Kangura No. 5

A Note on the Invasion of Rwanda

1. Nature of the invasion

This is an external aggression and not an internal conflict, as some people claim, in an attempt to dub the attack a war of liberation against a so-called corrupt regime, so as to prevent the country from receiving foreign aid. The aggressors come from without, and comprise a large number of foreign elements.

2. The invading force and their weapons

The invaders include former Rwandan refugees in the Ugandan army and Ugandans from the same army. They entered Rwanda from Uganda through Kagitumba, in the Mutara region in the north-east of the country. They were equipped with heavy, sophisticated weaponry, comprising, among others, tanks, automatic machine guns, mortars and recoilless canons. Earlier on, they also managed to smuggle into Kigali, both heavy and light weapons and large quantities of ammunition, as well as communication equipment (radio transmitters and receivers). This entire panoply of arms and equipment was hidden in the homes of Rwandan accomplices, who included three officers. It was used in the night of 4 to 5 October 1990 in an attempt to capture Rwanda’s capital city.

3. Invaders’ objectives and targets

The aim of this terrorist organization is clearly to install a “minority regime” representing a new-look feudal system and thereby jeopardize the achievements of the Rwandan people’s social revolution of 1959, as well as the fruits of the second Republic.

We also think that this “feudal oligarchy” had the Machiavellian plan of igniting a civil war in Rwanda by causing an uprising of the Rwandan people against the legally established institutions and pitting them against each other.

The peace-loving and unity-conscious Rwandan people refused to be misled and cooperated fully with the army in its efforts to maintain law and order, track down the invaders who had infiltrated the country, particularly within the capital, and destroy the numerous arms caches (over twenty were discovered in the capital). Moreover, the Rwandan government decided to refer the matter to the United Nations Security Council, accusing the Ugandan government of continuing to mastermind the recruitment to provide supplies and reinforcements to these aggressors, who are members of its regular army. It is therefore clear that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda openly supports the rebels that invaded Rwanda with the aim of reinstalling a minority government.

4. Background

In the night of 4 to 5 October 1990, the invaders attacked key positions in the capital but they were thoroughly beaten. Fighting is now going on in Mutara and the enemy is retreating. The enemy has so far lost 1000 men, while the government forces lost 30 of their men. But a nation-wide hunt is under way to locate infiltrators and their accomplices, as well as the new arms caches.

5. Arrests

The following have been arrested:

  • The attackers who the public and the army found hiding in the homes of accomplices
  • Accomplices found with weapons or harboring attackers
  • Anybody who was under grave suspicion.

A special committee was set up to examine all the above cases so that those who were arrested by mistake could be released and the criminals brought before the courts.

6. State of emergency

A state of emergency was decreed in accordance with Rwandan law. Its sole purpose is to address a situation requiring special security measures so as to allow the army to search the homes of suspects and the war court to sit and try suspects. Nevertheless, the state of emergency does not prevent life from continuing normally all over the country, including the capital. Furthermore, for security reasons, some restrictions were imposed in order to ensure public law and order. These included a 7 P.M. to 5 A.M. curfew, the interdiction of all taxi services, and the introduction of a travel permit for people travelling from one prefecture to another.

7. The Rwandan government’s concern regarding refugee problem

The Rwandan government has been steadfast in its defense of the rights of its citizens, including those of the refugees, whom it considers fully-fledged Rwandans and whose problem it has always endeavored to resolve. It should be recalled that the 1959 revolution was simply the result of a campaign by the Tutsi feudal regime to suppress the nascent democratic movement and eliminate all Hutu leaders of democratic parties, a good number of whom were murdered. For example, the Tutsi feudal leaders, particularly after their U.N.A.R. party was defeated by the M.D.R. Parmehutu party in the 25 September referendum, refused to take part in the democratic institutions set up under the supervision of the United Nations.

These feudal extremists have never wanted to return to their country peacefully, still resolved to take power by force in spite of the political choice by the people made through the most democratic means. It is certainly a long-standing problem due to its delicate nature, but regrettably the interested parties themselves have all along refused to cooperate with the Rwandan authorities. In March 1962, for example, the refugees were called upon to “return to Rwanda and take part in the democratic take off of their country.” (President Kayibanda, 16 March 1962).

Unfortunately, however, instead of responding positively to this appeal, some of the refugees chose to carry out widespread acts of terrorism aimed at overthrowing the democratically elected republican government. Thirty-six terrorist incursions were recorded between 1962 and 1967, majority of which were particularly bloody.

Nevertheless, these negative reactions by a few radical elements among the refugees did not lower the Rwandan government’s resolve to safeguard the rights of its people. On 28 January 1964, yet another appeal was addressed to the refugees, once urging them to “either return home peacefully, or stay permanently in the host countries, in accordance with the laws and regulations of those countries” (See President Kayibanda’s speech in appendix).

In spite of these repeated appeals by the Rwandan government, the extremist refugees and their supporters continued to carry out military attacks on the country until 1967.

In 1967, a presidential decree on voluntary repatriation for those who chose to return home was issued. Those who did so were resettled along with the other Rwandans, and those who did not were not considered as “rejects,” for ever since, the Rwandan government has always given the matter due attention and has endeavored to resolve it.

From 1973, the government of the second republic, which strongly advocated peace and national unity, put an end to all forms of division based on ethnic or regional grounds.

In order to implement this policy, President Habyarimana, in July 1975, formed the Movement Révolutionnaire National pour le Développement (M.R.N.D.) [National Revolutionary Movement for Development]. It was thanks to this movement that the now united Rwandan people managed to reach political maturity as evidenced by their tolerance, dependency on their own means to forge development, good neighborliness and solidarity.

The events being witnessed today come at a time when the negotiations that have been going on for several years with the Ugandan government, with a view to finding a solution to the refugee problem are nearing their successful conclusion. Indeed, the neighboring countries and international organizations are aware of the fact that it is not Rwanda alone that holds the key to the problem and thus they have been drafted into the search for a lasting solution.

In being very realistic, Rwanda made the following three proposals to the refugees:

  1. Pursuing the voluntary repatriation program;
  2. Voluntary naturalization in the host countries;
  3. The choice to settle in the host countries with the host countries’ approval.

The current invasion comes at a time when Rwanda, in collaboration with the UHHCR, was about to embark on a case-by-case assessment of the refugees living in Uganda with a view to identifying those who wished to return voluntarily and which ones wished to be naturalized in the host country.

Again, Rwanda was sincere enough to tell the potential returnees the truth about the problems they would face once in Rwanda, in view of the social and economic hardships the country is experiencing.

Rwanda therefore regrets this irresponsible attitude on the part of a handful of power-hungry refugees supported by the Ugandan government, who misled their brothers under the pretext of defending their cause. It is these same irresponsible people who are engaged in a world-wide aggressive propaganda campaign, using pseudo-democratic slogans to rouse public opinion by discrediting the Rwanda government.

The Rwandan government must also draw the attention of the international community, especially the United Nations, the O.A.U. and the UNHCR, to the consequences of such barbaric acts on the progress of the on-going negotiations with the various parties involved. As such, the Rwandan government would like to appeal to the United Nations Organization, the O.A.U. and the UNHCR, to do everything possible to help the radical refugees see reason. Indeed, it is through the United Nations convention of 1951 and its Protocol of 1967, as well as the O.A.U. Convention of 1969 on African refugees, that a lasting solution to the Rwandan refugee problem can be found. Otherwise, the current events might spark off another influx of refugees. In the same vein, the Rwandan government is appealing to the Ugandan government to stop the invaders who are attacking Rwanda from the Ugandan territory as well as the recruitment of new fighters from its army, and to stop providing them with supplies.

8. Legal framework for international assistance

The countries which offered to assist to Rwanda by providing troops and equipment (Belgium, France, Zaire), did so within the framework of bilateral cooperation agreements with Rwanda. The troops from those countries now stationed in Rwanda are here to render humanitarian assistance by ensuring the security of their nationals and to facilitate their voluntary, temporary repatriation, should it be necessary. Moreover, by virtue of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, Rwanda “has the natural right of individual or collective self defense” in the event of an armed invasion. Furthermore, the O.A.U. Charter requires all its member States to defend the sovereignty of African states and their territorial integrity (article II, 0; article III, 2, 3).

9. The position of the neighboring countries in this conflict

In the spirit of good neighborliness and fraternity, Rwanda’s neighbors spontaneously expressed their support.

Burundi pledged to monitor its border in order to curb any possible infiltration of the invaders from its territory.

Tanzania suspended the expulsion of Rwandan emigrants who had illegally settled on its territory, in order to avoid any confusion with the attackers. It also promised to monitor the border for possible infiltrators.

Zaïre pledged to monitor of its border and to send 500 men for the humanitarian mission.

Uganda has condemned the invasion and referred those fighting alongside the Rwandan refugees who are themselves soldiers in its army, led by Major General Fred Rwigema, one of the most senior army officers in the Uganda Armed Forces, as “deserters.” According to the Ugandan government, the heavy and light weapons were “stolen” from its army. However, their explanation leaves a lot to be desired, in view of the fact that the convoy of more than 10,000 men crossed the entire country in broad daylight! Moreover, on the frontline in the north-east, the invaders are clad in Ugandan army uniforms.

After the invasion, the two Presidents met twice in the United States and the Ugandan government assured Rwanda that the border between the two countries would be sealed off in order to stop further troop infiltration and that if at all the “rebels” returned to Uganda, they would be prosecuted. Uganda has proposed a meeting of the two Heads of State discuss how to stop this invasion. But as we wait for these promises to materialize, the war is going on, the invaders are being reinforced by fresh recruits from the Ugandan army, and reinforcements continue to come in Some of the rebel leaders, such as General Fred Rwigema and Major Bayingana, are still moving about freely within Uganda and in Kampala, moreover. The Rwandan government has drawn the attention of the Ugandan government to these developments, which confirm that country’s unflinching support to a portion of its army which is attacking Rwanda.

NB: This article was written before the deaths of Fred Rwigema and Bayingana were officially made public.