Brig Gen BEM Emmanuel Habyarimana has married a woman who helped him escape from Rwanda to Uganda, at ceremonies heavily punctuated by politics in Switzerland.
Habyarimana, last weekend, officially wed Umutesi Aline, with whom, they have reportedly been in love since 2003.
Brig Gen Habyarimana, whose other Belgian military decoration is BEM, was state minister (junior) for defense from 1997 until 2000, operating under then Vice President and Defense Minister Gen Paul Kagame.
In 2000, when emergency parliamentary session named Kagame as President following the resignation of Pasteur Bizimungu, Brig Habyarimana was elevated to full defense minister.
Two years later in November, Habyarimana was sacked. On Sunday night April 1, 2003, Habyarimana managed to flee to Uganda.
He was with Lieutenant Colonel NDENGEYINKA, a Member of the Parliament and Lieutenant Alphonse Ndayambaje, an Army Officer attached directly to Habyarimana.
Their escape was described as desertion, and led to a serious diplomatic fallout between Kigali and Kampala. The military in Rwanda accused Uganda of helping the officers escape across the border.
According to testimony from the wedding function, Habyarimana was tipped off to leave the country by Umutesi who informed him he was due to be arrested, prosecuted and jailed. Details remain sketchy as to her official role at the time.
However, two weeks after Habyarimana had escaped, Umutesi followed suit, crossing the border disguised as a nun.
To diffuse the war of words with Rwanda, the incident which also came after the armies of the two countries had battled each other in DR Congo, Uganda enabled the military officers and Umutesi to relocate to Switzerland in June the same year.
Since then, Brig Habyarimana and Ndengeyinka, both officers in the pre-genocide government army, have joined other exiled opposition groups. A lot has been written about their activities.
Habyarimana is particularly accused by Kigali of working with Congo-based democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda or FDLR, whose members took part in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Swiss and French media are reporting the Habyarimana-Umutesi wedding as a “marriage of Rwandan cohesion”.
“A Hutu marries a Tutsi,” is how French investigative site MediaPart reported about the wedding. Habyarimana as the Hutu and Umutesi as the Tutsi.
Before the genocide, ethnic labels were ingrained in Rwandan society and were in the national ID. The post-genocide political establishment removed the labels from the IDs and its illegal to use the same labels for political purposes or claiming any service.
Ethnic identification and labeling is a criminal offense, for which you could go to jail for many years.
However, Brig Habyarimana and his exiled colleagues have maintained the same ethnic politics.
There are no public records about Brig Habyarimana’s family, so its not clear whether this is his first marriage.