Paul Rutagambwa Kagame was born on Oct. 23, 1957 in Ruhango, Rwanda to Deogratius and Asteria Rutagambwa.
He is reportedly from the Abaganza clan of the Tutsi, although other sources say he is from the Abega clan. Kagame’s home area is said by some sources to be Gitarama, while his wife, Jeanette Nyiramongi Kagame, is from Gikongoro.
In 1962, the Rutagambwa family, along with thousands of other Tutsi refugees, fled Rwanda following an aborted Tutsi uprising against the mainly Hutu independence government of Rwanda. They were re-located to the Gahunge refugee camp in the then Toro district of western Uganda.
Kagame attended Rwengoro Primary School in Kamwenge in the then Toro district of western Uganda. Kagame speaks fluent Rutooro, the language of the Batooro tribe.
After his primary school education, he was moved to the Nakivaale refugee camp in Ankole, in western Uganda. Kagame also enrolled in the leading secondary school in Ankole at the time, Ntare School.
While the date he joined Ntare is unclear, it can be assumed to have been about 1970 or 1971.
Most of Kagame’s publicly-known life story jumps from his Ntare School days to his joining Yoweri Museveni’s Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) guerrilla group in 1979.
Much of the period from about 1975 to 1979 is left as a blank space. It is one of several passages in Kagame’s life that he keeps out of the public domain. For example, the Kagame life story as it is publicly known stresses Ntare School but is silent on his period as a student at Old Kampala Secondary School.
In the mid 1990s, a Ugandan journalist who attempted to write a biography on Kagame had all his materials and photographs seized by Rwandan intelligence agents on behalf of the then Vice President Kagame.
In or about 1976, Kagame joined the Uganda Police force, something he has been careful to keep out of the public’s knowledge. Information gathered from a source on Dec. 13, 2008 states that in that period, Kagame lived in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu along with many other Tutsis.
The source believes they were working as spies on behalf of Museveni’s FRONASA. Considering how many FRONASA men had been infiltrated into Idi Amin’s State Research Bureau national intelligence agency in the 1970s and Kagame’s penchant for intelligence and other covert work, the Uganda Record can only speculate whether Kagame as a Uganda Police officer might have doubled as a State Research Bureau operative as well.
In Feb. 1979, when the Tanzania-Uganda war reached Mbarara town in western Uganda, Kagame joined FRONASA, or openly joined FRONASA. What Kagame did under FRONASA between 1979 and 1980 or where he was based or deployed is also not clear or public.
He emerges again in the records as one of the “original 27” or “original 36” or “original 41” men that Museveni says he invaded the Kabamba Infantry Training School with on Feb. 6, 1981 as a new guerrilla force known as the Popular Resistance Army (PRA).
During that Feb. 6, 1981 attack, three PRA guerrillas Hannington Mugabi, Jack Muchunguzi, and Paul Kagame received slight injuries.
After the PRA merged with the Uganda Freedom Fighters of the former President Yusufu Lule on June 9, 1981 to form the National Resistance Army (NRA), Kagame was appointed to head the NRA tribunal in Luwero Triangle.
This tribunal executed captured soldiers of the UNLA government army and tried and executed NRA guerrillas suspected of being agents of the UPC government of Milton Obote. Rather than use bullets for the firing squad, the NRA used small, blunt hoes called “Akafuni” to bludgeon their victims in the head.
Kagame’s ruthlessness earned him the nickname “Plato” among his fellow NRA guerrillas.
When the NRA cut off western Uganda in Aug. 1985 following the military coup that overthrew the Obote government, Kagame was transferred to the NRA’s new headquarters in Fort Portal town.
In Aug. 1985, the NRA hijacked a Uganda Airlines Fokker Friendship F-27 aircraft after it landed at the airfield as Kasese town, about 74km west of Fort Portal. It was Kagame whom the NRA charged with handling the hijack.
Coordinating the hijack from Entebbe International Airport had been NRA guerrillas Winnie Byanyima and Lt. Fred Mwesigye who was a secret NRA guerrilla but working as a UNLA intelligence officer based in Entebbe.
In this same period in 1985, the NRA set up a roadblock at the Katunguru bridge area along the Kasese-Mbarara road in the Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda.
The UNLA sent a contingent of soldiers to reinforce Kasese town. These UNLA troops then traveled in trailers to the area.
The troops were ambushed and surrounded by the NRA at the Katunguru roadblock. The NRA officer, Paul Kagame, ordered the trailers to be locked up with all the UNLA soldiers inside.
Several days later, a major stench came out of the trailers and when it was opened, the decomposing bodies of the UNLA soldiers lay on the floors.
Kagame at the NRA’s Military Intelligence Directorate
After the NRA seized state power in 1986, Kagame was deployed at the Military Intelligence headquarters at Basiima House as an intelligence officer.
He rose in office to become the head of administration in the Directorate of Military Intelligence. He shared an office cubicle with another NRA intelligence officer, Aronda Nyakirima. Contrary to a widely-held belief, Kagame has never been the director of Military Intelligence in Uganda but only the head of administration in Military Intelligence.
As director of administration in the NRA’s Military Intelligence, an NRA intelligence officer, Lt. Kenneth Kanyogonya, recalls an incident in which he, Kanyogonya, investigated an NRA officer called Alex who had brought into Uganda a machine that printed fake bank notes.
Kanyogonya had Alex arrested and he reported the case to Kagame. That afternoon, Kagame ordered the release of Alex and sharply rebuked Kanyogonya, ordering him to leave matters alone that were none of his business.
Lt. Kanyogonya, today a Kampala businessman, says he marvels when he reads and hears the many reports that portray Paul Kagame as “incorruptible.”
In 1990, the army sent Kagame to the United States’ military college at Fort Leavenworth for advanced military instruction.
Intrigue and murder within the RPF
Late in Oct. 1990, more than three weeks into the invasion of Rwanda by a Tutsi-led guerrilla force, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), a mutiny or infighting of some form took place.
The overall commander of the RPA invaders, Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigyema, was shot dead in the back of his head, reportedly by a clique in the RPA led by Maj. Dr. Peter Bayingana, Maj. Chris Bunyenyezi and Maj. Frank Munyaneza.
Hundreds of RPA guerrillas were massacred by their fellow RPA guerrillas and their bodies thrown into the Akagera River. It was the first report of bodies floating down the Akagera River.
After Rwigyema’s death, Maj. Gen. Salim Saleh, the former army commander and younger brother to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, personally took Kagame to the RPA headquarters inside Rwanda whereupon Kagame took charge of the shattered force and reorganised it.
In its early days, the RPF — the political and administrative wing of the RPA — tried to allay fears of Rwanda’s Hutu majority that the RPF was a Tutsi force bent on seizing power and installing a Tutsi-only regime.
A number of Hutu, including a Col. Alexis Kanyarengwe were recruited and given prominent positions in the RPF. Kanyarengwe, a former Rwandan army officer who had fallen out with and been jailed by President Juvenal Habyarimana, was named the RPF’s Chairman.
However, on May 17, 1991, John Shyirambere Barahinyura, head of Information and Research, RPF and a Hutu, resigned from the RPF “after finding out that RPF has no other intentions for Rwanda other than being in power.”
In his statement of resignation, Barahinyura said: “Nobody can take orders from Kanyarengwe without first asking Paul Kagame.”
On Jan. 29, 1991, a Kampala newsletter, The Shariat, reported that Kagame had been injured in fighting in Rwanda or in some kind of assassination attempt.
“Lt. Col. Paul Kagame the man who succeeded the late Maj. Gen. Fred Rwigyema as the overall Commander of R.PA is missing. According to reliable sources, Lt. Col. Paul Kagame was seriously injured and was quietly taken to a military hospital abroad. But it is not known whether Lt. Col. Paul Kagame was shot by fellow R.P.A soldiers or by the enemy (Rwandese government soldiers). After the incident Lt. Col. Kanyarengwe was immediately appointed overall commander of R.P.A and Chairman R.P.F,” The Shariat reported.
On July 28, 1991, the deputy commander of the RPA at the time of its invasion of Rwanda on Oct. 1, 1990, Lt. Col. Adam Wasswa, died in a car accident at Lyantonde town in south-central Uganda where he and Kagame were in the same Toyota Landcruiser traveling for an RPF High Command meeting inside Rwanda. A one Captain Kairangwa also died in the accident.
Adam Wasswa’s family lived in Mbarara and he had been recruited into FRONASA in 1979 by Yoweri Museveni. Wasswa was a Rwandan Tutsi royal and was close to and supported the ambitions of the ousted Rwandan King Kigeli V.
The Citizen newspaper of Kampala commented on Jan. 3, 1991: “The Rwandese Patriotic Front which stormed Rwanda on October 1, 1990…are said to be tied up in a historical power struggle. Reports reaching The Citizen say that RPF is divided on three ethnic groupings within the Tutsi tribe. It is alleged that among the Tutsi there are three different groups each with its own objectives.
“The groups are referred to as Abega, Abanyiginya and the commoners. It is further alleged that Abanyiginya are the true Kings of Rwanda…Reports further say that after the death of the top three commanders, Major Paul Kagame who is said to be from the Abega group took over leadership, which is said to be unacceptable to the Abanyiginya led by Kigeli the last king of Rwanda and Major Adam Wasswa. It is alleged that [the] King Kigeli group has played a very significant role disorganising the RPF, distorting the whole cause to a mere power struggle…On [the] Uganda side,it is reported that from Kamwezi through Kishuro hills down Kahondo valleys [valley] insecurity is on the increase.”
A strong rumour had persisted among Rwanda’s Tutsi ever since Adam Wasswa’s death that he was, in fact, killed by Kagame and he did not die in a car accident. However there are no independent details to confirm or refute this belief.
Rose Kabuye’s revelations about the RPF’s methods and beliefs
In 1993, for reasons not clear, Kagame ordered the arrest and jailing of Lt. Rose Kabuye, one of the most prominent female RPF guerrillas. She spent a year in the RPF jail.
Kabuye had left Uganda as a Lieutenant in the NRA at the time of the Oct. 1, 1990 invasion. She was one of the RPF officers involved in the preparations and discussions that became the Arusha II peace talks in 1993 in Arusha, Tanzania.
One part of the RPF prison was called the “university”, for those prisoners condemned to die. Kabuye was in the prison designated for senior RPF officers.
Kabuye, during her detention, told her guards that during the Arusha peace talks with Habyarimana’s government she personally pushed for the RPF to be given the Ministry of Internal Affairs even if it did not get any other ministry.
The RPF felt that the Interior ministry controlled all the vital grassroots local government institutions they needed to reach the common people.
She handled logistical and administrative work in Mbarara for the RPA during the first weeks of the October 1990 invasion.
Kabuye, while in prison, said that one of the strategic plans of the exiled Tutsis after 1959 was to select beautiful girls to marry rich Ugandans. Then once they got children, the Tutsi women would discreetly poison their Ugandan husbands and inherit the money and property.
Some of the money was to be used to educate the young refugees in camps in Uganda. That is why, said Kabuye to her guards, most beautiful Tutsi women in Uganda are almost all widows.
RPF takeover and Paul Kagame’s reign of terror
The RPF guerrillas took power in Kigali in July 1994 in an assault on the capital led by Col. William Bagire and the field operation commanded by Lt. Col. Stephen Ndugute. Ndugute had been a Marine in the 1970s Uganda Army of President Idi Amin.
Kagame was named Vice President and Chairman of the RPA High Command. Dr. Emmanuel Ndahiro, who today is director of Rwandan state security, the National Security Service, was the spokesman of Maj. Gen. Kagame.
In the parts of Rwanda that the RPF rebels controlled in 1992 to 1993, massacres of Hutu civilians were widely known but little reported in the major western news media. A man called Rubulika Kayongo was the Mayor of Kyaruhogo; he and a Colonel Twahirwa Dodo coordinated these killings with hoes in the area. Kagame selected them to coordinate the massacres because of their ruthlessness.
Massacres of Hutu and seizure of their land continued after the RPF took power. At an army barracks at Karangazi, Hutus killed were concealed in a pit in the barracks covered by wooden boards. The barracks is located in the middle of a wooded and forested area.
As vice president and Minister of Defence, Kagame used to visit the Karangazi army barracks and he knew about the massacre of the Hutu there.
According to Maj. Furuma Alphonse, a former officer of RPF, in an open letter to President Kagame, “From the time Arusha Peace Agreement was being negotiated up to as late as 1996, you [Kagame] carried out a deliberate policy of using all means possible to reduce the Hutu population in the Umutara, Kibungo and Bugesera regions”.
These Hutu areas were deliberately resettled by Tutsi returnees from Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi respectively. Families of many top RPF leaders are among those who were resettled here.
In 1995, Sixbert Musangamfura, a former director of Rwanda’s intelligence services, issued a statement to the press in Nairobi, Kenya saying he had information on the killings of 312,726 Hutu who were then buried in over 300 graves.
Theoneste Majoro Lizinde, a Hutu who joined the RPA about a year before they took power, became the Commandant of the RPA’s General Headquarters. It was he who actually planned the RPA war in detail in its final phase.
After the RPF formed a government, he was part of the army but later fled to Nairobi after falling out with the government.
A sergeant called Jean Pierre of the RPA’s Directorate of Military Intelligence was dispatched by the Director of the RPA’s Military Intelligence, Lt. Col. Jackson Rwahama, to search for Lizinde in Nairobi.
Jean Pierre was a Rwandan Tutsi who had grown up in Mushiha in Burundi. Lizinde was then gunned down in Nairobi by Jean Pierre and other Kagame’s agents.
A Hutu and former Interior Minister under the RPF, Seth Sedashonga, at that time in exile in Nairobi and who also was to be gunned down on Kagame’s orders, told the British newspaper the Sunday Express whom he thought could have killed Lizinde.
“There is no doubt who sent the assassins. A Rwandan diplomat was arrested nearby, carrying a pistol. So why should Protector Kagame want to kill his former colleagues in the rebel movement and in government? “Because I and Sixbert know too much. We know there is a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing. We know they are attempting social engineering on a vast, murderous scale. Why? First, to instill terror. Then to even up the population figures. Look at the Rwandan equation: how can a minority tribe of 1+ million govern a country dominated by a tribe of enemies who outnumber them three to one?” He pauses, and looks back at their lists that litter the table and patio. They want to make it Hutus 50 per cent, Tutsi 50 per cent. But to do that they will have to kill a lot of Hutus.” (Sunday Express, April 21, 1996)
Sixbert Musangamfura added: “When I was in charge of civilian intelligence I started to make a list. I had a network of informers, and soon saw that something bad was going on. By the time I left in August 1995, we had the confirmed names, dates and methods of killing of 100,000 people. But the killing still went on after I fled, and we are investigating the fates of another 200,000 people.” (Sunday Express, April 21, 1996)
In one of its March 1999 editions, the French newspaper Libération described the disappearance of Collège St André in Kigali. Libération disclosed that more than 100,000 Hutu had been burnt in crematorium created by the RPF in Mutara. SOS Rwanda-Burundi was the first to compile a list of criminals of the RPF.
There have been many more reports of Kagame’s atrocities going back into the 1980s and 1990s, including the Kibeho Hutu refugee camp in 1995 to the gunning down or disappearance without a trace of many Tutsi RPF army officers, to the gunning down of journalists and the recent attempt to murder Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa.
8,000 Hutus were massacred by the RPF in the Kibeho camp in southwest of Rwanda in April 1995. The Shariat newspaper, reporting on the gruesome massacre of Hutus in 1995, said:
“Before RPF attacked Rwanda, there was no time in the history of that country when any government ever surrounded defenceless civilians there and bombed dead 8,000 of them as RPF recently did at Kibeho camp in south western Rwanda…”