Reshuffle in Rwanda: But Should We Really Care?

The announcement days ago that President Paul Kagame had sanctioned changes in the leadership of the country’s security services was received by many as good news.

Rwandese nationals across the  world and indeed other nationals who have been at the receiving end of the heavy handed former National Intelligence Security Service (NSS) chief, Col Dr. Emmanuel Ndahiro, could hardly hide their joy. Many took to internet forums and online publications to express their happiness.

To them, it must have somehow felt like justice was being served. And who can blame them. When you have been intimidated, tortured, maimed or harassed by a person as powerful as Dr. Ndahiro, any action that seeks to make him less popular can be easily confused as a remedy.

So there we had it. Maj. Gen Karenzi Karake, who last time we heard was being rounded up for misconduct, was now replacing the most powerful man in Rwanda today.

The good doctor (or Doctor Evil to some) was sent to the ministry of defence – what for? This we are yet to learn. Col. Tom Byabagamba, who previously headed the elite Presidential Guard Brigade and who not long ago was reported in local media to have fallen out with President Kagame before being sent on study leave, came back in as the chief of the newly created anti-terrorism unit. Yes, Kigali needs this unit, given the number of grenade attacks around the country in recent months!

And who else to complete a great gimmick. Col Dan Munyuza – who the online version of Umuvugizi – says he is the man whose voice is heard on the recorded telephone conversation between 3 Rwandese plotting the killing of Col. Patrick Karegeya in South Africa and “many more others”, was served as the pudding to what to me, has been a dodgy buffet of a reshuffle.

By appointing Col. Munyuza as head of foreign intelligence, the Commander in Chief was simply stating quite clearly that no matter the evidence (supposing he is proven to be the man on the phone in that telephone conversation on Umuvugizi),” the Butcher of Kigali” as some have since labelled him is still a close and trusted confidant of PK when it comes to foreign intelligence missions.

If we stop and pose for a second, it becomes clear that this was never a reshuffle as in the real meaning of the word but a change of guard. Reason I think people should not be too quick to celebrate.

Very few will have forgotten that not so long ago, the Rwandan government came on the radar of not one but two countries: (South Africa and the UK) as having sent hit squads to eliminate its perceived enemies resident in those said countries. If this was not embarrassing enough, the idea that the said missions – which were meant to be secret by the way- had not only gone wrong but also left enough clues linking them to Kigali should under normal circumstances, have warranted the arrest and questioning of those involved – or at worst, a resignation. But these are not normal circumstances, nor are we talking humanity here. People will say, hey do not be too judgemental, the case is being investigated in SA and until there is proof that these attempted killings were engineered or originated in Rwanda, the suspects remain free people. Really? Well why not, lets give them the benefit of the doubt. In a more democratic setting, such an accusation (and it is a big accusation) would have at least prompted an inquiry. It is or at least has been so damaging to the country and we can not allow a few bad apples to spoil the image of the nation. But who cares? Instead, we had a classic government denial and the dear Louise Mushikiwabo stating very clearly that the government of Rwanda does not threaten the lives of its citizens wherever they live. How I wish this was true.

Many will have thought that revelations in the numerous newspapers around the world that something strange and as sinister had been planned by the Rwandan Intelligence on citizens in foreign countries should have provided PK with enough ammunition to attack whoever was in charge. Never. In today’s Rwanda, the bespectacled Dr. is as powerful as his bespectacled Commander in Chief. Besides being cousins, the two share so much in common and unless you suffer from dementia, it would be naive to even begin to believe that this is a reshuffle that has any major effect as to the overall state policy. To those who have suggested that it signified PK’s lack of trust in his most trusted lieutenant, you better think again.

Exactly the very reason I think personally, that those celebrating should hold their guns. Because if this was not some gimmick, Dr. Ndahiro and his group should now be behind bars. Plotting the murder of, or sanctioning the elimination of Rwandan nationals wherever goes not only against the provisions of our Constitution but also is in breach of the duties and responsibilities of those holding public office. I do not remember anywhere in the oath that our public officials take before assuming office, where it is written that they pledge to engage in the elimination of fellow citizens. And don’t even begin talking about that nonsense called national security because that does not cut it.

Sending the Dr to the ministry of defence is another way of saying ” well as long as you do my biding, I will never forsake you”. But behind the politics of the recent reshuffle, we mustn’t forget the fact that some innocent Rwandans will have lost their lives and no one has the right to end another person’s life irrespective of political position. I say Rwandese deserve accountability and we must demand it now.

Remember in 1998, aware that the world was beginning to realise his war against the Hutus, the government (some will say Kagame) carried out a reshuffle appointing then Lt. Col Emmanuel Habyarimana the minister of state in charge of defence. Yes, in charge of defence (a post that has since disappeared and which honestly was as useless as anything but only aimed at cooling down tensions and part of an elaborate appeasement policy).

That was in 1998, and so much has happened since but if you asked me if that or the reshuffles that followed had any bearing on the betterment of the wrongs of the time, my answer is a clear no. Politics is a game and Paul Kagame is at centre court! He will be celebrating that his latest attempt to serve aces against an opponent (a world that was opening up and beginning to question his moral authority to lead given his aides’ dark history), seems to have worked. As for those celebrating the reshuffle as a good gesture or move towards sanity, I ask you to read between the lines.

There is more to fooling people than doing the right thing.


Author: ellyakanga

I am Eleneus Akanga. Welcome to my blog about my experience as a Rwandan journalist and all that comes with the trade in East Africa. It's been a great journey so far but very challenging at times. Join me, let's get cracking!

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