KIGALI – The Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) was hinged on eight points program that guided us through out the struggle. In 1993, in the RPF conference at Mulindi, it was agreed that serving military officers should not serve in politics. That is how Kagame, who was Vice Chairman at that time, exited the RPF structures and Patrick Mazimphaka became Vice Chairman in anticipation of implementation of the Arusha agreement. The war and the genocide generated a new narrative and Paul Kagame became Vice President and Minister of Defence.
Firstly, in 1998 Alex Kanyarengwe’s term of office expired and most people expected Pasteur Bizimungu who was President to replace him as RPF chairman. The party elections were marred by suspicions and anxiety as many cadres considered the elections as a military takeover.
The election which many considered to have been rigged made Paul Kagame chairman of the party and Vice President of the country, while President Bizimungu became President of the country and Vice Chairman of the ruling party. As everybody suspected, the 1998-2000 period was characterized by open conflicts between Pasteur Bizimungu (President) and Paul Kagame (Party Chairman). I happened to be close to both of them and would always be called to mediate between them. I decided to take an objective view, even in the RPF political bureau. Paul Kagame expected me to side with him, even when he publically behaved in a condescending and overbearing manner against the President.
Secondly, in 1998, James Kabarebe was expelled from Kinshasa. Initially, together with others, (I do not want to mention names because of their security), had objected to his appointment as DRC Army chief of staff and keeping Rwandan troops in DRC after Mobutu. We pointed out, that our soldiers would be viewed as an occupation force, and it would be better, withdrawing the troops before any conflict. Our views were not taken because Paul Kagame had personal ulterior motives that have persisted till today. After the expulsion of Kabarebe, Paul Kagame felt humiliated and called Kabarebe, Karegeya, Emmanuel Ndahiro and myself to discuss the course of action. The three of us except Kabareebe advised against the idea of going back to DRC because there were no political, strategic or security reasons to justify the war. Nevertheless, the country went to war and we supported it, but the unjustness of the war created uneasiness between Kagame and Kabarebe on one hand, Karegeya and many others including myself, wondering whether the war was worthwhile. In the process, things went horribly wrong, especially the Kitona debacle, where we lost thousands of soldiers and hundreds captured.
Recently, I heard Kabarebe praising the the Kitona fiasco as a masterpiece and wonder what did it achieve? In another jurisdiction, Paul Kagame and I should have resigned and Kabareebe court martialled.
Thirdly, the Kisangani clash between Rwanda and Uganda was one of the most disappointing episode. With Gen Jeje Odongo and others, we investigated the clash. The reasons advanced by the commanders on ground were embarrassing and tragic.
Let me say, nobody won in Kisangani. Some insensitive people celebrate that they killed brothers, friends and won!!They do not appreciate the consequences and gravity of the shameful clash. While some people were celebrating success, late Patrick and I tried to mediate by visiting Kampala and inviting Uganda officers to Kigali to explore ways of how the situation could be rectified. As you could have observed, President Kagame has described our efforts as a sign of sell outs, yet we did all that with his blessings.
Fourthly, I opposed the shabby and treacherous lies against President Bizimungu that led to his ouster. I totally refused to be part of a cabal that was detailed to lie and witch hunt him. It was sad to witness ‘mob lynching’ of a comrade in a political bureau meeting. They quickly forgot Pasteur Bizimungu’s patriotism – a connected Hutu (during Habyalimana’s regime), who defected and joined a Tutsi dominated fighting force. A man who committed societal suicide for a bigger political cause. The organisation lost its tolerant and compassionate soul, when Bizimungu was framed and imprisoned. Thereafter, a purging process started that swallowed almost all the original RPF cadres. We concede that leaders come and go, but it is not necessary for Paul Kagame to kill, imprison and force others into exile to demonstrate that he fought the struggle single handedly.
Lastly, the run up to the 2003 elections generated paranoia, murders and disappearances of opposition leaders. The independent media was quickly muzzled and journalist disappeared, imprisoned or run to exile. Civil society organisations were crumbled or forced into co-option, liberty and freedom were curtailed. All this was crowned with rigging of elections allocating 95% to Paul Kagame of the outcome. From then on, RPF was unrecognisable, its ideals dead and buried. The democratic values we fought for were cast aside, national unity was undermined and corruption was institutionalized, where the President captured the state through Crystal venture, which eventually became wealthier than the state. Security institutions were monopolized and used to abduct, imprison and forcing people into disappearance, thus generating an influx of refugees. The paranoia extended across borders, and the country pursued an aggressive and belligerent foreign policy.