Untold provocations against RPA soldiers in CND

By Esther Muhozi
On 16 January 2024 at 02:39

The gallantry of RPA soldiers, celebrated for their pivotal role in rescuing the Tutsis and their unwavering commitment to liberating the country, is a narrative that echoes through history. However, amidst their heroic exploits, a lesser-known chapter unfolds – one marked by provocative actions orchestrated by the army of the then government led by Habyarimana Juvenal.

Within the four months at CND, these forces faced relentless attacks, particularly while transporting essential equipment from Mulindi. One harrowing incident unfolded in Gatsata, where RPA soldiers were ambushed from two directions, forcing them to abandon their vehicle and engage in trench warfare. Tragically, one RPA soldier lost his life, but timely intervention from CND allies drove the attackers away.

Another provocation occurred on January 5, 1994, during the celebration of female members of the Transitional Government. Prior to President Habyarimana’s arrival, his scattered bodyguards, attempted to assert security control. However, their efforts were thwarted as the Inkotanyi had also established a base, sparking a brief but intense conflict that ceased instantly.

In the ensuing months, provocations escalated, as confirmed by Sheikh Abdul Karim Harerimana, a prominent RPF Inkotanyi politician who resided in CND. In an exclusive interview with IGIHE, Amb. Sheikh Harerimana recounted a critical incident involving Habyarimana’s military plane flying over CND at a low altitude. It was only through Paul Kagame’s decisive leadership that a message was issued to shoot down the plane.

Sheikh Harerimana detailed the event, stating, "They sent a military aircraft, not for combat, but for routine military transportation. It flew over CND, disturbing our peace. After consultations, a message was sent – if it returned for the fourth time, it might not make it back. The plane heeded the warning and did not return."

The provocations extended beyond government forces, with members of the CDR party, notorious for violence, also antagonizing the RPA and setting up barriers for its representatives. During negotiations between the RPF Inkotanyi and Juvénal Habyarimana’s regime, Lieutenant General (Rtd) Karenzi Karake, holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the time, represented the RPA in the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUAR.

Amb. Harelimana revealed that CDR activists disrupted peace in Kigali during negotiations, engaging in protests, violence, road blockades, and even vandalizing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office.

Sheikh Harelimana described the activists’ escalation to attacking CND and attempting to block local roads, demonstrating their audacity and defiance. The provocation of CDR members against Karenzi Karake occurred as he left to visit the Third Battalion in the CND, resulting in roadblocks that prevented the MINUAR meeting at Lando’s place.

"At that time, MINUAR had a meeting supposed to be held at Lando’s place, and they said to each other, ’no, the meeting will not take place because the CDR has closed the roads’," explained Sheikh Harelimana. The incident coincided with Lieutenant Colonel Karenzi Karake’s presence in MINUAR, representing the RPF-RPA. Despite roadblocks, Karake persevered, ensuring the meeting took place.

Wearing the MINUAR uniform, Karake proceeded to Chez Lando but encountered a barrier where CDR activists stopped him. Describing the tense moment, Sheikh Harelimana said, "The bullet was released. Of course, our soldiers started shooting. At the CND where we were ready, the boys started firing."

Sheikh Harelimana underscored that RPA soldiers not only faced challenges from the CDR but also encountered government soldiers hiding in Gishushu. Despite the intensity of the conflict, the resilience and strategic prowess of RPA soldiers prevailed, ensuring the safe return of Karenzi Karake and his accompanying troops to CND.

In the tapestry of untold provocations faced by RPA soldiers at CND, these episodes exemplify their unwavering dedication to peace and liberation, navigating complex challenges with valor and determination.

The provocations extended beyond government forces, with members of the CDR party, notorious for violence, also antagonizing the RPA and setting up barriers for its representatives.