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, the same school which Museveni Yoweri Kaguta of Uganda attended. 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.
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 double agents of the UPC government of Milton Obote.
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.
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.
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 where upon Kagame took charge of the shattered force and reorganized 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 RPA 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 RPA 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 Land Cruiser 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, Maj. 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 disorganizing 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.”
RPF takeover and Paul Kagame’s Reign
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.
There have been many 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. According to the Wikipedia, 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 defenseless civilians there and bombed dead 8,000 of them as RPF recently did at Kibeho camp in south western Rwanda…”