By: Dr David Himbara
In his 1951 farewell address to the U.S. Congress, General Douglas MacArthur famously uttered the phrase ”old soldiers never die, they simply fade away.” Rwanda’s General James Kabarebe is likely thinking the same thing. On October 18, 2018, General Paul Kagame dumped Kabarebe as defense minister. Now Kabarebe is under house arrest. Before Kabarebe fades away, we should recall his horrendous record of nearly 30 years he served Rwanda’s dictator.
The relationship between the two generals evolved as follows:
- In 1990, Kabarebe became aide-de-camp to Kagame — later becoming Commander of the High Command Unit at Mulindi, and head the Republican Guard.
- In 1996, Kabarebe was in command of Rwanda’s invasion of DR Congo.
- In 1997, Kabarebe became Congo’s army chief of staff after the defeat of Mobutu Sese Seko.
- In 1998, Kabarebe led the second invasion of DR Congo after he was dismissed as chief of staff.
- In 2002, Kagame appointed Kabarebe Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwandan Defence Forces.
- In 2010, Kagame appointed Kabarebe Minister of Defence.
- In 2010, Kabarebe cited in the United Nations’s Mapping Report on Congo for the genocide of Congolese and Rwandans during the First & Second Congo War, alongside Kagame.
- In 2012, Kabarebe cited by the UN as de facto commander of M23 militia that overrun Goma, DR Congo.
- On October 18, 2018, Kagame dumped Kabarebe to ”senior advisor.”
- Mid-August 2019, Kagame places Kabarebe under house arrest.
Kabarebe will be remembered for violence in DR Congo among other things. He will also be remembered for how he described his former comrade-in-arms — Patrick Karegeya.
Kabarebe will be remembered for many things he did in the last 30 years — especially violence in DRC. Many Rwandans will also not forget what Kabarebe said when Patrick Karegeya was strangled to death in South Africa on the last day of 2013. Karegeya was Kabarebe’s comrade-in-arms before Karegeya was thrown in jail by Kagame, later escaping to South Africa. Kabarebe uttered the following words after Karegeya was murdered:
”Do not waste your time on reports that so and so was strangled with a rope in whatever country. When you choose to be a dog, you die like a dog, and the cleaners will wipe away the trash so that it does not stink for them. Actually, such consequences are faced by those who have chosen such a path. There is nothing we can do about it, and we should not be interrogated over it.”
We can paraphrase Kabarebe and tell him that there are consequences for the path he too chose. The reward of long service to Kagame is an arrest. Meanwhile, history is never kind to people who cause and celebrate death.