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David Himbara: From Kagame’s Palace into Kagame’s Sight

He was very powerful in Rwanda: influential Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame, Chairman of the Human Resources and Institutional Capacity Development Agency (HIDA) of the Rwandan Government and the Head of Strategy and Policy in the President’s Office; Dr David Himbara, was the man behind the throne.
Then, in January 2010, David Himbara abruptly left Rwanda and exiled himself to South Africa.
Because his departure did not lead to a public outcry, few understood why and how he left. In South Africa were other powerful exiled Rwandan politicians like General Kayumba Nyamwasa, Colonel Karegeya, the magnate Tribert Rujugiro. He was a big fish joining more big fish and, yet, he remained under the radar.
His story is typical of that of the Rwandan intellectual and elite, who are forced to flee their countries and to either become wasted talents or sell their talents in foreign lands.
David Himbara’s story is intriguing. According to a Rwandan who knew him well, he was among the wave of Rwandan refugees of 1959. The famous Rwandan warlord, Aloys Ngurumbe, who led the 1961- 1968 failed Rwandan Tutsi rebellion, is his uncle. Aloys Ngurumbe was eventually captured by the post monarchy and independence Rwandan Hutu government in 1981 and held in jail until his release during the 1990-1994 Rwandan civil war. Raised in Kenya or Uganda, David Himbara pursued his college and graduate studies in Canada. In Canada, he met his current wife, Fazela Haniff. Fazela Haniff herself has an interesting story. Born in Guyana, South America, from parents of Indian or Pakistani descent, she grew up in Toronto, Canada where she met David Himbara, when both were students of political science and sociology.

After their studies, David Himbara and his wife emigrated to the United States and taught briefly at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana around 1989- 1993. Then, they emigrated to South Africa in 1994, where both David Himbara and Fazela Haniff became university lecturers at Witts University. After the Rwandan rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front(RPF) conquered power, David Himbara, as one of the descendent and relatives of the veteran Tutsi rebels, was among the first exiled elites to return to Rwanda and to ascend to power. He eventually became one of the closest confidents of the Rwandan dictator, General Paul Kagame.

Then, in 2009, he fell out with the powerful and the central piece of the ruling clan of Rwanda, the first lady of Rwanda, Ms Janet Kagame. According to sources close to the Rwandan first lady, her inner circle was worried that General Paul Kagame increasingly relied on David Himbara, who was his private secretary and advisor. Janet Kagame’s entourage feared that General Paul Kagame will trust and listen more to David Himbara, a moderate intellectual and technocrat, than to the fist lady’s clique. The entourage concocted the plot against Dr. David Himbara. Relying only on his family name and his technical abilities, David Himbara had ignored the political realities and intrigues of the palace.

Even when David Himbara reached South Africa, Janet Kagame’s inner cycle did not let up. They circulated a rumor that he was fired because of drug and alcohol abuse. They also alleged that he is part of the group, composed of General Kayumba Nyamwasa, Colonel Karegeya and Tribert Rujugiro, bent on overthrowing General Paul Kagame. Recently, some government sponsored blogs have increased attacks, and published the same allegations.

David Himbara, the intellectual and technocrat, has fallen from General Paul Kagame’s palace into Janet Kagame’s sight.

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