Kagame's Friend Fred

On the 1st of October 1990, Fred Rwigema
finally mobilized and commanded the Rwanda Patriotic Army soldiers
who launched war against Juvenal Habyarimana's government.
Rwigema never lived to realize his lifetime dream of liberating his country, Rwanda.
He was murdered in cold-blood on the 2nd day of the struggle
leaving his "flock" of fighters virtually "beheaded".


Upon receiving the heartbreaking news, his childhood pal, Paul Kagame
(now President of the Republic of Rwanda),
who was on a military course in the United States,
decided to cut it short and assume the leadership of the RPA rebel force
until they toppled Habyarimana’s regime in 1994 and halted the Genocide.

To Orwell Today,

Dear Jackie,

Thank you for your wonderful report about H.E. RWANDA'S LIVING LEGEND IN LONDON.

I am very happy to know that you are getting ready to travel to Rwanda. This indeed is a beautiful thing. I do guarantee you that you will have a good time down there.

You may meet friends who did meet the late National hero of Rwanda FRED GISA RWIGEMA before the revolution started. Fred was the best friend of H.E.  History has recorded it. The dream came true because of the determination of a few good men.

Thank you very much and Rwandans are eager to receive you.
Sharangabo Rufagari

Greetings Sharangabo,

You always send the greatest pictures!

Thank you this time for sending the photo of Fred Rwigema who I know is one of Rwanda's greatest heroes. I read about him in Gourevitch's book (the one President Kagame wrote in and signed in London) and learned this past February 1st, 2006 that he is nationally celebrated on Heroe's Day. He was Paul Kagame's best friend and tragically died at the very beginning of October 1990 when he led the Rwandese Patriotic Front from exile in Uganda back home to claim Rwanda for all Rwandans. Paul Kagame then quit his studies in Kansas and his military career in Uganda and took charge of the RPF and the rest is, as they say, history. The only thing different this time is that legendary history is playing itself out before our very eyes. That's what makes the story of Rwanda so fascinating and so unique:

HOW KAGAME BECAME LEADER (...There were influences, of course, but the only one he ever seemed inclined to talk about was his friendship with another Rwandan refugee boy named Fred Rwigema. "With Fred," Kagame told me, "there was something personal on either side. We grew up together almost like brothers. We were so close that people who didn't know automatically thought we were born of the same family. And even as kids, in primary school, we would discuss the future of the Rwandans. We were refugees in a refugee camp in a grass-thatched house for all this period. Fred and I used to read stories about how people fought to liberate themselves. We had ideas of our rights. So this was always eating up our minds, even as kids."

In 1976, when they were in secondary school, Rwigema dropped out to join the Ugandan rebels, led by Yoweri Museveni, who were fighting against Idi Amin from bases in Tanzania. Kagame didn't see Rwigema again until 1979, when Amin fled into exile, and Kagame joined his friend in the Museveni faction of the new Ugandan army. In 1981, when the former dictator Milton Obote again seized power in Uganda, Museveni returned to the bush to fight some more. His army consisted of twenty-seven men, including Rwigema and Kagame.

As more young Rwandan exiles in Uganda joined the rebel forces, Obote cranked up a virulent xenophobic campaign against the Rwandan population. Mass firings and inflammatory speeches were followed, in October of 1982, by a campaign of murder, rape, and pillage, and close to fifty thousand Rwandans were forcibly expelled and sent back to Rwanda. Habyarimana stuck them in camps, where many died, until they were forced back to Uganda in 1984. Two years later, when Museveni took power, at least twenty percent of his army was of Rwandan origin. Rwigema was near the top of the high command, and Kagame became director of military intelligence.

It was against this backdrop that Habyarmiana had declared, in 1986, that there could be no further discussion of a right of return for Rwandan refugees. The Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) was founded the next year as a clandestine movement committed to armed struggle against the Habyarimana regime. Titi Ruteremara led the political wing, and Rwigema spearheaded the fraternity of Rwandan officers in the Ugandan army who became the core of the RPF's military force. "We had felt the beginnings of this, fighting in Uganda," Kagame said. "Fighting there was to serve our purpose, and it was also in line with our thinking -- we were fighting injustice -- and it was perhaps the safest way to live in Uganda at that time as a Rwandan. But deep in our hearts and minds we knew we belonged in Rwanda, and if they didn't want to resolve the problem politically, armed struggle would be the alternative."...

The Ugandan who had watched in puzzlement as Rwandans drew family trees and raised funds had a friend whose husband was Rwandan. "The morning of October 1, 1990, this woman's husband said to her, 'This is going to be a very important day in history.' He wouldn't say more, just 'Mark my words.' She and her husband were very close, but it wasn't until she heard on the news that night that Fred Rwigema had gone over to Rwanda taking his people that she knew what he was talking about."...

Kagame followed the initial reports of the RPF invasion from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was enrolled as an Ugandan in an officer training course. On the second day of the war, Fred Rwigema was killed. A story went around that he was assassinated by two of his officers, who were, in turn, courtmartialed and executed. Later, the RPF took to saying that Rwigema was killed by enemy fire, and that the two officers were killed in an enemy ambush. However that may be, within ten days of Rwigema's death Kagame quit his course in Kansas and flew back to Africa, where he deserted his Ugandan commission and replaced his murdered friend as the RPF field commander. He was a few days shy of his thirty-third birthday....[end quoting from We Wish To Inform You...]

I'm glad you liked the report I wrote on H.E.'s visit to London. I didn't want to miss the opportunity of seeing him and meeting Rwandans from "on the ground" in Rwanda and here in Canada - the diaspora. Rwanda is one of the important issues I cover on Orwell Today and so the experience was even more rewarding than just on a personal level.

I'm still not sure if I will be going to Rwanda this summer or not. I haven't started talking to my travel agent yet (I plan to do that next week) and I'm not good at looking up airfares etc on the internet. When I did it last time (to answer the letter from Nihao) I came up with $5,000 for airfare and have since been told that that figure is way out in space. So flight arrangements had best be left in the hands of the professionals.

If I come to Rwanda it would be as a journalist and a tourist (and a person who has a spiritual connection to Rwanda) and so I would want to travel around meeting people and talking to them, and also experiencing the emotion of seeing the Genocide Memorials and also for something on a happier note to perhaps go up to the Volcanoes and seeing the Gorillas in the Mist as Dian Fossey's book jumped off the shelf at me in Toronto last week (after I left London) and so I am now reading that.

So lots of things have to be factored in before I commit totally to coming to Rwanda. If it is meant to be then it will happen.

All the best,
Jackie Jura

Rwigema: A grand fighter, a humble servant. The New Times, Feb 1, 2006
...The register of heroes is as voluminous as Rwanda’s history, but a man worth giving a mention; in odes and epics, in songs and poems, in writings and paintings, in talk-shows and debates, is Major General Fred Rwigema. It was the tenth day of April in 1957, when the late Anastase Kimonyo and Catherine Mukandilima, residents of Kamonyi hills, Ruyumba district in former Gitarama Province (now Southern) gave birth to a bouncing baby boy whom they named Emmanuel Gisa. (The names he changed when an adult to Fred Rwigema while in Mozambique.)...

Fred Rwigema, from Wikipedia: Fred Rwigema (10 April 1957—2 October 1990) was a founding member of the Rwandese Patriotic Front and is considered a hero in Rwanda's history, though he spent most of his life outside Rwanda. Rwigema was born Emmanuel Gisa in Gitarama. Considered an ethnic Tutsi, he and his family fled to Uganda and settled in a refugee camp in Nshungerezi, Ankole in 1960 following the reaction against Tutsi rule and the ouster of King Kigeri V. After finishing high school in 1976, he joined the FRONASA (Front de salut national) party headed by Yoweri Museveni and Shefu Ali; it was at this point that he began calling himself Fred Rwigema. Later that year, he travelled to Mozambique and joined FRELIMO (Front de Libération du Mozambique). In 1979, he joined the Uganda National Liberation Army, which two years later became the National Resistance Army.

Dear Jackie,

Thank you for having included this posting about and the picture of the Late national Hero of Rwanda FRED GISA RWIGEMA in the ORWELL website. This person was a great man. I did not meet him in his living time...never although some times I hear his voice in my dreams saying keep it UP, the battle is still on. Oh yes this is FRED GISA RWIGEMA.

When you get to Rwanda ask to meet an old man who goes by the name of TITO RUTAREMARA...

Wishing the best,
Sharangabo Rufagari


Jackie Jura
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~

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