted refugees, joined the ranks of the NRA. By the time Museveni took Kampala by force in January 1986, a quarter of the soldiers in the 14,000-strong NRA were Rwandan, up to 2-3,000 Tutsi fighters, the sons of exiles. Many of Museveni's top commanders and officers were Rwandan, and during his campaign the regime of Obote had sought to discredit him by claiming falsely that he was Rwandan and was interfering in Uganda's affairs.

After his victory in 1986, Museveni consolidated his power, and his army and the NRA began a military recruitment campaign in western and southern Uganda, from the Banyarwanda and Buganda areas. This increased still further the number of Rwandans in the ranks of the NRA as even more refugees took up the opportunity of military training. Thousands signed up hoping that what had successfully occurred in Uganda could now be repeated in Rwanda. Joining the NRA was a first step along the road leading home.

Over the next three years these recruits would gain much military experience for they took part in NRA campaigns to secure eastern and northern Uganda then in almost constant insurrection...

While the Rwandan officer corps was an asset for Museveni, the Rwandans themselves were a problem. There were increasing complaints among Ugandan officers that they were discriminated against in favour of Rwandans in the army. The most famous Rwandan, Rwigyema, was now a major-general and promoted to the NRA's deputy army commander-in-chief and deputy minister of defence in Uganda. Then in a reshuffle in November 1989, and perhaps to appease the anti-Rwandan camp. Rwigyema was removed from office. There was deep resentment among Rwandans and some of those who believed Rwanda to be an old story began to revise their opinion. In August 1990 two members of Rwanda's political elite fled to Kampala, Valens Kajeguhakwa, a Tutsi businessman, and Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu and relative of Habyarimana. These two described Rwanda as being on the edge of collapse, split north and south, drained by corruption and ready to welcome anyone who wanted to overthrow the regime.

On 1 October 1990 Rwandan soldiers in the NRA invaded Rwanda taking their weapons and supplies. They had rallied round Rwigyema. 'Commandant Fred', created the Rwandan Patriotic Army, and crossed the sparsely populated Mutara into Rwanda.

Museveni immediately denied supporting the invasion and claimed that the soldiers had stolen their Ugandan uniforms and equipment. International observers chose not to believe him. The soldiers in the RPF had almost unlimited access to NRA hardware and Museveni was accused of playing a double game, of professing friendship with neighbouring Rwanda while allowing the preparation of an invading army. The American-based Human Rights Watch Arms Project was told by a senior Ugandan officer that Uganda provided heavy weapons, including artillery, and a steady stream of ammunition, food and logistics for the RPF, and that the two armies shared intelligence.

According to senior RPF sources, Musevenni had been told about the invasion plan but had rejected it, saying it would never work. Habyarimana was far too popular in the West and he warned that if the RPF did organize an invasion, Habyarimana would receive a great deal of outside help. Museveni promised the RPF that if they would wait he would see to it personally that Habyarimana would let the refugees return. According to the RPF leadership, they only ever mentioned the invasion once to Museveni. They did not share Museveni's certainties, and believed that the racist regime in Kigali would never allow the refugees home. 'There would never be a political settlement, we were in no doubt of that,' said Patrick Mazimhaka, vice-president of the RPF. 'We knew that the repression in Rwanda could only get worse.'

The RPF published an eight-point programme that included an end to Rwanda's ethnic divide and the system of compulsory identity cards. The RPF wanted democracy for Rwanda, a self-sustaining economy, an end to the misuse of public offices, the establishment of social services, democratization of the security forces, a progressive foreign policy and the elimination of a 'system which generates refugees'. The RPF was a multi-ethnic movement seeking to depose a corrupt regime.

The invasion was a disaster. Nothing went to plan. Although the RPF managed to capture the tourist resort and barracks of Batiro and the town of Nygatare, they were beaten back. Fred Rwigyema was killed on the second day, and so shocked were fellow officers that the news was not announced for two weeks. Rwigyema was known as a fearless fighter, a commander who always led from the front. His death caused immediate fears for the morale of the troops. On 7 October there was a counter offensive by the Rwandan army. This army was only some 5,200 strong but, when the invasion occurred, it had received immediate help from France. At the end of October the RPF fell back to an area where the Rwandan army would not follow, into the Virunga, the heavily forested volcanic mountain range in the north-west. The RPF soldiers were badly equipped and some of them died of cold.

It was Paul Kagame, one of Museveni's original 1981 guerilla group, who saved the RPF. Kagame, who had fled Rwanda in 1959 as a young child, had become the NRA's deputy head of military intelligence, and when the invasion occurred he had been on a military training course at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Forth Leavenworth, Kansas. With Kagame as the RPF commander, Colonel Alexis Kanyarengwe a northern Hutu and former Rwandan minister of internal affairs was appointed president. Kanyarengwe had fled Rwanda in 1980 after accusations that he was plotting against Habyarimana and his appointment signified a link between the RPF and the Habyarimana opposition in Rwanda.

Kagame had combat experience dating back to 1981 and when he took control of the RPF he quickly realized that he would be fighitng a protracted war. From a rag-tag band of fewer than 2,000 men, he created a 15,000-strong disciplined force. His soldiers had high endurance levels and strict discipline. If the RPF could managed to increase pressure points in the northern part of the country, Kagame believed, then the contradictions whithin Habyarimana's rotten regime would cause it to self-destruct....[end quoting from 'A People Betrayed' by Melvern]



Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~
website: www.orwelltoday.com and email: orwelltoday@orwelltoday.com

email: orwelltoday@gmail.com
website: www.orwelltoday.com