An article published in the New Vision of April 10, tells the story of how Fred Rwigyema (RIP) is a hero of two countries.
It is, no doubt, a great thing to be a hero of two countries, especially countries that have a lot in common historically; that in some instances have languages that are so distinct; countries that have seen a lot of inter-marriages and equally important, countries that see a lot of cross-border movements of farmers, teachers, lawyers, doctors and local administrators that look to each other for the betterment of their livelihoods.
It is cross-border movements such as these that make it imperative to jealously guard the ties between Rwanda and Uganda. It is these ties that filled our hearts with joy when Uganda decorated President Kagame and Maj. Gen. Rwigyema as heroes and liberators of Uganda. It is the same ties that filled our hearts with joy when Rwanda decorated President Museveni for his contribution to the Rwandan liberation.
The New Vision article describes Rwigyema as an accomplished commander and liberator but also purports that he was killed by his own subordinates!
That the late Rwigyema was an accomplished commander and liberator is a fact attested to by all those who struggled with him in the many liberation wars he participated in.
It is also correct, as the article says, that Rwigyema was deputy army commander and deputy minister of defence in Uganda. But Rwigyema did not shift his whole weight to politics in Uganda. He carried on with military activities and led the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) struggle until his life was cut short. Rwanda has made him a national hero in full acknowledgement of these facts and especially his life commitment to liberating Rwanda.
The New Vision story speaks a lot in terms of what he accomplished for the liberation struggle in Uganda. What is now understandable is the highlight and focus on the alleged conspiracy surrounding his early death in the RPF struggle.
Look at the timing during the mourning period for the victims who died in the 1994 genocide.
The authors choose to propagate a theory that RPF ideology did not espouse unity of Rwandans. Give us a break! The very foundation of RPF ideology has always been based on the unity of all Rwandans- the view that Rwandans are one family before they become anything else.
Although the story of the unfortunate early death of Rwigyema at the start of the RPF struggle he was leading has been told by the eye witnesses who were with him at the time of his death, citing the cause of his death to a sniper bullet from the enemy forces as he approached the frontline at Kagitumba, the conspiracy theorists persist with their fabricated stories.
In the story, the correct version and the circumstances that surrounded Rwigyema’s death are only mentioned in passing, and quickly assert what they call “…the truth as it came out later”- I don’t know from where.
But what follows clearly shows the fabrications they advance in an attempt to hoodwink people into believing their theory. They pretend to be oblivious to the eye witness accounts and all those who closely followed the events of the RPF struggle from the beginning.
It is bizarre to hear someone claiming that there was a meeting called by Rwigyema in which he met his death when the eyewitness accounts tell of how he advanced to the front line where he was hit by a sniper shot that ended his life.
Those who knew him would understand how, even as the overall commander, he would always monitor very closely where action was.
There are also many witnesses who moved with Commander Stephen Ndugute up to the time Gabiro was attacked and throughout the time of reorganising the forces under President Kagame.
The story of Commander Ndugute’s escape is certainly one of those lies.
The burial of Rwigyema was done by comrades of RPA in Kagitumba and later transferred to the Hero’s Corner in Kigali after liberation. The story about his body being found in the swamp is a bizarre and unfortunate fabrication.
To the conspiracy theorists, like I said earlier, please give Rwanda and Rwandans a break. Their struggle to liberate their country and build a society founded on the unity of all Rwandans may have gone through challenging times, but the story about the new Rwanda characterised by the dignity restored to all, the shared destiny binding all the Rwandans to work hard for their prosperity is recognised and appreciated by many the world over.
If that is what frustrates the conspiracy theorists, they can as well abandon the project because it will never get them anywhere.
The resilience built out of facing the challenges and the adherence to the correct ideological line put in place by the current leadership under President Paul Kagame is a guarantee for Rwanda to continue on the path to sustainable development.
Mr Mugabo is a political analyst based in Kigali, Rwanda