July 3, 2019

RPF’s War Of Liberation And Its Aftermath: A Summary

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In the wee hours of October 1, 1990, the Rwandese Patriotic Army/Front (RPA/F) rebels attacked the Kagitumba border post and overran it.

The troops had mostly drove and walked at night to avoid detection of the Ugandan regular army and causing alarm among the local population.

They were about 400 including 9 women who entered on the first day. However, back in Uganda, the RPA had 4,000 troops and more than 3,000 civilian waiting to be recruited, according to accounts from those who took part, but are not willing to be quoted.

The rebel force was commanded by Maj Gen Fred Rwigema, the most senior Rwandan officer in the Ugandan army, together with a host of other officers. On the second day of the attack, Rwigema was killed by President Juvenal Habyarimana’s troops.

Before then, on March 4, Habyarimana’s backers, the French had been planning to strengthen his force. That day, the French Ambassador to Rwanda Georges Martres sent a cable to the French foreign ministry, in which he says Habyarimana was requesting for a new plane and radar equipment to counter the air threat from Uganda and the RPF.

RPF Troops on October 1, 1990


9 Women

Victims of 1994 genocide against the Tutsi


Genocide survivors


France DAMI Project 1991-1994


1994 battlefield

Ex-FAR 35,000

RPA 12,000

France’s Operation Turquoise



1990 – $2.5 billion

2019 Budget $3.21b

2019 – $9.22billion


1990 – 6,252,000

2019 – 12,788,652

Rwandan “Refugees” and asylum seekers


Rwanda Returnees


October 8, the chief of the French Defence Staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade approved the supply of ammunition and rockets to Rwandan government forces. On October 24, France responded to the RPF attack by rushing 314 French commandos to Rwanda under Operation Noroit, which expanded to 600 in the following years within the Détachement d’assistance militaire (DAMI) program.

According to Martres, the president had made similar requests to Belgium over the course of many years, but they had been ignored.

It is around this time that then Maj Paul Kagame took over the RPA force, and decided to move operations away from the flat regions of Kagitumba to the cold mountainous Byumba region and reinstate rebel tactics instead of conventional means of fighting.

The Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR) at the time, according ex-government data which has been made public by the current government and the Belgian Senate investigations into the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, show the ex-FAR numbered 35,000.

In 1990 when the RPF attacked, Rwanda’s population stood at 6.2m and has since nearly doubled. It shows that in addition to the returnees from various countries, Rwanda has added at least 200,000 newborns every year since then.

The total production of Rwanda’s economy or gross domestic product (GDP) in 1990, as per World Bank figures, was $2.5billion. Nearly 30 years later, the country’s GDP has nearly tripled its pre-genocide levels at $10billion.

This suggests that with the exception of the four years of the war and the genocide in 1994, a period when there was not much production but rather destruction, production capacity has grown by over $350m every year since.

With a $3.2billion budget in 2019-2020, it shows the country is now able to spend more today than what was the total size of the economy back in 1990 – a huge leap.

However, even as things have gotten better for the country and its citizens, some problems persists─such as the problem of refugees where are estimated 250,000 Rwandans don’t want to return despite living in despicable conditions as refugees.

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