By David Himbara
He is right in one sense. While the comrades that remain in the country are often jailed and thrown into poverty, they not generally murdered as are their counterparts who flee Rwanda.
On June 11, 2021, General Paul Kagame made some intriguing remarks about his former comrades-in-arms who flee Rwanda. The Rwandan strongman said that his former comrades-in-arms who left Rwanda are badly off in exile. As he put it, “there is not one person among them who is better off where they are than when they were here. There is no one who went on to live a better life.” Someone should remind Kagame that his former comrades-in-arms who stay in Rwanda, too, live in miserable circumstances. The only difference is that the exiled Rwandans are more likely to be murdered by assassins which is generally not the case with those who stay.
A comparison between Kagame’s comrades–in–arms who stay and those who flee shows an ugly choice facing the two groups. To begin with, Kagame finished off all historical members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) who began the movement before capturing power in 1990. Kagame is the RPF historical left-standing. Those who stayed in Rwanda include Pasteur Bizimungu who was not only overthrown from the presidency but also thrown into prison. RPF historicals such as former cabinet ministers Patrick Mazimhaka, Protais Musoni, Tharcisse Karugarama, and Joseph Karemera were thrown into Kagame’s dustbin. Even the oldest cadre Tito Rutaremara who is Kagame’s biggest sycophant has become a shadow of his former self.
The military generals suffered the same fate as their civilian counterparts. The former Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwanda Defence Force, General Charles Kayonga was dumped to China as ambassador, later recalled to join the unemployment ranks in Rwanda. The status of General Patrick Nyanvumba, another former Chief of Defence Staff, remains unknown after he was unceremoniously dumped from the cabinet. Emmanuel Ndahiro is in and out-of-house arrests. General Frank Rusagara is in jail for 20 years.
Former RPF cadres who fled Rwanda are indeed worse off because they tend to get killed. Seth Sendashonga, former Minister of the Interior was murdered in Nairobi, Kenya. Theoneste Lizinde was assassinated in Nairobi, Kenya. The former intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya was strangled to death in Johannesburg, South Africa. Former Rehabilitation and Social Integration minister, Jacques Bihozagara perished in Bujumbura, Burundi. Kayumba Nyamwasa, formerly the Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army, survived three assassination attempts in Johannesburg, South Africa. Those who live in fear abroad include the former Prosecutor General of Rwanda, Gerald Gahima and Kagame’s Chief of Staff, Theogene Rudasingwa. Kagame is therefore right in one sense when he says the exile group is worse off than those who remain – the latter suffer imprisonment and impoverishment but at least they are not assassinated.