Ceasefire and re-structuring of RPA units

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RPA troops on Kigali street after the fall of the capital. / Internet photo

This is yet another chronicle of the 1990-1994 Liberation War by the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) that liberated the country and ended the Genocide against the Tutsi.

In this segment, Capt (Retired) Logan Ndahiro, who was part of the Liberation Struggle, tackles the ceasefire period that was put in place to facilitate the peace-talks that were taking place in Arusha, in northern Tanzania as the two warring parties had tried a negotiated deal but did not materialise.

The ceasefire was good time for the Chairman of the High Command of the RPA Inkotanyi (President Paul Kagame) to reorganize the forces into bigger and stronger formations while the politicos worked on fine-tuning the party’s political programme, diplomacy among other activities.

As earlier indicated in previous segments, by July 1992, all RPA forces had settled in their respective zones. Some mobile forces had settled in the current Burera District, others in the present day Gicumbi District and others in today’s Nyagatare District.

It was a vast territory captured by the RPA Inkotanyi from the Ex-FAR stretching the sectors of Tabagwe, Karama, Kiyombe, Mukarange, Kivuye and Butaro.

By the time the Arusha Peace Talks began, on July 12th 1992, all RPA forces were already entrenched in their respective zones.

The ceasefire, which was agreed on by both parties to give peace talks between the RPF Inkotanyi and the Government of Rwanda a chance, started sometime in September 1992.

A military observer group (GOM) was deployed by Organisation of African Unity (OAU) as a neutral Observer Group to man a buffer zone between the RPA and Ex-Far that stretched from Tabagwe (Nyagatare) to Butaro (Burera) as part of ceasefire agreement and as a precondition for the peace talks to start.

GOM was supposed to patrol the area to ensure no protagonists cross the buffer zone. This buffer zone that stretched approximately 20 kms in width (also known as Zone Tempo - French) was meant to minimise any cross exchange of fire between the two forces, thus breaking ceasefire rules and regulations.

More often than not though, this cease fire would be violated by any of the protagonists depending on who first calls the shot.

It was during this time in July 1992 that the Chairman of the High Command (President Paul Kagame), whose headquarters was now at Mulindi, decided to form bigger but stronger eight mobile forces positioned in selected areas of the captured territory.

The probable reason was to form larger, oversized and highly mobile battalions and afford them seasoned, battle hardened Commanding Officers (COs) who would re-organise them into a formidable army that would engage the Ex-FAR conventionally and/or if need be break up into smaller units and revert to mobile guerilla tactics.

The RPA had by now acquired enough weaponry captured from the government forces to arm all the oversized battalions in the making.

The following mobile battalions were created out of so many smaller ones;

On the right flank of the Gatuna-Byumba Road; Alpha Mobile Force occupied Miyove, Kivuye, Bungwe, Manyagiro, Gishambashayo, Rubaya, Gatuna and deployed up to Ngondore and they were to link up with the 17th Battalion.

59th Mobile force deployed beyond Kivuye in Kirambo and across the Urugezi swamp to Rwerere in the now Burera District and linked up with Charlie Mobile Force that deployed in Butaro – Kidaho and Kinyababa areas with foot patrols up to Musanze- Cyanika Road.

On the left side, 101 Mobile Force stationed at Mukarange linked up with 17th Battalion on the right flank at the Ngondore road block and patrolled part of Kinyami and hills surrounding Byumba town.

21 Mobile Force was stationed on the left flank of the 101 Mobile Force and deployed in part of Bwisige and Kinyami, Bravo Mobile Force (my battalion) was on the left of 21st Mobile Force and deployed in Kiyombe area, Muhambo, Nyagahita and the surrounding hills of Bwisige.

The 7th Mobile Force was stationed in Karama and controlled Shabana, Nyarurema, Mimuli and Ngarama areas while 157 Mobile Force was stationed at Tabagwe - Gishuro areas controlled the whole area along the areas of Mabare, Kangoma, Nyabitekeri, Nshuli, Rurenge along the Umuvumba river up to Rukomo.

It should be noted that the Chairman of the High Command, from 1990 and through the entire liberation struggle kept re-structuring the RPA units to strategically meet the objectives of whichever missions in the offing.

During the ceasefire, the entire RPA force underwent military training exercises, had also ideological training in relation to the war, carried out inter battalion sports activities like football, volleyball, among other disciplines.

The Chairman of the High Command would play tennis at Mulindi.

The current APR Football Club was actually created during this cease fire. We had competitions between the RPA and Kigali teams that would visit Mulindi, example is the visit by Mukura Victory Sports and the Buhiri Volleyball Club from Kigali.

Leaders from the then opposition parties PL, PSD and MDR also visited Mulindi to strengthen diplomatic collaboration between the RPF and their newly formed parties.

Regionally, the Secretary General of the OAU, Salim Ahmed Salim visited Mulindi and this was an opportunity for him to get first-hand information about the causes of our struggle.

Later on, the Tanzanian Ambassador accredited to Kigali also visited our headquarters, among others.

Also during this ceasefire, the RPF and its senior and junior cadres at Mulindi reviewed and fine-tuned the RPF Manifesto and the entire Front’s Programme of Action to the present day. There were so many fundraising sessions organised at Mulindi that attracted our supporters locally, regionally and internationally.

During all these diversified activities though, the Chairman of the High Command had also time to visit the entire RPA mobile forces in their new formations and locations.

His message was always to remind the forces of being disciplined, reminding them the cause of our struggle, cleanliness, obedience and above all to welcome any civilian who happens to be in our operational zones and give them any support they needed.

This gesture of extending an olive branch to the wananchi proved useful as they would quickly feel at home amongst us unlike the Ex-FAR that we were fighting with who mistreated them.

During the High Command Chairman’s encounters with the combatants, all forces rank and file would ask him different questions mainly related to the strategy and tactics of the warfare.

The training and sports activities went on throughout the entire ceasefire period which lasted up to the signing of Arusha Peace Accord on 4th August 1993.

Above all this, we had constant food on our plates.

A mixture of resting, good feeding and training, resulted into RPA combatants’ readiness to encounter and thwart any attack.

This combat readiness was subsequently shown during our incursion behind enemy ceasefire lines on 8th February 1993 when it was apparent that the Habyarimana regime seemed not committed to the peace talks especially when Theoneste Bagosora stormed out of it swearing to cause an apocalypse (slaughtering Tutsis) as happened in Kibilira where Tutsis were massively massacred shortly after his infamous declaration.

To be continued….