When Rwanda’s president Paul Kigame told a France 24 reporter that the west cannot dictate to the rest of the world what qualifies as human rights, Africa broke into an applause.
His human rights records is indeed questionable, but everyone loved the fact that he squashed white supremacy right there.
How do one characterize a man like Paul Kagame? he is loved by his people for his transformation of Rwanda after the Genocide. but to many others, he is a brutal dictator and a war criminal
When Paul Kagame was 28, he helped topple the government of Uganda. At 36 he overthrew the government of Rwanda. At 39 he ousted the government of Congo.
“I lived half my life in trenches fighting for human rights no body could give to me”
Paul Kagame was born in the middle of conflict- tensions were rising between Rwanda’s ethnic Hutu & Tutsi
His family were prominent Tutsis related to the ruling Tutsi Monarchy. He was barely 4 years old when the Hutus came into power in Rwanda and revolted against the Tutsis, he watched his home burn to the ground, his neighbors killed,. – His family escaped to the neighboring country Uganda and became refugees. Its rumored his father died of famine, though he never confirmed it.
He grew up a “Tutsi” Refugee living in Uganda. they were second class citizens treated like slaves and living in appalling conditions.
But because his family was prominent, he was able to leave the camps to forge his way through the best schools in Uganda, meeting friends like Yoweri Museveni who later became president of Uganda
Exiled Tutsis were gradually absorbed into Uganda, but it never really felt like home
I grew up in refugee camps, I experienced injustices of every kind. What was always at back of my mind was that we could not continue to live this kind of life.
– Paul Kagame
Tutsis in Uganda were always seen as foreigners – locals complained they were taking the jobs, the money, the lands…and even the men because the Tutsi women were beautiful. Their fate changed for better or worse depending on the whims of the ruling Ugandan government
A rebel is born – The Ugandan bush war
In 1982, Ugandan president Milton Obote sent away thousands of Tutsi Refugees who had homes and properties in Uganda and forced them to leave everything behind. Some prominent Tutsi Refugees turned business men were killed or expelled from the country
Frustrated and disillusioned Paul Kagame joined a rebel group that wanted to overthrow the Ugandan president. Many Rwandan Tutsi men joined this resistance because of his hostile policies towards them. The rebel leader was Yoweri Museveni- his friend and former classmate
In 1986 Paul Kagame played a key role in successfully overthrowing the Ugandan president after years of Guerrilla war, civilians were caught in the crossfires – (adding to his body count on war crime charges) and their rebel leader Museveni became president of Uganda.
Side note- Its alleged that the united states sponsored the bush war to destabilize the region and install a puppet leader that would give them access to resources.
The Tutsis would never have a home in Uganda!
Paul Kagame and another prominent Tutsi refugee Fred Rwigyema played a crucial role in Ugandan bush war and were rewarded with senior ranks in the army. This caused an uprising, the Ugandans did not want Tutsis high up in their army ranks
The political situation convinced the Tutsi that whatever their contribution they could not expect to be treated as full citizens of Uganda.
Return to Rwanda
It’s alleged that after Paul Kagame’s success in the bush war, he got the backing of the US & UK to go for Rwanda.
The Tutsi RPF attempted to negotiate the return of exiles to Rwanda with Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana -They demanded the right to own a Rwandan passport and come into Rwanda when they wished to. The dominant Hutu government rejected this request
1990-Tutsi rebels invade Rwanda
Led by commander Fred Rwigyema they came in through the North of Rwandan and allegedly killed thousands of civilians and military men. The president of Rwanda a Hutu leader Juvenal Habyarimana called out to France for help , Rwanda was a French colony, hence France sent troops to halt the Tutsi rebels advance into Rwanda.- RPF was defeated in the battle and their commander was killed
Its alleged during this first invasion there was an internal coup within the Tutsi RPF to enable Paul Kagame emerge the full commander. Fred Rwigyema was killed in strange circumstances – Paul kagame was absent from this battle undergoing military training at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas United States .
With Fred Rwigyema dead Paul Kagame was now fully in charge of a broken Tutsi rebel group
The RPF have lost their first battle, but for Paul Kagame and his men he would rather die than return defeated to Uganda. He moved most of his army to the mountains to heal and regroup, while some staged attacks in the villages as a decoy.
From his hideout his army was growing, more Tutsis exiled around neighboring countries came to join the resistance. He trained his army, instilled discipline, gave rules, it was win at all cost or die trying –, the mountain altitude where they hid was so cold , some soldiers froze to death.
Between 1991- 1993 Paul Kagame’s men terrorized Rwanda Guerrilla war style
They attack and raid villages, kill hundreds of Hutu civilians and disappear. Paul Kagame had taken control of at least 5% of Rwanda blocking important entries for import and export. The Rwandan economy was weakened, there were internal Hutu refugees displaced by the Tutsi RPF- President Habyarimana was forced to the negotiating table.
Paul Kagame RPF invited for peace talks- the Arusha accords
Major parties to the meeting were – 1) RPF leader Paul Kagame 2) Rwanda president Juvenal habyarimana and 3) Hutu hardliners.
They agreed to allow a two-party State with Tutsi becoming part of the Rwandan Government and national assembly. They agreed to land sharing and to allow the return of the Tutsi exiles.
But no one really wanted peace or believed they can co-exit peacefully
Paul kagame – After the peace talks, its alleged that Paul Kagame’s RPF soldiers infiltrated Kigali in plain clothes and started taking positions for a final battle. (He just signed the accord so the international community would not call him stubborn)
president Habyarimana – just wanted to keep his job and the support of the French government
The Hutu radicals– they were already preparing for a final solution- Genocide, hardline Hutu will never share power with the Tutsis. The french Government supplied them with guns, machetes and all dangerous weapons. through the radio broadcast, the Hutu were told to kill their neighbors the Tutsis living in Rwanda when they are given a signal. The interahamwe militia were also trained to carry out mass Genocide
Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana is killed when his plane is shot out of the sky- two heads of state and the three French crew members die. The Arusha peace accords is burning up in flames.
Side note – Till today, everyone argues about who shot down the plane, who had the motive and who benefited most from it-
After the plane was shot down a civil war and a genocide started taking place side by side
Paul kagame ordered his men to go into positions-between 25,000 and 30,000 troops — “The RPF launched a major offensive, which would have required weeks of preparations. His men kills both Hutu power brokers and civilians which has earned him the title of war criminal by many
The Hutus on their part gave an order – cut the tall trees and the Genocide began….. Hutu killing their Tutsi neighbors with help from Rwandan military and Interahamwe militia
It took 100 days for Paul Kagame and his men to circle the city and effectively end the Genocide- in the video below, Tutsis cheer RPF as they capture Kigali and end the Genocide
Paul Kagame issues new directive- No more Hutu or Tutsis only Rwandans
To show Rwandans and the West that they were not a military dictatorship of Tutsi exiles, Paul Kagame appointed a Hutu president, Kagame was vice-president, minister of defence, general of the army, and the one who took important meetings with foreign heads of state. –Paul Kagame held the real power.
Revenge killings was forbidden and the word Hutu or Tutsi was banned
Most Hutus and Militia who perpetrated the Genocide fled to neighboring countries- Hutus who participated in the Genocide were jailed but later released because its impossible to jail the entire population- Hutu is 85% of Rwanda
Paul Kagame has ruled Rwanda as the Official president for 19 years – he has transformed from it a blood-spattered wreck to an orderly society.
His presidency is defined by his past in many ways.
He lacks enthusiasm for genuinely free and fair elections because 85% of the population is Hutu. He clamps down at the slightest suggestion of ethnic politics. He never admits mistakes, apologies or show any other sign of weakness. He has zero tolerance for corruption.
Read more- Why do Tutsis and Hutus hate each other
The war and genocide in Rwanda was actually a power-play between the United States (sponsoring Kagame) and France (sponsoring the Hutus) .
Rwanda was for the West a gate way to Congo and Paul Kagame simply the man for the Job. American companies and the west cannot survive without minerals (Colbalt) in Congo, but thats a story for another day…