In a sweeping change that has sent ripples across Rwanda’s political and military landscape, President Paul Kagame, the Commander-in-Chief of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), announced on 30th August 2023 the retirement of several high-ranking military officials. This monumental development comes amidst a climate of uncertainty, speculation, and rumors that have been swirling in the corridors of Rwandan power.
Paul Kagame approved the retirement of Generals James Kabarebe and Fred Ibingira, among others. Also retiring are Lieutenant Generals Charles Kayonga and Frank Mushyo Kamanzi. Major Generals such as Martin Nzaramba, Eric Murokore, Augustin Turagara, Charles Karamba, and Albert Murasira were also on the list. Brigadier Generals Chris Murari, Didace Ndahiro, and Emmanuel Ndahiro are stepping down as well. Beyond these high-ranking generals, the President also approved the retirement of 83 senior officers, 6 junior officers, and 86 senior NCOS. An additional 678 individuals are at the end of their contracts, and 160 others have received medical discharges.
Kigali, 30 August 2023
1. H.E. THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF RWANDA AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF RDF HAS APPROVED THE RETIREMENT OF THE FOLLOWING GENERALS:
GEN JAMES KABAREBE
GEN FRED IBINGIRA
LT GEN CHARLES KAYONGA
LT GEN FRANK MUSHYO KAMANZI
MAJ GEN MARTIN NZARAMBA
MAJ GEN ERIC MUROKORE
MAJ GEN AUGUSTIN TURAGARA
MAJ GEN CHARLES KARAMBA
MAJ GEN ALBERT MURASIRA
BRIG GEN CHRIS MURARI
BRIG GEN DIDACE NDAHIRO
BRIG GEN EMMANUEL NDAHIRO
2. H.E. THE PRESIDENT HAS ALSO APPROVED THE RETIREMENT OF 83 SENIOR OFFICERS, 06 JUNIOR OFFICERS AND 86 SENIOR NCOS, 678 END OF CONTRACT AND 160 MEDICAL DISCHARGES. ///
Early today an other Press release from Rwanda Ministry of Defense announced the promotions of Lieutenant Colonels Joseph Mwesigye, Simba Kinesha, Egide Ndayizeye, William Ryarasa, Sam Rwasanyi, Issa Senono, Thadee Nzeyimana, Alphonse Safari, Fidele Butare, and Emmanuel Nyirihirwe to the rank of Colonel and appointment as Brigade Commanders. Further, Kagame appointed RDF Generals as follows: Major General Emmy Ruvusha as 1 Division Commander, Major General Eugene Nkubito as 3 Division Commander, Brigadier General Pascal Muhizi as 2 Division Commander, Brigadier General Vincent Gatama as 4 Division Commander, Brigadier General Frank Mutembe as Task Force Division Commander, and Brigadier General Andrew Nyamvumba as the Commandant of RDFCSC Nyakinama.
Kigali, 30 August 2023
1. HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF RWANDA AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF RDF HAS PROMOTED THE FOLLOWING LIEUTENANT COLONELS TO THE RANK OF COLONEL AND APPOINTED THEM BRIGADE COMMANDERS.
LT COL JOSEPH MWESIGYE
LT COL SIMBA KINESHA
LT COL EGIDE NDAYIZEYE
LT COL WILLIAM RYARASA
LT COL SAM RWASANYI
LT COL ISSA SENONO
LT COL THADEE NZEYIMANA
LT COL ALPHONSE SAFARI
LT COL FIDELE BUTARE
LT COL EMMANUEL NYIRIHIRWE
2. H.E. HAS ALSO APPOINTED RDF GENERALS AS FOLLOWS:
RANK NAMES APPOINTMENT
MAJ GEN EMMY RUVUSHA 1 DIV COMDR
MAJ GEN EUGENE NKUBITO 3 DIV COMDR
BRIG GEN PASCAL MUHIZI 2 DIV COMDR
BRIG GEN VINCENT GATAMA 4 DIV COMDR
BRIG GEN FRANK MUTEMBE TASK FORCE DIV COMDR
BRIG GEN ANDREW NYAMVUMBA COMDT RDFCSC NYAKINAMA
THE ABOVE PROMOTIONS AND APPOINTMENTS TAKE IMMEDIATE EFFECT.///
This shake-up of the military comes against a backdrop of increasing tension and military activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the Rwandan army is actively supporting the M23 rebel movement. These developments have fuelled various speculations, including the notion that the RDF is gearing up for a large-scale war with the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially considering the upcoming presidential elections in Rwanda next year.
Moreover, this overhaul follows a scandal referred to as “Abakono,” which resulted in the imprisonment of numerous political and military leaders. Local officials in northern Rwanda were also forced to resign or were dismissed, causing a perpetuation of a climate of fear and rumors in the country. Some reports even talked about a failed coup d’état, without providing concrete details or evidence. Notably absent from many key events was General James Kabarebe, who was also the special advisor to President Kagame. Rumors regarding his arrest have been fueled by his absence at important events like the military exercise “Hard Punch” in Gabiro and President Kagame’s recent visit to the northern part of the country where the Abakono issue was the central topic.
Kabarebe’s closeness to Justin Kazoza, who was elected as the head of the Abakono in festivities that caused almost an earthquake in Rwanda’s ruling apparatus, has raised eyebrows. Some have even suspected that Kazoza might be managing Kabarebe’s assets or be a business partner. Kabarebe was supposed to attend these festivities but was allegedly held back due to last-minute constraints.
This military reorganization is also accompanied by significant reshuffling within the government. On August 22, Prime Minister Dr. Edouard Ngirente announced various changes in the cabinet. Dr. Valentine Uwamariya, who has been the Minister of Education since February 2020, was redeployed to the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion. Gaspard Twagirayezu, previously the State Minister in charge of Primary and Secondary Education, becomes the full minister of education. Claudette Irere, earlier responsible for ICT and TVET, has been appointed the Minister of State for Education, expanding her purview.
Dr. Uwamariya replaces Prof. Jeannette Bayisenge at the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion. Bayisenge, in turn, moves to the Ministry of Public Service and Labour. Major General Albert Murasira, who was the Minister of Defence until June this year, has been assigned as the Minister of Emergency Management, replacing Solange Kayisire. Eric Rwigamba has been appointed as Minister of State for Agriculture and Animal Resources, and Jeanine Munyeshuli finds herself in a new role as the Minister of State for Public Investment and Resource Mobilization.
Thus, the sweeping changes in both the military and the government signal a significant shift in Rwanda’s governance. While some analysts suggest that Kagame is preparing the ground for his possible successor, especially considering his recent speeches that emphasize giving chances to the new generation, others view these changes as tactical moves ahead of looming challenges both within and outside the country.
Whether it is an attempt to rejuvenate the army, a preemptive measure against internal and external threats, or groundwork for a new era of leadership, these changes mark a seminal moment in the intricate fabric of Rwanda’s political and military architecture. Only time will reveal the long-term implications of these monumental shifts.