Gérard Urayeneza: Rwandan justice in hands of RPF; a severe injustice

Urayeneza Gérard

By Arnold Gakuba

On 17th April 2021, Didier Mucyo has published in Jambonews the injustice made to Gérard Urayeneza.  The injustice is about life imprisonment sentenced against Urayeneza Gérard and his two co-defendants which was made on March 25, 2021 by Muhanga court located in (former town of Gitarama) in the southern province of Rwanda. They were accused of complicity in the crime of genocide and concealment of evidence or information on genocide. This happened 27 years after genocide. We remind that the accused have never left their village since 1994 and ask ourselves where the accusers were along that long period. In addition, the above accused persons have never accused during Gacaca trials which took place where people made crimes.  This act is among the strategies of RPF to accuse and eliminate Hutu intellectuals. Were the accusations real of false? 

Who is Gérard Urayeneza?

He is one of the first promoters of private education in Rwanda. In the 1980s, it was difficult to access secondary education because not only there were not enough schools, but also the distribution of places in secondary schools was not fair. Despite that it was not difficult to create a secondary school that time, public nor did religious, some parents began to organize themselves and found some private schools to give their children a chance to access to secondary education. 

On September 25, 1981, the “APAG” (Association of Adventist Parents of Gitwe) founded a private school called “ESAPAG” (Secondary School of Adventist Parents Association of Gitwe). ESPAG was the first private school in Rwanda that was neither church nor government owned. Gérard Urayeneza has been the legal representative of APAG and director of ESAPAG at the beginning. In 1993, the “ISPG” (Higher Pedagogical Institute of Gitwe) was created which ISPG is currently known as the University of Gitwe (UG). The UG was launched in 1993 with the approval of APAG members, due to lack of higher education institutions in the area, especially in Murama commune which is currently Ruhango district. This was a major challenge faced by high school graduates who wished to pursue higher education.

The ISPG (UG) construction project was disrupted by the tragic events of the war and the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. This project resumed in 1997 and the ISPG reopened the doors with its two initial faculties: Care Nursing and Human Biology considered the first three years of medicine until UG opened its own medical school.

Where was Gérard Urayeneza during genocide period and Gacaca Court? 

Gérard Urayeneza is a Hutu married to Justine Urayeneza (a Tutsi by ethinic group) and they produced four children. Also, Gérard comes from parents who are mixed (a hutu and a Tutsi) like a good number of Rwandans. In 1994, they lived in Gitwe in their current residence near the Gitwe Adventist Health Center and Gitwe Adventist College (current in Murama cell, Bweramana sector, Ruhango District).

During the genocide, Gérard Urayeneza encountered difficulties not only in hiding his wife who was in danger of being killed, but also his in-laws who were Tutsi. He also hid and rescued Tutsi teachers of ESAPAG. Before the genocide, Gérard Urayeneza had strained relations with the local authorities, including Esdras Mpamo, an MRND executive and Mayor of the neighboring District of Masango who wanted to replace him by his son-in-law on the post of the legal representative of APAG.

During genocide, the threats against Gérard Urayeneza were intensified. On several occasions, Mr. Mpamo, relying on the fact that Mr. Urayeneza was married to a Tutsi woman, went to search his home saying that Tutsi were hidden there. But his wife and other members of his family were hidden in Kibonde, a hill located near Gitwe. After Genocide, Gérard never fled abroad. He stayed in Gitwe and restarted ESAPAG when schools opened and the Gacaca trials took place without his worries. On the other hand, a certain Charles Muhayimana, who at that time was director of APADE, a school of Kigali which was in competition with ESAPAG, and founder of the school called “Amis des Enfants”, lodged a complaint against Gérard Urayeneza to have killed his relatives. However, the complaint was dismissed. Mr. Urayeneza was even declared innocent by genocide survivors including Pastor Josué Rusine. However, we witness that Charles Muhayimana has never been prosecuted for unjustly accusing Gérard Urayeneza up to now.

Why a life imprisonment to a person who has never left his village or his country for 27 years?

Such sentence raises the question of legitimacy in Rwanda. On March 25, 2021, the Muhanga court handed down the life sentence to Gérard Urayeneza and his two co-defendants. Mr. Urayeneza was arrested in June 2020 by senior officials of Gitwe University Hospital. Some of these executives are themselves genocide survivors.

This sentence has surprised the residents of Gitwe, who mostly of them work in APAG institutions (Gitwe University, ESAPAG, and Gitwe Hospital). Urayeneza is a popular man in the region. Whether Tutsi or Hutu, all were shocked by his conviction because the accused contributed a lot to the development of the region. Moreover, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) sent two trucks of soldiers to Gitwe the day after the court’s decision was read to fear the revolt of the population. This shows that the penalty was unjust and unlawful. Many people ask themselves why this happened after a very long period of 27 years. 

Gérard Urayeneza has paid a heavy price for his popularity and love for education and health for the people of his region. With intention control private universities in 2013, the RPF, through its officials from the Ministry of Education, asked Gérard Urayeneza to allow businessmen close to the regime to shareholders of University Gitwe and he refused as UG belonged to the parents’ association (APAG). This displeased RPF.  Many people think that this may be the origin of Gérard Urayeneza. In addition, we confirm that other private universities had accepted to be controlled by RPF including University of Kigali (ULK). Professor Rwigamba Balinda, after accepting to be controlled by RPF, he was appointed a senator.

Gérard Urayeneza’s problems began with the disrupt against Gitwe University, with the blocking in 2019 of the enrollments of first and second year of medicine saying that there were not enough materials in the laboratories. Despite all these, the UG was forced to continue paying the foreign professors it had recruited, which caused a significant financial loss for the university estimated to 1.5 billion Rwandan francs, or about one million euros.

These accusations of the UG’s as it lacks resources are obviously lies to many observers. Immaculate Ingabire, the head of Transparency International Rwanda was astonished that: “The problem of Gitwe University was not lack of equipment, neither the laboratory, nor the incompetence of teachers, but the HEC (High Education Commission) explained that these were secrets that the Rwandan education ministry did not want to reveal”. Transparency Rwanda carried out several investigations into the case and Ms. Ingabire says it is an education scandal and that the President of the Republic should be informed. Gérard Urayeneza had the opportunity to speak about this problem in the Senate; however it was not taken into consideration.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Education decided to permanently close the Faculty of Medicine and the Laboratory of Gitwe University. Some Adventists contacted explained to us that it could be an unhealthy competition led by Pastor Hesron Byiringiro who currently heads the association of Adventist churches in Rwanda. A staunch supporter of the RPF since his years of study in the United States and close to President Paul Kagame, the pastor is now more politician than religious. In 2019, he wanted to open a medical school at the Adventist University of Central Africa (UAAC) in Kigali.

Since he became president of the Union of Adventist Churches of Rwanda, disputes, ethnic and regional segregation reigned within the church. Hesron Byiringiro is a genocide survivor from Bagogwe, a group of Tutsi mainly located in north, and he is claimed to have put aside the pastors of the south of the country, who nevertheless exercised great functions within the Adventist church. These include Josué Rusine, Pastor Mujyarugamba André, and many others. The case is sobering, how can a ministry shut down a university’s faculty using false statements?

Mr. Urayeneza’s nightmare did not end with the sabotage of UG. In June 2020, 26 years after genocide, dead human bodies were discovered in mass graves located under the construction of the fence of Gitwe Hospital. After this gruesome discovery, the bodies were exhumed for decent burial. However, the authorities of memorial sites near Gitwe, particularly the Nkomero and Ruhango sites, refused these bodies saying that they were not of Tutsi. Indeed, several inhabitants of this region explained to us that they were victims killed by RPF troops on their arrival in Gitwe. For fear of the ruling RPF, no one had ever mentioned the presence of these bodies before.

It was therefore, for having “concealed” the presence of these bodies that Gérard Urayeneza was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, the refusal of these human bodies by the officials of memorial sites against the Tutsi hides several problems.

  • Firstly, it reinforces the hypothesis put forward by several inhabitants of the region that the bodies exhumed in the mass grave of Gitwe hospital are not bodies of Tutsi killed during the genocide, but of victims killed by the RPF.
  • Secondly, it helps to understand that the accusations made against Gérard Urayeneza are false. Moreover, his lawyers had raised this hypothesis during the legal proceedings by mentioning the fighting in Gitwe between the RPF army and the EX-FAR (former Rwandan armed forces).
  • Thirdly, it is inconceivable that no one has ever told that the bodies of Tutsi were found there even while the killings were taking place publically. It is not possible to silence the entire population about the presence of genocide victims. It should also be mentioned that even the Gacaca trials in this region were held a few meters from Gitwe hospital, at the Bienvenue center, and that no one ever spoke of Tutsi victims there.
  • Fourthly, Gérard Urayeneza and his co-defendants had demanded DNA tests for people who had filed a complaint as civil parties and who wanted compensation, people who appeared 26 years after the genocide and who demanded billions of francs as compensation for damage. The Muhanga court did not accept this request, without giving any valid reason as it was reported by Igihe newspaper.

Popularity of Gérard Urayeneza, a serious crime for Kigali regime (RPF)

As mentioned above, Gérard Urayeneza had become a key figure in the education and health sector both in southern Rwanda and at the national level. Since the UG was the first university to offer nursing training in Rwanda, all hospitals in the country and even university hospitals have nurses who studied at UG. The faculty of medicine had not been liked by RPF. This faculty was closed following a hidden agenda from the education ministry. We got information that this faculty was closed by the Ministry of Education because RPF had a plan to reserve the studies of medicine to only a certain Tutsi elite to reduce the Hutu who access these studies from the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of Rwanda. This was planned as the National University the access to medical studies was controlled by the ministry of education but at Gitwe University they were open to everybody. Indeed, some parents in the region who do not have the money to send their children to the UG could pay by paying in nature when they harvest to be used at the UG restaurant.

Another important element that hampered RPF was the collaboration that Gitwe Hospital and Gitwe University had established with some American universities. Indeed, Gérard Urayeneza had tried to connect those universities American universities such as Stanford University and the Nebraska Medical School Center and today they are regular exchange of doctors and teachers with the hospital and Gitwe University.

Kigali regime has no control over this collaboration and they did not like it, despite the benefits it brought to the people of Gitwe and to all Rwandans. Gérard Urayeneza’s work and popularity had become a nuisance to RPF who still wants to control everything including education. This was revoked by Emmanuel Gasana, governor of the Southern Province and RPF agent, in his several speeches. In his speech during his visit to Gitwe, he made malicious remarks against Gérard Urayeneza, remarks which made part of the public uncomfortable.

There is no doubt that the charges against Gérard Urayeneza are forged, such trials resemble to drama and unfortunately common in the Rwandan justice. History will be the only judge, and we firmly believe that today or tomorrow, Gérard Urayeneza and his co-defendants will obtain justice. Rather, he deserves a medal of patriotism for his contribution to the education and health sector in Rwanda. To close Gitwe University and put Gérard Urayeneza in prison is to kill the people of Gitwe. However, the interests of RPF are over rural development. How long is RPF going to continue being against development in Rwanda?