By: Dr David Himbara
Kagame Had a Frantic Month. In the Aftermath of the Mysterious Death of The Chronicles’ Editor, Ntwali, the Rwandan Strongman Dismissed His Chief of Police Forces, General Munyuza. Then, Kagame Immediately Released the Jailed Editor of The Chronicles, Dr Kayumba. Entirely Coincidental? Methinks Not.
Voltaire, the great 18th century French writer and philosopher, who continues to be celebrated for his crusade against tyranny coined a phrase that helps explain General Paul Kagame’s Rwanda. To paraphrase Voltaire, states have an army, but in some cases this is reversed – it the army that has a state. This is a perfect description of the Kagame phenomenon – his army has a state that seeks to exercise total control over public and private life in Rwanda and in the diaspora. Consider, for example, the mind-boggling array of events during the short period between January 18, 2023, and February 22, 2023. John Williams Ntwali, editor of The Chronicles lost his life under mysterious circumstances. Then, General Kagame dismissed his chief of police forces, General Dan Munyuza. This was followed immediately by the acquittal of Dr Christopher Kayumba, the former editor of The Chronicles. Were these events entirely coincidental? Methinks not.
Nothing happens in Rwanda that is not planned and approved by General Kagame himself. This is the classic case of an iron fisted autocrat who makes all the decisions and lays down the law. It is in this context that he cunningly stages events to sway the world into seeing things his way. There can be no question that the events described above illustrate General Kagame’s mastery of manipulation. The sudden release of Dr Christopher Kayumba is intended to remove the death of John Williams Ntwali from the global news headlines. The sacking of the chief of police forces shifts the spotlight away from General Kagame to General Munyuza. Apportioning blame is Kagame’s trademark.
Munyuza’s dismissal is therefore no surprise. Whenever General Kagame needs a diversion from his horrific human rights record, he dismisses or imprisons his generals and senior officials. And Rwanda’s human rights record is truly horrifying. In the latest review of the Rwandan human rights situation, the US Department of State concludes that significant human rights abuses in Rwanda in 2021 included:
“unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government; forced disappearance by the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisals against individuals located outside the country, including killings, kidnappings, and violence; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including threats of violence against journalists.”
The Report adds that the Rwandan government “did not make public the details of its autopsy and investigation into the death of Kizito Mihigo, a popular gospel singer and genocide survivor.” Furthermore, “Rwandan poet Innocent Bahati disappeared on February 7, with no reports of his welfare or whereabouts.”
General Munyuza who is known in Rwanda as the Exterminator, has been at the helm of human rights atrocities in various capacities. He served the regime in military intelligence, external intelligence, and headed Rwanda’s militarized police forces. The regularly reported kidnappings, enforced disappearances, torture, and killings inside and outside Rwanda happen under General Dan Munyuza’s watch.
The dismissal of the Exterminator may not be the end of his career, however. He was in trouble with his boss on several occasions. For example, he was among four of top military officers who were placed under house arrest in 2012 after being implicated in smuggling minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A US government report described the incident as follows:
“In its November 15 final report, the UNGOE implicated specific senior RDF and NISS officials (Gen. James Kabarebe, Head of J-2 Military Intelligence Brig. Gen. Richard Rutatina, and NISS Director of External Security Col. Dan Munyuza) in minerals smuggling from the DRC in concert with Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, the M23, and private Congolese traders. On January 17, the government placed four senior RDF and NISS officials (RDF Reserve Force Commander Lt. Gen. Fred Ibingira, Brig. Gen. Richard Rutatina, Third Division Commander Brig. Gen. Wilson Gumurusizi, and Col. Dan Munyuza) under temporary house arrest.”
General Munyuza soon bounced back and continued to build his reputation as the Exterminator, reaching the top rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP).
As we watch General Kagame’s manoeuvres in which one editor was released from prison after his successor perished under mysterious circumstances, we pray for the other journalists languishing in prison. The imprisoned journalists include Yvonne Idamange; Amiable Karasira; Nsengimana Theoneste; Abdoul Rachid Hakizimana and Cyuma Hassan Dieudonné. We also pray for the Rwandans who disappeared, including the poet Innocent Bahati. He was last seen on February 7, 2021. This young poet and ICT teacher at Green Hills Academy, is best known for his poems, some of which were critical of the Kagame regime. Stay tuned.