Rwanda: Facing Risks of a Military Coup and Sanctions from the US, EU, and UN, Rwanda's Paul Kagame Further Purges Rwandan Defense Forces Military Leadership

Paul Kagame, James Kabarebe, and Patrick Nyamvumba in South Rwanda, in May 2020

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Over the last three months, Rwandan dictator General  Paul Kagame has launched two major shakeups of the country's military,  with  firings, dismissals, and reshuffles of the military leadership. The second shakeup  on August 31, 2023 occurred around 2 months  after the first major action that included reshuffles and firings.  During the same period, General Paul Kagame has appointed his 29-years-old daughter Ms Ange Kagame to a high government position within the presidency, upgraded the position of his son in the military, and  reinforced the faction within the military that supports his succession plan. The actions by General Paul Kagame in the last three months  have been expected.   Already, other African dictators have made similar moves. Cameroon's  dictator Paul Biya, 90, one of Africa's longest-reigning dictators  has also enacted fresh appointments  and reshuffles within the military and the police.  Following the reshuffles in both  countries, a meeting of the  Rwanda’s chief of defense staff, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to Rwanda, and the defense military attaché of Cameroon  was held in Kigali to to enhance defense cooperation among the three countries.

The second military shakeup within the last three months is a followup to the major reshuffles in June 2023  that  included the appointment of a new defense minister, army chief and head of internal security. It  includes the forced retirement of most of the key top military leaders, especially those who have been leading the army command and battalions since the rebellion took over power in Rwanda. 

The military shakeups happen as Africa has been facing a rise in coups and coup attempts targeting dictators and corrupt oligarchs and family dynasties.

In fact, after almost 3 decades of respite, apart from a few here and there, waves of military coups and coup attempts have returned in Africa, again.  The latest military shakeup  in Rwanda comes following the military coup against another African dictator, Gabon's Ali Bongo. Ali Bongo was overthrown by a military junta led by his 48-years old cousin Gen Brice Oligui Nguema.

The stakes are high and some African leaders, especially those labelled dictators , are already preparing for potential coups against their reign, readying and organizing their close associates and family members for the worst scenarios.  (see here: Africa - Gabon: African Dictators in 2023; Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon Down, More to Go. Who is Next?)

Possibility of a Military Coup in Rwanda: Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame has been telling the media.

From different analyses by experts, activists, and independent observers, one of these controversial African leaders is the Rwandan dictator General Paul Kagame,  who, despite projecting a different image,  never hid his worries during  interviews with the media. (see here  Africa: Military Coups Against and For Dictators Trending Up; Imminent Military coup in Rwanda is a possibility, Rwandan President Paul Kagame tells media.)

The situation was recently complicated by sanctions against some of his military leaders by the European Union (EU) and the Unites States Government for their involvement in bloody invasions, including massacres of civilians, looting,  and other war crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

According to the latest reports, the United Nations Security Council  has been considering sanctions against Rwandan military leaders which will expand the list of already sanctioned  individuals.  In fact, the UN Security Council sanctions may lead the US and the EU to also add Rwandan military leaders to their lists of sanctioned individuals. There are also rumors that the UN may bring back the 2010 UN Mapping Report which documents war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in the DR Congo by the Rwandan army between 1996-2010.

The failing and widely condemned latest invasion of DRC under the cover of  M23 rebels has worsened the financial situation and the Rwandan military companies, except the presidential guard and top security forces,  are no longer regularly receiving their monthly pay.   In fact, over decades, the Rwandan government has been relying  on the looted mineral resources from the DRC to cover the government expenses.  Hence, the unpaid army soldiers and officers may deepen the divisions and increase the risks of a military coup.


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On-going Purging of Potential Military Opponents and Suspected Coup Attempt Supporters.

On January 2021, Gen. Albert Murasira, then Minister of Defense who was forced into retirement in the latest reshuffle after being named to another position,  was held under a close watch after information was obtained that he was planning to flee the country. He was  accused of being too close to the key top military officers arrested the year before and opposed to the planned takeover of power by military leaders supporting Ms Ange Kagame, the daughter of Paul Kagame who had been prepared to inherit her father's throne.

At the time, the top military leaders detained in safe houses,  under close watch,  or under house arrest included General James Kabarebe, General Patrick Nyamvumba, Lt General Charles Kayonga, Lieutenant General Karake Karenzi, and Maj. Gen Albert Murasira. Now, almost all of these generals  and many more have been sent into forced retirement or dismissed from their positions.

Shuffle and Dismissals of Military Without Unexplained Reasons.

The army generals dismissed  or forced into retirement on August 31, 2023 include the former defense minister, and president security advisor to the president General James Kabarebe along with 11 more generals and 83 senior officers. The announcement of these dismissals  were made without giving any reasons, other than  "retirement".

The latest dismissals build on the first phase  executed in June 2023 which included two long-serving generals, Major General Aloys Muganga and Brigadier General Francis Mutiganda, along with 14 officers  and  228 low rank military soldiers were also dismissed.

Meanwhile Brig-Gen Andrew Nyamvumba, the Rwandan  general recently sanctioned by the US, was promoted. The promotion has been criticized around the world and viewed as defiance of the UN, the US,  and  the EU (DR Congo - US - Rwanda: US Government Imposes Sanctions Against Top Rwandan Military General Accused of Leading M23 Rebels in DRC).

Brig-Gen Andrew Nyamvumba was promoted to a higher function,  along with numerous other key army officers including Maj. Gens. Emmy Ruvusha, and Eugene Nkubito. The promotion came barely a week after the U.S. Department of Treasury  imposed sanctions on  Brig-Gen Andrew Nyamvumba  for war crimes in t Eastern DR Congo.

 Brig-Gen Andrew Nyamvumba was  promoted in a new position alongside several other top army officials. Other high ranking military officers  and generals  named in the UN Security Council Report on DR Congo have also been moved to other positions, dismissed, or forced to keep a low profile.

African Dictators to be Ready, After Ali Bongo Odimba and as Paul Kagame is Getting Ready.

With Ali Bongo Ondimba,  gone, the key questions now are:

Already, other African dictators have made similar moves. Cameroon's  dictator Paul Biya, 90, one of Africa's longest-reigning dictators who came to power through a coup in 1982 after serving as Prime minister from 1975-1982,  has also enacted fresh appointments  and reshuffles within the Defense Ministry's central administrative unit. The reshuffles include the delegate to the presidency in charge of defense,  the leadership of the air force,  the navy, and the police.

Following the reshuffles in both countries, meetings of Rwanda’s chief of defense staff - Lt Gen Mubarakh Muganga,  the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ambassador to Rwanda  - Hazza AlQahtani, and the defense military attaché of Cameroon - Colonel  JE ACHU, were  held in Kigali, Rwanda to discuss ways “to enhance defense cooperation between their respective countries”.

AfroAmerica Network is still following the dynamics  will give report on developments

@AfroAmerica Network 2023



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