Rwanda Defence Forces under Kagame’s siegeLike any other dictators around the world, President Kagame has for long held hostage the Rwanda Defence Forces that some wonder why it should still be called RDF when it is serving Kagame’s interests and not national interest.
Just like the Egyptian former President Hosni Mubarak used to divert aid given to train the country’s armed forces to his personal benefits, President Kagame of Rwanda has gone to the extent of treating RDF officers as his personal servants working under threat like they are held hostage.
While Kagame is known for urging Rwandans to have self-respect and upholding individual values, “kwiha agaciro”, those close to the army wonder if Rwandan soldiers possess any individual values in Rwanda or before their commander-in-Chief.
To manipulate the army, Kagame made sure that the strong-willed officers those he could not easily take advantage of like Lt. col Nyamurangwa , Col Dodo Twahirwa, Col Musitu, Gen Kaka among others were pushed aside, made poor to the extent that they had to plead for his mercy and begged for jobs.
Other senior officers were ordered to vacate government houses and take care of their accommodation.
While going independent was not a bad idea for many, it was impossible given the soldier’s salary especially between 1998 and 1999 where many RDF colonels were renting in slums after Kagame forced them to evacuate the houses they had found abandoned after the war.
Only those loyal to him like Gen. Jack Nziza, Col. Dr. Ndahiro and Gen Kabarebe were allowed to keep their houses.
Kagame barred the officers from doing any profit making business and those who tried to do business through their wives were punished for it. There are many examples of such soldiers who were punished for doing business against the president’s order but due to their security, their names will not be published.
Such soldiers were abused, beaten up like criminals while others were left jobless. With such harassment of his soldiers where does Kagame get the moral authority to talk about people’s integrity, values and respect when he does not respect any one.
How does he expect someone to have self-respect when he has been stripped of his esteem?
Information reaching our desk shows that Kagame has got another way of punishing his soldiers before their spouses. He summons a couple and embarrasses a senior officer before his wife.
But to find peace with him, such officers have kept quiet and went on with their business as the only way to keep their jobs and avoid more harassment with severe punishment facing some officers like Col. Nyamurangwa, Col Dodo, abducted and assassinated Maj Ruzindana among others who have suffered Kagame’s iron fist in the army.
It is worse when one considers how the disabled officers are treated. Their story is long and disheartening that we cannot tell it here.
However even those still serving in the army are not happy with the way they are living, those our reporter spoke to are worried that they may end up useless and helpless like their comrades who were injured in the battle fields.
Resources that would help the disabled soldiers have all been diverted into Kagame’s personal benefits like buying of an airliner, owning of several structures within and outside the country.
Though soldiers are used to getting undeserving pay, they had been receiving food rations inform of maize flour, sugar, cooking oil, and beans but the ration has been scrapped since 2001.
While Kagame and those close to him live luxuriously in places like Kiyovu, Nyarutarama, and Kibagabaga, soldiers in what used to be barracks are crying foul over the bad conditions in which they live.
Those who managed to rent houses outside the barracks are forced to walk long distances; others beg for lifts in privately owned vehicles or sometimes force drivers to help them reach their places of work.
Those who thought had chance to serve under the UN peace missions abroad have their alllowences cuts off without their consent as contribution towards Kagame’s initiatives like one cow project (Girinka) military academy among other unknown projects.
Officers who go for international missions have been subjected to mental torture arising from suspicions over having an extra eye spying on them. They say no one of the officers go without a spy by his side. They say this has been Kagame’s strategy to keep them divided not demand for professional changes that fight for the rights of the people. Kagame knows too well that soldiers can be instrumental in over throwing his dictatorial regime therefore sees keeping them divided as the best alternative
Those close to RDF say that all ranked officers are divided; those who try to work together are just covering up. They are always suspicious of one another, they have misunderstanding resulting from rumours that Kagame’s spies spread to disorganise them.
Those that spoke to our reporter accepted they have no values which is why they never do anything when civilians complain about things that do not go well in the country. They see the problems but do not command any respect in the public as compared to those in Tanzania, Kenya or even Uganda where soldiers are respected as important citizens with property and say in public debate.
Joseph , Kigali