Former Rwandan rebel leader is first Tutsi president

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Mon Apr 24 18:24:59 PDT 2000

Sunday 23 April 2000

Former Rwandan rebel leader is first Tutsi president KIGALI, Rwanda: Amid beating drums and applause, former rebel leader Paul Kagame took the oath as Rwanda's first Tutsi president Saturday and called on Rwandans to shun the ethnic divisions that have devastated the tiny central African nation. Tens of thousands of people witnessed Kagame being sworn in before Chief Justice Simeon Rwagasore in Amahoro Stadium, where six years earlier minority Tutsis had sought refuge from murderous Hutu mobs. "It is the first time in the history of Rwanda that a change ofpower had taken place without a bloodshed," Kagame said in Kinyarwanda, the national language. "Peace and security have been established in the whole country. More than 3 million Rwandan refugees have returned home. Rwanda will become a nation that every Rwandan will want to live in." Kagame's ascent to power mirrors the life of many Rwandan Tutsis. An estimated half million of them grew up in exile after being persecuted for their ethnicity at home, only to return as a victorious rebel force that stopped the 1994 genocide and defeated an extremist Hutu government. "Kagame is exactly what we need. Discipline and organization skills," said Andre Kimonyo, a 25-year-old student. Kagame made a passionate appeal to Rwandans in exile to return home and rebuild the nation, particularly those Hutu refugees still in neighboring Congo, where they fled in fear of reprisals for the 1994 genocide. But he warned that Rwandan troops will stay in Congo as long as those opposed to his government use it as a base to attack Rwanda. The presidents of Burundi, Tanzania and Zambia and other senior African officials were the first to congratulate Kagame. More than 500,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus died at the hands of former Hutu soldiers and militiamen during the 90 days of killings from April to July 1994 that were only stopped after Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front captured Kigali and formed a government of national unity. The 42-year old Kagame then handed the presidency to a Hutu and RPF member, Pasteur Bizimungu, largely to appease the Hutu majority and avoid the impression that the minority Tutsis were actually in charge. Kagame, a specialist in military intelligence who had undergone brief training at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., became vice president and minister of defense. Hutus and Tutsis from seven major parties participate in parliament and government, and the country is run under a power-sharing formula. But Kagame's RPF is the strongest political force in Rwanda, and critics often charge it does not tolerate opposition at home or criticism from abroad. Last month, Bizimungu resigned amid accusations of incompetence and squabbling with parliament and the RPF. Senior RPF officials insist the government is dedicated to democracy and national reconciliation - but in due time. In September, Rwanda will hold local elections - the second since the 1994 genocide - to elect leaders in more than 1,000 communes. Kagame's associates describe the president as a serious, ascetic leader who basks in the respect and loyalty of his troops and supporters. Married with four children, Kagame neither drinks nor smokes. He plays tennis whenever he can and is a soccer fan. Driven into exile in neighboring Uganda with his family at the age of 3, Kagame was among the first 27 men to join the National Resistance Movement that brought Yoweri Museveni to power in Uganda in 1986 after a five-year bush war.(AP) For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
For comments and feedback send Email © Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. 2000.

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list