Challenges in halting Genocide, how President Kagame reorganized the battle: Maj Gen Ruvusha’s detailed account

On 9 June 2024 at 10:38

Maj Gen Emmy Ruvusha, the Commander of the First Division of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) in Kigali, has recounted how President Paul Kagame shifted the strategy upon arriving at the battlefield after the death of Maj Gen Fred Rwigema and other RPA commanders. According to him, President Kagame prioritized saving civilians over seizing control of the country.

Maj Gen Ruvusha shared these insights on April 7, 2024, during the 30th commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi at IFAK, a private secondary school belonging to the Salesian Congregation in Kimihurura, Kigali City.

He explained that on the second day of the liberation struggle, Maj Gen Fred Gisa Rwigema, who was leading the RPA, was killed, followed by other commanders in the subsequent days. This left the RPA in a precarious position, with the government of Habyarimana and his extremists believing they had won the war, as President Kagame, who could take over, was then abroad pursuing his studies.

Maj Gen Ruvusha detailed how President Kagame "immediately halted everything he was doing abroad and returned to the battlefield," where he quickly changed the combat strategy. The situation was dire, and the government thought it had secured victory. Kagame’s priority was to revise the military strategy, withdrawing troops temporarily to regroup and plan anew.

"At that time, since the battle was becoming unfavorable and the government knew they were about to win, the priority was to change strategies. For the soldiers on the battlefield at that time, we had to retreat, for him to reorganize and plan new strategies,” he stated.

“Soldiers were hungry and exhausted because we had no ammunition, no guns without anyone to supply them. Besides, he gave orders to retreat from occupied areas so that we could rebuild anew," added Maj Gen Ruvusha.

He said that the years 1990 and 1991 were times of rebuilding during which the government in power thought they had won the battle. However, despite appearing to be calm, there were actions they undertook, including liberating the Ruhengeri prison.

In 1992, negotiations began, and it seemed they were going well. However, Maj Gen Ruvusha noted that what showed Habyarimana’s side did not want peace accords and was preparing for genocide was the killing of Tutsis in areas like Kibirira and Bugesera in 1993.

He revealed that the reason the RPA resumed fighting, even though negotiations were ongoing, was not because they didn’t want negotiations, but rather to show the existing government that they did not want the killings to continue.

He said Habyarimana and his accomplices had previously planned the genocide and were merely waiting for a trigger, which they found on April 6, 1994, when the plane was shot down, and the genocide immediately began throughout the country.

Maj Gen Ruvusha emphasized that President Paul Kagame, who was leading the fight, asked the RPA soldiers under his command to pay any price necessary to stop the killings, regardless of the challenges they could face.

As they started the struggle to stop the genocide, Maj Gen Ruvusha said, they encountered various obstacles, although these did not prevent them from continuing because they had ’a true and just cause to fight for’.

President Kagame sent troops to Kigali, but the goal was not to capture the city, rather to stop the killings. Additional troops were also sent across the country to stop the killings wherever they were happening.

“Among all those activities, there were challenges. Firstly, throughout the journey, from near the border spreading across the entire country, we had no helicopters to quickly transport soldiers to rescue people. We had no vehicles to move quickly to save people. The vehicles we had were our feet,” Maj Gen Ruvusha explained.

Another challenge was that the RPA forces were slightly over ten thousand, while the enemy forces had around fifty thousand. This was not an easy situation but Maj Gen Ruvusha highlighted that “where there is will, discipline, purpose, and truth, you can defeat even ten people without clear reason they are fighting for.”

During the fight, they were also searching for those who were being hunted and hiding to rescue them. In some places, they required extra time to ensure they did not leave anyone in the hands of the enemy, making the journey longer.

Maj Gen Ruvusha also decried the support of the United Nations to Interahamwe militia in fleeing and providing refuge in camps.

He praised the bravery of Rwandans, many of whom, despite being weak from fleeing and hiding, helped rescue others. Maj Gen Ruvusha also acknowledged those who, despite not being targeted, chose to protect those who were hunted and refrained from participating in the atrocities.