A tribute to Fred Rwigyema



Today, October 2, 2015 [Friday] I will dedicate My Private Holiday to celebrate memory of Fred Rwigyema.

Why I celebrate his life

Fred Rwigyema, like Saleh, was a dare-devil fighter. Janet Museveni witnessed one of Rwigyema’s heroic acts, when Rwigyema, Saleh and several other young fighters rescued them from a Uganda National Liberation Army road-block in 1980.

“…Saleh, Rwigyema and the others jumped out of the car with their weapons cocked..,” Janet recounted in her Book, My Life’s Story.

Maj. Gen. Pecos Kutesa, while narrating this incident in his book, Uganda’s Revolution 1979-1986 – How I saw It, recalls how Fred Rwigyema broke down and cried when he saw an injured Saleh being carried away to the rebel headquarters.

Rwigyema and Saleh were too close that after Rwigyema’s death, Saleh took charge of his friend’s family. Passion for fellow comrades.

The Bukalabi battle demoralised the NRA because not only was the top rebel fighter injured, but about 10 senior NRA fighters, including Mwebaze Rwamurinda and Hanington Mugabi Kanunda, were put out of action.

This did not deter Rwigyema from fighting on. This is Courage & Determination.

In March 1985 when the NRA opened up a second front popularly known as the Western Axis, Museveni appointed Rwigyema its commander.

After the NRA captured power in 1986, Rwigyema became deputy minister of defence.

He was regularly at the front line in northern Uganda during the new government’s offensives against remnants of the ousted regime.

This love for the Job.

In honour of one of his best soldiers, Museveni recounted: “Towards the end of 1976, we had recruited a fresh batch of fighters from within Uganda that included one Rwandan refugee youth, Fred Rwigyema.”

“I took this batch to Mozambique. After the defeat of Idi Amin, a new force was then selected from amongst the fighters from the numerous groups. However, Rwigyema and his fellow Rwandese were denied this chance. They could not be allowed into the new army, Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA) because they were ‘foreigners’.

Museveni had seen the fighting gem that Ryigyema was and decided to retain him as his body guard. Rwigyema and his colleagues from Rwanda, including Paul Kagame, did not move away from the objective, a long term objective to go back home to Rwanda. They started mobilising.

“Given the unresolved political problems of Uganda, a new and more vicious political, military struggle started on February 6, 1981, when we attacked Kabamba. Among the fighters who joined us to attack Kabamba were two Rwandan youth, Fred Rwigyema and Paul Kagame.”

This is focus that breed trust.

“I love this story about that freedom fighter and my Hero Fred Rwigyema, I can’t forget the fact that when he left for his country mission I was still young but he went with my two blood brothers from Uganda and they were tight friends but after his death My brothers were also gunned down in that same country towards the end of the war. But the fact was they had same vision to change Rwanda into what its today.

RIP Fred and All that fought along with you.

You really sacrificed alot for many. We will always miss you and remember you my Brothers. For God and my Country”.

Note: On 1 October 1990, Rwigyema led the RPF troops in the first battle against the regime of President Habyarimama Juvenal.

On the second day of the struggle, Rwigyema was shot in the head and died, which discouraged the RPF fighters.

There is a dispute about the exact circumstances of Rwigyema’s death; the official line of Kagame’s government, and the version mentioned by historian Gérard Prunier in his 1995 book on the subject, was that Rwigyema was killed by a stray bullet.

In his later book, however, Prunier states that it is likely Rwigyema was killed by his subcommander Peter Bayingana, following an argument over tactics.

Paul Kagame who is now the president of the Republic of Rwanda replaced Rwigyema as the head of the RPF army until the victory in July 1994.

Rwigyema is one of Rwanda’s national heroes. His body was buried at the Heroes Cemetery in Kigali.

Tribute by PN Ankunda

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