By: Gideon Rukundo Rugali
Major, Jacques Kanyamibwa a Helicopter Pilot of the FAR who was involved in fighting against RPA had a lengthy interview about his experience in October of 1990. The interview was conducted in 2010. He mentions some salient points that would help students of conflict understand what was happening on the Rwandan government side. However the combination of two testimonies involving two senior officers talking about events of the same day, is very telling.
1. Major Kanyamibwa says FAR feared RPA was going to capture Kigali on the night of 1st October 1990 and was asked to fly his helicopter to Ruhengeri, which he did. He says night flights are not safe & the only reason he did it, was because the threat level according to FAR was high.
2. His helicopter was brought down mid October at Nyakayaga ( He survived and continued to fight), a place which is a significant distance ahead of Gabiro, meaning RPA had made a great foothold in the Mutara area and were threatening Kigali.
3. He was asked on the fighting between RPA and FAR at Ryabega on the 23r of October 1990:
a) Was there any fighting between the two forces.
b) Was it FAR that killed Major Bunyenyezi and Major Bayingana?.
1. “Yes there was heavy fighting between FAR and RPA forces because FAR object was to cut off the road at Ryabega and this was achieved on the 24th October 1990.
2. Yes it’s possible that the two majors died during that fighting because RPA fought hard to to keep the road open since most of their forces would be cut off by the FAR manoeuvre at Ryabega.
However, we never saw the remains of either Major Bunyenyezi or Major Bayingana”, therefore, I can’t confirm that they died at Ryabega when we didn’t see their remains”.
Major Michel Mupende saw the two Majors get instructions to join the fighting at Ryabega but they never arrived at the front because they were ambushed by another RPA force, at Karere in Bugaragara before Ryabega, which was under the command of Major Paul Kagame, with the help of Ugandan senior officers who had come to “revenge” the death of Fred Rwigema. Paul Kagame, who had actually killed Fred Rwigema and blamed it on Major Bayingana, was hiding across the border in Uganda, at Sofia.
In intelligence lingo, Paul Kagame conducted an operation for many months that is called “Sheep Dipping”. You plan an assassination while preparing someone else, called a “PATSY” to take the fall.
For the operation to be successful, the PATSY must die before he testifies because if he does, he overturns everything in one single investigative statement.
Major Michel Mupende:
Major Michel Mupende got injured and was taken to the “sick bay” , a building that was next to Command Post Building.
All casualties preferred to spend their days outdoors for three reasons
1. Fear or shelling the building, especially air attack
3. Most importantly to gather information on what is happening at the battle front, who has died etc.
4. Mupende saw Kagame come on the 18th accompanied with Aloisia Inyumba, carrying a Jimtex bag, remember those ?
Had a length meeting with Major Bayingana and Bunyenyezi. He left in the evening of the same day and never came back.
On the 22nd senior Uganda military officers came in force and took over command of war.
FAR was pressing hard at Ryabega where Kaka was holding out, but clearly getting overwhelmed.
A lot of rearrangement of the RPA happened that night.
On the 23rd Major Bunyenyezi was given a Katyusha mounted on a truck as well as an anti aircraft gun to go and re-enforce Kaka. Major Bunyenyezi moved with the now retired Col Twahirwa Dodo
Within 30 minutes Major Bayingana was also ordered to follow with another contingent to over command at Ryabega. In his convoy was Major Reuben Ikondera and 2nd Lt James Kabarebe.
Meanwhile, at two points before Ryabega, two ambushes had been laid at Karere in Bugaragara before you reach Ryabega. Those who have used that road, it’s not a short distance from Kagitumba to Ryabega for these operations not to happen.
The Rwanda narrative is that Bayingana and Bunyenyezi died at Ryabega in an ambush but fail to explain what they were doing there and why the two most senior commanders of RPA were in the same place at the same time.
Recently, actually this, Kabarebe attempted an explanation that was incoherent, I paid no attention to it.
Let’s recall there was fighting going on at Ryabega with continuous heavy and light fire. But the shelling from FAR was real heavy.
This would make it difficult for any ears to notice ambush fire at Karere in Bugaragara.
In short, Col Twahirwa Dodo came back in less than an hour and reported the death of Major Bunyenyezi in an Ambush.
Mupende who was at the sick bay, saw Col Dodo coming back and he says Dodo had not survived any ambush for a soldier who has been involved in a fight can’t be missed. Dodo had gone to supervise the ambush and report back.
How, if his car is at the back of the convoy and he is aware of the place of the ambush, he will let the rest of the convoy go as he drives at a reduced speed to watch the execution of the ambush, probably drive by to confirm death of the principal target then bring back the news without getting out of the car.
This is what Major Ikondere and 2nd Lt Kabarebe did to Major Bayingana. They drove at a safe distance to witness the ambush, confirm death and came back to report.
They too arrived with no sign they had survived an ambush.
Major Michel Mupende is speaking from an eye witness experience of how the slain officers went and who came back to report their death.
Major Mupende says the Ugandan force stayed around till the 24th and ordered the complete withdrawal of RPA from Rwanda before leaving.
When RPA soldiers went back to Uganda, Paul Kagame was already Camped at Sofia, Mirama Hills.
Mupende jokes about this scenario because, Paul Kagame had looked for a small bushy area near the border, ignoring the many accommodation centres and set up a tent.
Mupende arrived before the tent was completely up and 2nd Lt James Kabarebe was the one fumbling with the tent.
Clearly, Paul Kagame had stayed on the Ugandan side but was the one informing decisions since Ugandans didn’t know RPA at all, without Fred Rwigema. Paul Kagame knew what was happening and like likes showmanship, elected a military tent which was taken down anyway because they had to move to the West where Paul Kagame began his pick two, kill one, pick one kill two spree.
Should we condemn Ugandan officers who supervised the death of Bayingana and Bunyenyezi.
Yes, to the extent that they acted without investigating the issue thoroughly.
No, to the extent of how much one can find out in a war situation, with sly, scheming and murderous officer who had taken his time to plan the coup that took many including Col Adam Wasswa shortly after and many junior soldiers who were with Bunyenyezi and Banyiginya.
No, to the extent that, I think, the Americans had already made it know, softly that Paul Kagame, according to them was an intelligent officer with a good sense of “Command and control”, unlike the officers who had messed up the war and died in process.
Afande Ndugute survived because he sold his soul by being one of the senior officers who told Ugandans he was an eye witness to the assassination of Fred Rwigema by Major Bayingana and Bunyenyezi in a meeting disagreement – which was a lie fed to him by Major Paul Kagame. He was therefore made the director of Military Operations, but when Paul Kagame fully consolidated power, he dropped him.
Ndugute is the only senior military officer who had no assignment when the plan for the offensive on Kigali was laid down by Paul Kagame, who began as a Political Coordinator ( Afande PC).
Ndugute is the one who really organized RPA following the October rout by FAR. He lost power gradually and finally wasn’t amongst commanders who captured Kigali and the rest of the country. It is said he was poisoned but I don’t have concrete proof on the nature of his death, although it was mysterious.
Col Adam Wasswa was ambushed along Masaka road on his way to Kampala and killed. Then an accident was stage managed. Him and Ndugute were experienced officers from the Amin era, who didn’t know how to mix politics with art of being a professional soldier.
The officer who carried out this crime was himself killed by Paul Kagame Kagame in a similar manner in Rwanda on the Kayonza Nyagatare road in 2013.
Major Rauben Ikondere was assassinated in 2002 in the town of Beni by Mai Mai after they were paid and given instructions by President Paul Kagame. He was the UPDF area sector commander. The hotel where he was staying was sorrounded and following a long gun battle he run out of ammunition. The Mai Mai descended on him and speared him to death.
Of the people Paul Paul Kagame used to assassinate Fred Rwigema, Peter Bayingana and Chris Bunyenyezi, only a few are left – We know Gen James Kabarebe, Col Twahirwa Dodo, both Gen Charles Kayonga and Gen Alex Kagame, Jack Nziza, were young 2nd Leutenants who were very royal to Paul Kagame, so they probably know a thing or two.
Let’s wait and see if he spares them or rather if the do not do unto him before he comes for them.
Here ends the story.