He was accused of killing Col Mayuya: Testimonies of Maj Havugwintore released from Ruhengeri Prison by Inkotanyi

On 21 June 2022 at 11:22

Releasing political prisoners from Ruhengeri is among successful operations conducted by RPA Inkotanyi soldiers in early days of the Liberation Struggle. Rtd Major Mathias Havugwintore is one of political prisoners released from the prison on 23rd January 1991 who gave us an account of what happened and circumstances under which he was arrested.

Mathias Havugwintore was born in former Commune Kayove in 1940 in the current Kayove Village, Nyakarera Cell of Ruhango Sector in Rutsiro District, Western Province.

He did primary studies in Murunda and pursued secondary studies at Nyundo Junior Seminary.

He had aspirations to become a priest but ended up becoming a senior military officer at the regime of former Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana.

Havugwintore joined the army in 1962 after graduating from Nyundo Junior Seminary in 1962.

Havugwintore served in different positions as a military commander in different provinces. He also worked in the then Ministry of Defence.

He had attended training in Europe at the same military school where former president Habyarimana studied.

Speaking to IGIHE, Havugwintore has revealed that he often met with Habyarimana to update him on security situation in areas under his command.

He served a forces commander in the prefectures of Cyangugu, Kibungo and Gisenyi.

His arrest

In 1988, Colonel Mayuya who served as the Commander of Kanombe Military Camp was shot dead by unidentified people. It is said that the man was betrayed by the then First Lady Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana who wanted to get dominance in the functioning of Akazu, a small elite group that orchestrated the Genocide against the Tutsi.

It was however announced that Col Mayuya was killed by Major Mathias Havugwintore in collaboration with Col Ndibwami and Lt Col Nkwiriyekubona.

The trio was immediately arrested and detained at Nyarugenge Prison commonly known as 1930. Havugwintore said that individuals prepared to provide testimonies used to visit the prison regularly to identify who they had to accuse ‘because they didn’t know us and had to provide false testimonies pinning us’.

Major Havugwintore revealed that individuals behind the death of Col Mayuya sanitize themselves by accusing the three suspects.

They falsified evidences and brought a manipulated sorcerer who testified that Major Havugwintore and co-accused consulted him to be sure if their intentions would be successful.

“Those who incarcerated us are the ones knowing the reality. We were astonished to be taken behind bars yet we were not aware of circumstances under which Mayuua died,” he said.

The suspects spent six months in Nyarugenge Prison. They were later transferred to different prisons separately. One stayed at the prison, another was taken to Muhanga Prison in Gitarama while Havugwintore was taken to Ruhengeri Prison (Musanze).

Havugwintore has explained that the Prosecution used to visit the prison where they destroyed their detention files regularly and replaced them with new ones to conceal information about the exact time spent in prison.

Havugwintore and co-accused spent three years in prison without anyone visiting them because it was considered a provisional detention pending further investigations.

Inkotanyi came to their rescue

In the wee hours of 23rd January 1991, inmates were about to wake up and go for bath.

At the time, Havugwintore revealed, they heard heavy gunfire and suspected that it could be an attack by Inkotanyi.

“We had heard rumours that Inkotanyi could plot an attack. Inmates were extremely overwhelmed with joy at the moment. Inkotanyi forced their way inside with gunfire to unlock padlocks because they didn’t have keys. They asked us to step out and return home,” he noted.

As inmates stepped out, some returned home while others went with Inkotanyi to help them during the liberation struggle.

“They told us that they were going to burn the prison and asked all of us to move out. However, they were lying because they never set it on fire. We told others that they burnt the facility,” he said.

The old man who was 51-year old at the time has disclosed that he did not follow Inkotanyi lest he would be remorseful for having betrayed colleagues detained in other prisons.

He also observed that returning home in Kayove would provide loopholes to definitely confirm him as the mastermind behind the death of Col Mayuya.

“Others returned home but I stayed there because I had not yet been tried. Where should I go? Only convicted inmates went back home. I could not do it yet co-accused colleagues were still in prison. One in Muhanga and another in Kigali. That would be stupidity as they would consider it among reasons proving that I am guilty,” observed Havugwintore.

He walked through Nyakinama to Vunga along with other inmates who did not want to return home where they spent the whole day in a bus that had to take them to another prison in Gitarama.

Major Havugwintore explained that the bus departed during the night lest Rwandans would suspect that the situation has worsened.

“They sheltered us in a chapel where we spend a night recounting what happened to other inmates. I met with my colleague Lt Col Nkwiriyekubona in the next morning,” said Major Havugwintore.

It is said that Habyarimana didn’t believe that Maj Havugwintore reported himself and sent his guards to the prison for confirmation.

“Habyarimana sent his guard at the prison to confirm if it was me. He did not however disclose the reason for his visit. He said that he wanted to check on me,” he noted.

Havugwintore spent nearly four months in Muhanga Prison. Relevant authorities continued to make a new file every month so that he would be considered an inmate in one-month of provisional detention yet he had spent three years in jail.

On 5th April 1991, court officials went to the prison for their release from Muhanga Prison. As they saw them arriving, Maj Havugwintore stayed inside because he was used to seeing them there to follow up their case on 6th every month.

Lt Col Nkwiriyekubona who stepped out to meet them was given a certificate of release and asked to inform his colleague.

“It was around 4:30. He met me in a chapel where I was seated praying. He told me that I declined to go out yet they came for our release. I run fast so that they could not leave without giving me the certificate. They mocked at me saying that I finally came. I replied that someone lied to me that you want to release me,” he said.

Maj Havugwintore who had been married on 1st January 1966, was released and went back home to stay with her wife and children.

During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Maj Havugwintore said that he fled along with neighbours.

He commended the leadership of Rwanda under the stewardship of Inkotanyi for having fast tracked national development.

“It is apparent that the country is moving fast along the development journey unlike the slow pace of the former regime. We had never dreamt seeing Rubavu-Rusizi road being constructed but it has been possible. There are many more infrastructures evidencing the country’s fast progress,” observed Maj Havugwintore.

Maj Havugwintore also urged the youth to remain vigilant and stand against whoever tends to distract them.

“Access to education has been made easy. Those unable to pursue formal education can attend vocational trainings; enroll in a driving school to become a driver or motorcyclist. There are many opportunities that the youth can tap into instead of dedicating their time to those distracting them,” he observed.

Rtd Maj Havugwintore spends part of his retirement life reading books including religious ones. One of co-accused lives in Europe while another one died.

He has disclosed that he never met them face to face after their release.

Maj Havugwintwari was among three suspects accused of killing Col Mayuya. He was among inmates released from Ruhengeri Prison by Inkotanyi.