Friends of evil (Chapter 1): Refugees’ Camps under the Military

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Book
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The pre-genocide government army (FAR) were very instrumental in the planning and execution of the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda. Apart from preparing the killing machinery before the death of president Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, it was the army which instated the “interim government” that would supervise the genocide. Judging from the range of testimonies by the survivors, witnesses and perpetrators of this odious crime, every major massacre of Tutsis was committed with the involvement of the military, since they were the ones to provide arms and supervise their use. After the defeat of their government, as will be shown in this chapter, the military remained in charge of the political landscape across the borders in Zaire.

On September 29, 1994, Major-General Augustin Bizimungu sent to Bukavu a “Highly Confidential” meeting report to “His Excellency the President of the Republic of Rwanda (Theodore Sindikubwabo) and “The Honourable Prime Minister” (Jean Kambanda). The report was about a seven day meeting of senior officers in the Rwandan Armed Forces High Command, held in Goma from on September 2-8, 1994.[1]

The content of this report, demonstrates clearly that the origin and the actual foundation of the now quite wide-spread Rwandan genocide ideology, genocide denial, and double genocide theories is to be found within the circles of the army High Command. What was planned, before April 1994 and in September 1994, is very apparent today.

In this retreat, with a view to achieving return to Rwanda, the RAF “delved into the analysis of the reasons for their defeat so as to propose strategies for a political or military solution to the Rwandan problem”[2].  The first reason given was a “lack of a common political and military perspective in operational plans.” They said the conduct of operations was often influenced by politicians, rather than the army. That was the reason why they were determined not to make the same mistakes again. The RAF decided they would firmly control the political- military organization that would become the RDR.

The high command decried “naive faith in the Arusha Peace Accords,” which they said were a creation of “RPF henchmen, and half-heartedness in the implementation of the said Accords which led to the acceptance of the RPF in Kigali without control.”[3]

In the document the FAR blamed almost everybody, starting with what they termed as ‘UNAMIR’s complicity with RPF’, the ‘involvement of foreign countries in the conflict: Uganda, Belgium, USA, Burundi and Tanzania’, ‘the sudden change of mind on the part of France, which was their main and only sure military partner’ and ‘UN’s military and diplomatic embargo against Rwanda followed by a misdirection of unofficial supply channels to avoid the embargo.’

They admitted having internal problems including poor organization, a lack of personnel and lack of leadership. “Lack of a national defence policy and lack of structures that are suited to all the echelons of command led to inefficiency in the conduct of the operations.” (…) “The ideological training of our men was not guaranteed despite internal political contradictions.”  There were logistical problems including “a glaring shortage of senior staff at all levels…it was NOT possible to have soldiers with adequate qualifications for the posts of command and execution” and a “lack of reserves linked to the planning of recruitment…it was not possible to move from the temporary defensive state to offensive operations.” Another thing was “Weakness of some senior officers and loss of the Rwandan Armed Forces leaders on 6 April 1994, which caused some hesitation in decision-making and a succession struggle, while RPF continued to benefit from the initiative.” And, “Erosion of discipline at all levels without a corresponding system of sanctions.”

Finally, the RAF again blamed their internal division on an external force, claiming there was a “presence of RPF allies within the Government and the Rwandan Armed Forces.”[4]

 

Road map

Opening the meeting, the chairman, Gen. Bizimungu, said the army had entered Zairian territory with all the country’s institutions. He said the purpose of their meeting was “to assess the political and military situation in order to reflect on how to identify and explain the root causes of our present situation and to devise a common strategy on how to resolve the problems facing our soldiers in particular and the people of Rwanda in general.” Indeed this meeting was to change the course of events.

Bizimungu said it was a “must” to do some “serious self-evaluation and a thorough analysis of the situation as a whole so as to use the lessons learned in future undertakings.”  One thing he felt was obvious was   that “the people and the Army felt “humiliated” by the situation and were “flagrant in the eyes of the foreigners”. The army, he said, faced several difficulties: the lack of housing, food, and medicine well as dispersal of military rank and file and decision-makers. The RAF’s Chief said the Armed Forces were “no longer functioning.” Explaining this, he said the officers and other officials in the administration acted more as individuals and not collectively.

Among other things, he said, there was a problem of “the embargo imposed on our country; domestic politics and regionalism; the RPF army made up of Ugandan Army elements with the support of its sponsors; the international community’s poor understanding of the Rwandan problem; the complicity of UNAMIR and that of other powers, etc…”

There was a need to have “operatives in Rwanda” and to provide the military personnel in refugee camps with training and ideology. Priority was to be given to maintaining the forces which would be brought together before the implementation of the entire plan. He said it was “a must to put in place a political-military organization on three fronts: the political front, the military front, and the economic and financial front.

Taking the lead

The military brass was in total agreement that the current Government in exile was a ‘government in name only… NO LONGER operational and is now totally ignored by the international community.’  They claimed the only thing the brass had left, was “the confidence the refugee population has in it”.

Without mincing words, Bizimungu said in his opening speech that: “some think that the current government is no longer up to the task and that it must be replaced by a political-military committee capable of voicing the concerns of the Rwandan refugees to the international community.”

Meanwhile, he emphasized, “the entire population had built its hopes” on the Rwandan Armed Forces; and therefore it must be united and organized.  He underscored that the army needed to be “reorganized swiftly to enable it to participate in guiding the population and gain the confidence of the Rwandan civilians who took refuge in Zaire and elsewhere recently.”

In the opinion of the FAR, their existing government suffered from two major handicaps: being discredited on the world stage, and being contested by the RPF. It also had difficulty in choosing its members, possibly due to strife between parties. The military proposed a reshuffle in the government, with fewer ministers, and more flexibility in reflecting on and addressing the problems facing the refugees and setting short-term objectives for the ultimate purpose of returning to Rwanda.

This new government, they suggested, would serve as a deterrent vis-à-vis the RPF, which was considered an adversary to be reckoned with. A new government within the spirit of the ARUSHA ACCORDS would also address the question of “NEGOTATIONS WITH THE RPF” and devise other ways to return to Rwanda, should the negotiations with the RPF not take place or end in failure.  The FAR even proposed the ministries to be established and the way they could be shared: Foreign affairs and cooperation (MDR); Social affairs (MRND); Information and propaganda (MDR); Defence and Security (FAR); Economy and finance (PSD) Judicial affairs (PL) Road works and national assets (PL); and Mobilization and Youth (MRND).

In line with the decisions of the army, a new “government” was announced on October 30, 1994, composed of the following members:

President: Dr. Théodore SINDIKUBWABO

Prime Minister: Jean KAMBANDA

Ministers were:

–        Justice- Stanislas MBONAMPEKA (PL, Hutu, Ruhengeri);

–        Mobilization and Youth Affairs- Frédéric KAYOGORA (MRND,  Hutu, Gisenyi);

–        Social and refugee affairs-Callixte KALIMANZIRA (MRND, Hutu, Butare);

–        Information-Joseph KARINGANIRE (MDR, Hutu, Kibungo);

–        Foreign Affairs and Cooperation- Jérôme BICAMUMPAKA (MDR, Hutu, Ruhengeri);

–        Defence Colonel (retired)- Athanase GASAKE (Hutu, Ruhengeri); and

–        Patrimony and Logistics- Innocent HABAMENSHI (MDR, Hutu, Ruhengeri).

This new government was tasked by the military to follow closely the RPF’s policies in Rwanda as well as the political situation in Zaire and elsewhere in the world, and to make contacts with persons capable of influencing international opinion in their favour. The “government” was required to embark on a tangible and vigorous action “to raise people’s awareness and urge them to stick together and support one another should a negotiated solution fail, and ensure …unconditional and reckless return.”[5]

If this new government were NOT up to the expectations of the population and Armed Forces, a new political-military organization would be put in place, and its structure would be prepared and proposed by the FAR. This organization would be headed by a committee comprising of seven members: three soldiers and four civilians.[6]

The FAR high command believed that such an organisation would have the possibility of being recognized by the international community; would be more efficient as it would be composed of committed volunteers; and that the RPF would certainly accept it for negotiations. The envisaged disadvantages of this politico-military organisation were the time it would take to make itself recognized by both the population and the external world, lack of basic means to be operational and vulnerability due to internal conflicts especially within the political parties.[7]

 

 

Strategic decisions

The genocide which had been committed by the government they had created and by the army which the led, determined the military leadership’s plans in exile. The war which the FAR High Command was set to continue waging, against the RPF was not only a war on the battlefield, but also one of international acceptance. This meant winning the favour of NGO’s, the media and other figures who would who had influential audience. The FAR High Command felt cornered by a dirty past which was not easy to leave behind. But, they had plenty of ideas on how this might be achieved. And they proceeded to plan and implement them.

 

 

  1. Accusing the RPF

The FAR High Command’s preferred method to cleanse their bloody hands and minds was to heap blame on their sworn enemy, the RPF, and to assume the role of being victims of an international conspiracy.

This conclusion reached, it was deemed “necessary to inform the international community about the acts of violence committed by the RPF against the Rwandan people throughout the current war.”[8] Therefore, they argued that, “since its attack on October 1, 1990, (the) RPF exasperated the Rwandan people with its atrocious acts of violence, the April 6, 1994 attack (against Habyarimana’s plane) being only the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Their approach was based on the claimed premise that the media and virtually the entire international community was “behaving as if the Rwandan tragedy started after 6 April 1994.”  From their standpoint, the world had “fallen into the trap set up by RPF” which made the innocent RTLM and Interahamwe into scapegoats.[9] The FAR therefore prepared its own dossier to combat recognition of the Rwandan Genocide, based on their distorted presentation of history.

The FAR accused the RPF of attacks against civilian targets, attacking public places, places of worship, and displaced persons camps, massacring civilians by gathering a number of people together in houses and then burning them by throwing grenades; all kinds of tortures and mutilations; murder of administrative, political and religious authorities; destruction of public infrastructures; and terrorism[10].

A decision was made to have a compendium compiled from SITREPS (situation reports) of the FAR between 1990 and 1994, contacts with the refugees, newspapers; documents from NGOs, religious denominations and other organizations and associations, and many other sources.[11]

  1. 2.      Military reorganization and the Interahamwe factor

The FAR’s strategic objectives in the fall of 1994 required reorganization. They admitted a disorderly situation, decrying “acts of lawlessness and barbarity against the Zairian people.” The FAR were also accused of engaging in acts of murder, but approached this not in terms of crimes to be punished, but in terms of bad publicity for their cause.

The FAR had to recruit and train new soldiers. The Interahamwe was the obvious pool for recruits.  The FAR leadership were in agreement that they encountered many problems in the supervision of the Interahamwe and all civil defence recruits, with serious incidents reported every day. The main reason, the report said, was inadequate training for the militia, and the lack of a code of ethics for the military. Two solutions were proposed: Maintain the Interahamwe, and provide them with sound basic training on army life according to the Rules of discipline, or direct them to civilian sites.

The FAR’s leadership recognised, however, that “simply directing the recruits and Interahamwe to civilian camps might create a climate of serious insecurity in the refugee camps,” and that “the enemy” would take advantage of this to “spoil the reputation of the Rwandan Armed Forces.” Knowing the Interahamwes’ contribution during the genocide, they agreed that they “must keep and take care of them as recruits because they did their best to help the Rwandan Armed Forces.” It was also thought it to be an appropriate solution considering the high number of Interahamwe.[12]

The FAR aimed to train their troops and equip them with “infiltration and destruction” techniques.  One of the RAFs priorities was the creation of pockets of resistance within Rwanda, and if possible in all the countries of the world where Rwandans may be living, as well as the identification and disruption of pro-RPF services and activities.[13]

 

  1. The Ideology and Army

As noted above, the FAR asserted that their main strength at that time was the “solidarity between the Army, the population and the Rwandan civil society.”  They also believed that “a part of the Kivu population supports the Hutu cause” and that, “the situation developing in Burundi could be favourable” to them.  Another positive feature, for the “army and the population,” was the possession of “basic technical tools to fight,” with an added advantage of “camping near the border even if such proximity exposes the population and FAR to possible raids by the Inkotanyi.”[14]

The refugee camp leaders were required by the FAR to improve “ideological training of refugees” and psychological preparation of the refugees, by informing them about the stages they must go through before they can return to Rwanda in maximum security. Another strategy was to ‘raise public awareness among the refugees about the “insecurity in Rwanda and the RPF’s ploys” and to request the refugees “NOT TO take the risk of returning to Rwanda WITHOUT being guaranteed security.” Training and operations were to involve refugees in Tanzania “for actions in the eastern part of the country.”[15]

The ‘problem of regionalism’ had been listed as one of reasons for the FAR’s defeat in Rwanda—a problem which existed under the regimes of both Kayibanda and Habyarimana. With the resumption of the war in April 1994, the report alleges, the “Rwandan people” realized the need to unite in dealing with a “common enemy”, i.e. the Tutsi. This is how regionalism could be checked in favour of “national unity”. Unfortunately, they said, such awareness came too late and did not prevent “the tragedy” which culminated in the exile of the “Rwandan people”[16].

The agreed strategy was to create this solidarity by any means necessary. “We must infiltrate people into the various organizations to make them support our cause, although we must first have an ideology to be defended and disseminated”[17].

The FAR High Command specified that the ideology to be inculcated in the population would be prepared by the Mobilization ministry, based on existing documents, including the one already prepared by the Ministry of Defence with key ideological elements for the soldiers and the Rwandan population. The FAR also took up the duty to “multiply document(s) and organize seminars for officers and non-commissioned officers who will communicate the message to other soldiers.” With regard to education on what they christened “patriotism and nationalism”, they said they “must identify able and experienced experts” to carry out this duty. Indeed, the FAR leadership and the intellectuals in their service, started the project of rewriting Rwanda’s history.

 

 

  1. Diplomatic relations

The FAR leadership were aware that the government in exile had not yet received from the Zairian authorities the political asylum it had requested.  Nevertheless, they believed this problem could not prevent them from ‘reorganizing’ themselves so as to make their voices heard by the international community “without waiting for Zaire to react, as they have their own set of problems.”[18]

A committee to prepare a dossier for possible negotiations with the RPF was set up. The initial debate was whether the negotiations were to be held “with the RPF or with the Kigali government”.  They deemed it ‘appropriate to talk of negotiations with the RPF, which is in power in Kigali, as only a handful of countries has recognized the Kigali Government.’ With resolve they concluded that “the principle of negotiations DOES NOT rule out military actions, aimed at either forcing the negotiations or having more clout during the negotiations.”

The FAR leadership, after their military failures, felt completely dependent on outside support. Their most important lines of attack were therefore to conduct a media and diplomatic campaign to raise the awareness of the international community regarding acts of violence allegedly committed by the RPF, currently or in the past; raise funds; make contacts in political circles in France, Belgium and Zaire to make them aware of their cause; and to convince international public opinion that the implementation of the Arusha accords was necessary for power sharing and creation of a “real national army.”[19]

Relations with Zaire also had to be cultivated, since without Zaire’s tolerance of the FAR to stay in their territory to train and organize themselves, there was no chance of their survival.  Burundi, seething with ethnic tension, also was a potential source of support for the FAR. Documents exist which show the FAR was in contact with PALIPEHUTU and FRODEBU to determine if there was a way for them to cooperate and undertake joint actions.[20]

English-speaking East Africa was not ignored.  Opponents of Yoweri Museveni of Uganda were to be contacted, and the Rwandan refugee population within Tanzania was tasked to “infiltrate the political and administrative apparatus”.[21]

 

 

  1. 5.      Tactical deployments: Intellectuals, the clergy and journalists

The principle aim was to “destabilize the RPF in order to pressure them into accepting negotiations.” In order to facilitate the success of the anticipated organization, the FAR decided that it “must infiltrate people into the various organizations” to make them support their cause. although they “must first have an ideology to be defended and disseminated.”[22] The most dependable in this respect appeared to be intellectuals, the clergy and journalists.

a)      Intellectuals

The FAR leadership ordered military officials to appeal to Rwandan intellectuals “to help the political and administrative officials in raising the refugees’ awareness and guiding them; to take initiatives aimed at creating focus groups on patriotism and return to our country; to approach foreign organizations, inform them about our cause, and request them to provide assistance to the population; to tell the truth about the Rwandan problem.”  The FAR decided that “Rwandan intellectuals must apply for employment at the international level and interface with foreigners.”[23]

They also saw a need to “try to penetrate western political circles, especially in traditionally friendly countries (Belgium, France, and Germany) in order to interest them further in their cause.” To this end, the Government was tasked to intensify diplomatic activity especially during the period of “electoral campaigns in some European countries.”  This was done through newly appointed intellectual figures and interlocutors, as will be discussed elsewhere in this book.

 

b)     The clergy

The FAR leadership sought not only to renew ties with political figures abroad, but religious ones as well. They believed that clergymen considered theirs, would be credible for the cause. They were not only men of the cloth, but they were also seen as above politics, and were ‘in the field’ and thus could testify effectively on behalf of the previous regime and its followers.

Special attention was paid to Catholic chaplains who were “to prepare a memorandum on how the Catholic Church evolved in Rwanda,” highlighting its political influence. This was seen of such importance that ‘the Ministry of External Relations and Cooperation should facilitate travel for (our) clergy abroad so as to enable them to promote (our) cause.’ The role of the clergy in FAR politics will be discussed further in the section focussed on churches.

The FAR leadership emphasised that “military chaplains and commanders must work with members of the clergy who are mindful of (our) cause…and urge them to seek the assistance of the religious community to the Rwandan refugees… (they) must be urged to visit churches all over the world to seek the assistance of Christian refugees.”[24] As for the clergy engaged with the Rwandans in Zaire and in other places, the “members of religious orders must get involved in teaching moral standards to members of the public and soldiers.”

Finally, echoing the claim of ‘double genocide’, the FAR wrote that “RPF does not enjoy the trust of the people because it took power by force after massacring Hutu populations and leaving the Catholic Church without leaders.”[25]

c)      Journalists

In concluding their strategy document, the FAR leadership writes that they should: “Encourage by all means the placing of our journalists in media houses, who would be useful to us and establish links of correspondence with them.”[26]

During their discussions the FAR leadership had specified that Rwandans were to be sent to media houses “establishing correspondence links with foreign radios’ and to ‘contact our journalists to write articles to be proposed to newspapers and magazines which can promote our cause.” They sought to “boost the initiative to optimize the personal relations forged by our journalists with foreign newspapers in order to interest them in our cause’ and by ‘posting our journalists to favourable media houses, either by ourselves or through intermediaries, and correspondences with foreign radios.”[27]

The FAR leadership complained that the de facto media embargo imposed on them by the international community benefited the RPF.  Aware of the power of the media, Gen. Bizimungu said it was a weapon which should be handled cautiously and with clear-sightedness. He described it as a “double-edged sword” which could help them to transmit their message “in order to influence public opinion” in their favour, but which could also disclose secrets, distort the message, and spoil their reputation. The ultimate goal of their overall message was to “pressure the RPF into accepting to negotiate”.  It is for this reason that it was emphatically stated that ‘ONLY the high command can designate an organization or person to deal with the press on behalf of the FAR.[28]

These would necessarily be “new people, who were not involved in earlier dossiers, people who are NOT compromised in the eyes of the international community, and who are mature enough to adopt good, wise positions in such a delicate situation.” The “dossiers” referred to here had to do with the genocide, as will be seen later in discussing the choice of leaders of the politico-military organization.

The media was also relevant to the lives of Rwandans in Zaire, and the FAR leadership planned to produce and control the media, just as the army and government had done in the early nineties. One of the first steps on the ground was to fund a FAR printing house, an operation that the Committee viewed as a priority.[29]  Its raison d’etre was to facilitate the creation, within the region, of newspapers that support “our cause,” particularly by giving them printing facilities free of charge.

The radio was also viewed as an asset to unify military units between Bukavu and Goma and with the public at large. The FAR wished to make use of materials from former Radio Rwanda and RTLM, and were to make “contacts…with Zairean personalities”, who are willing to use such material on private radio stations to further their cause. The possibility of starting a regional radio for North Kivu was also to be explored. It was decided to “resume contacts with media houses” with which they had signed contracts “in order to make our cause known to the outside world.”[30]

The FAR leadership noted that it had already established ties with foreign press, radio and television, particularly in Francophone Africa including Zairian newspapers, Afrique No.1 of Gabon, Canal Afrique[31] in South Africa, Jeune Afrique[32] and several media in Kenya.


[1] Prosecution Exhibit No P457B tendered in court on12 December 2006, in case No ICTR-98-41-T.The original text which is in French was a 49 page document (plus source). I used the English text, as a translated version by the ICTR. With court references WS06-339  (E) KO04-1476-K004-152

[2] K0370577

[3] K0370600

[4] K0370600

[5] K0370578

[6] K0370578

[7] K0370579

[8] K0370594

[9] K0370594

[10] K0370595

[11] K0370594

[12] K0370590

[13] K0370595-6

[14] K0370601

[15] K0370601

[16] K0370581

[17] K0370598

[18] K0370582

[19] K0370601

[20]K0370580

[21] K0370580

[22] K0370597

[23] K0370579

[24] K0370579

[25] K0370595

[26] K0370613

[27]K0370593

[28] K0370593

[29] K0370593

[30] K0370593

[31] This Radio recruited former Radio Rwanda broadcaster Abdallah Nzabonimpa who was known for his anti-Tutsi extremism. He has never returned to Rwanda since 1994.

[32] This magazine had as a journalist Esperance Mutwe Karwera, who for a long time represented it in West Africa, and was based in Dakar, Senegal. She was the MRND’s director of Propaganda and the managing editor of a hate paper called UMURWANASHYAKA which was a hub of journalists who would later all join another paper called INTERAHAMWE and Radio RTLM. Her husband Balthazar Mutwe is one of the founding members of CDR. Karwera  is a founding member and contributor to RTLM. She has never been to Rwanda since 1994.

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