After former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana invited exiled Tutsi in Uganda to visit relatives who had stayed behind in 1959, Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) agents started secretly entering the country.
The agents were often intelligence officers and operatives in the Ugandan Army and in late 1989, they started gathering intelligence information from inside Rwanda.
According to several Hutu sources at the time, the unidentified visitors from Uganda told the Tutsi residents in various villages to start selling their land to their Hutu neighbours.
This, say the Hutu, was in order to help raise money for use in a forthcoming RPF war. These secret meetings were held at night, usually on Saturdays, as well as at public events, weddings, in bars, church parishes and at Catholic Church convents.
Hutu sources claim that the RPF provocateurs infiltrating the country from Uganda in 1989 encouraged the Tutsis to poison their Hutu friends and drinking colleagues.
Bishop Frédéric Rubwejanga, the head of the Catholic Church in Rwanda and a Tutsi, is said to have signed for and received arms and ammunition from the RPF in 1989 in the town of Mutara.
On August 17, 1990, in a paper titled “How to fight a counterrevolutionary insurgency” presented before the Ugandan Army at the Bombo Military Academy, President Museveni outlined the approach that his officers should take in combating the anti-government insurrection in northern Uganda.
He said: “Insurgents do not have to do much, but they will have succeeded in their devices if they simply terrorise the population, stop them from producing wealth for the country, dismantle the network of civil administration (for example, chiefs or RCs), and block communications.
“Once the State does not stop insurgents from doing this on a large scale, the country will rapidly lose income and find it impossible to support the army… Insurgents will be in a position to create a situation of strategic stalemate or even to launch a strategic counteroffensive to seize state power.”
This was one of the most significant addresses President Museveni had ever given. Not only did he inadvertently reveal how he had planned and fought his own NRA guerrilla war between 1981 and 1986, listening to him that day were several Rwandan Tutsi soldiers, who at the time, were part of the Ugandan Army, the NRA. They would draw inspiration from Museveni for an invasion of Rwanda being secretly planned at the time.
The Tutsi officers in the army were mainly deployed in the Finance and Administration and Medical departments of Bombo Barracks. They were Maj. Peter Bayingana, Maj. Frank Munyaneza, and others.
A Rwandan officer called Major Paul Kagame was the director of Administration in the Directorate of Military Intelligence at Basiima House in Kampala.
Another Ugandan-Rwandan officer, Patrick Karegyeya, was the director of counterintelligence in the NRA.
Stephen Ndugute had been a Lieutenant and a Marine in the Uganda Army under Idi Amin in the 1970s and fought in the 1979 war where he was wounded in one of his legs.
He was one of the senior officers of Andrew Kayiira’s UFM that fought Obote, having refused to join the NRA that was dominated by his fellow Tutsi officers.
As a colonel, Ndugute was the second in command to Major-General Paul Kagame in July 1994, as the RPA closed in on Kigali city.
The RPF had set the original date for their invasion of Rwanda on December 25, 1990. However, in September 1990, the United Nations held its annual summit in New York at which both President Museveni and Rwanda’s President Habyarimana would be present.
This presented an opportunity favourable for the RPF. Habyarimana would be out of the country and Museveni, who secretly supported the RPF, could claim ignorance of the sudden invasion if it took place.
Meetings by senior Tutsi officers in the Ugandan Army took place in full view of the public, in such places as the Fairway Hotel in Kampala.
In the third week of September 1990, trucks with supplies were assembled at Kololo Airstrip.
A large order for gum-boots was made at Bata shops in Kampala for the RPF soldiers. In the meantime, Tutsi nurses working at various hospitals in Kampala, Mbarara and other towns had been contacted to offer their services for the war effort.
Many Tutsi housewives in Uganda also took part in the mobilisation, preparing meals, packing food and collecting spare blankets and other beddings.
The new guerrilla force, the RPA, started massing most of its troops in the western Ugandan towns of Mbarara and Kabale. The main hospitals in these two towns were readied as part of the RPF’s rear bases when casualties started coming in.
On September 20, 1990, the invasion force set off for the Uganda-Rwanda border. They made a stop over at Wankolo Petrol Station to refuel their vehicles.
Major-General Fred Rwigyema, the head of the RPA and the most senior Rwandan officer in the Ugandan Army, had privately been expressing his sense of dread about the future.
There was intense intrigue within the Rwandan Tutsi community in Kampala and Rwigyema told some close friends that he was sure that he was one day going to be killed by his own people.
Over a cup of tea one evening, he told a friend that he might as well head the invasion of Rwanda at this time and, if need be, die at the battle front.
According to President Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, just before Museveni flew to New York for the UN summit, Rwigyema went to State House Entebbe to bid farewell to him. As would be expected, they conversed for several hours that night.
On the night of September 30, 1990, Rwigyema, dressed in a light-blue shirt, drove a BMW belonging to his Kampala friend, Capt. Mike Mukula, to bid farewell to a few close friends.
Rwigyema’s wife, Jeanette, had just had a baby boy. Rwigyema then drove off towards the Uganda-Rwanda border. He was one of the last Rwandans to depart Kampala.
A story is told in Kampala that upon arriving at the Uganda-Rwanda border area at Kagitumba, Rwigyema stripped off his Ugandan Army Major-General epaulettes, saluted in the direction of Uganda, and crossed over.
The largest military invasion ever from Uganda, and supported by Kampala, was underway.
Even with Uganda openly supporting preparations for this RPF invasion of Rwanda, the Museveni government would spend the next four years vehemently denying that it supported the group.