The RPA’s quest to stop Genocide and subsequent liberation of Rwanda

Towards the end of August 1993, Bravo mobile force (my unit) moved from Kiyombe to Kivuye, before moving to Miyove in December 1993. On April 6, 1994, we heard that Habyarimana’s plane had crashed and that Genocide had started, that our 600 hundred strong force deployed in Kigali to protect our politicians was being attacked by Ex-Far from all corners.

Towards the end of August 1993, Bravo mobile force (my unit) moved from Kiyombe to Kivuye, before moving to Miyove in December 1993. On April 6, 1994, we heard that Habyarimana’s plane had crashed and that Genocide had started, that our 600 hundred strong force deployed in Kigali to protect our politicians was being attacked by Ex-Far from all corners.

On 7th April 1994, the Chairman of the High Command shifted his H/Quarters from Mulindi to Miyove where Bravo mobile force was positioned. On the afternoon of 8th April, Alpha and 59 mobile forces joined Bravo at Miyove. Meanwhile the Chairman had put all other RPA mobile forces on high alert as the situation became more complicated.

 

On 8th April 1994, the Chairman of the High Command inspected the assembled forces (Alpha, Bravo and 59) and gave us objectives of our mission. He told us that we should go and give support to the 600 strong RPA force that was being attacked by Ex-Far and secondly to go and stop the senseless killings that had started in the whole country. He told us in Kiswahili:-

 

“Mwende mupatiye msada mia sita, “Mwende msimamishe mauwaji ambayo anatendekwa inchini kote”

 

The mission of the 3 mobile forces (Alpha, Bravo and 59) was to go straight to Kigali in order to fullfil these objectives.

The 3 mobile forces received the order of match with Alpha in front, Bravo following and 59 in that order. He gave this order in Kiswahili saying:- “Alpha itatangulia, Bravo itafata, 59 itafunga msululu”. During this briefing by the Chairman of the High Command, all of us were so excited by this venture of entering Kigali at long last.

We moved from Miyove on the evening of 8th April 1994, the Wananchi around Miyove, with whom we had created a very good relationship, lined up our path and wished us success and most of them were really emotional. We went through Buyoga which had obstacles of terraces to jump down and by morning of 9th April 1994 we were at Muyanza Mission Parish. Alpha, being in front, its movement went undetected by Ex-Far but for us who were following (Bravo and 59), we had to go fighting along our way. We fought Ex-Far at Muyanza Parish on the 9th April 1994 and repulsed their attack. That very evening we moved towards Zoko, a high hill overlooking Mugambazi (an area where they used to mine tin). As we were passing on the hillside of Zoko, we fell into a well-coordinated Ex-Far ambush. This area was full of rocks and as the enemy shot at us at around 8 pm, even the rocks shrapnel became as dangerous as the bullets. The ambushing enemy was quickly flanked by our force and repulsed after some 30 minutes of sustained ambush fire.

The two Commanding officers (Bravo and 59) held an urgent meeting where it was decided that to avoid further ambushes and unnecessary casualties, the forces should travel by day and confront the enemy during day light. From Zoko we crossed to Mugambazi at dawn, where we fought again Ex-Far force but managed to repulse them. This was on 10th April 1994. Meanwhile, Alpha, due to not being detected by the enemy had stealthily moved and was entering CND by 3pm on 10th April as we move to Rutongo Parish.

We arrived at Rutongo Parish that evening by 6pm. We dashed to Rubungo commune H/Quarters in the night and moved on to Karuruma (near Akagera Motors, formerly La Rwandaise) arriving at 5am on 11th April 1994. It was so foggy that you could not see far and we halted until day break. Meanwhile, two 59 companies had been detached and deployed on top of Mount Jali to attack the Ex-Far who were manning the telecommunications antennae. This dawn attack overwhelmed the Ex-Far section deployed there and left all of them dead.

From that day Bravo mobile force was deployed to occupy the whole of Mount Jali while 59 mobile force joined Alpha and the 3rd battalion (the 600 RPA force) to fight urban combat with some 59 companies attacking Mount Rebero.

Bravo mobile force had left two companies at Mugambazi to attack any Ex-Far force that would be in that area to protect the rear guard of the forces in Kigali. At Mount Jali, we fought the Ex-Far on a daily basis at least twice a day. As we fought at Mount Jali, 59 companies were engaging Ex-Far at Mount Rebero in another fierce battle. Alpha and 3rd battalion (600 RPA force) and part of 59 companies were fighting urban combat in the city, rescuing people trapped in houses and treating the injured as well as repulsing Interahamwe militia and Ex–Far forces.

It should be noted here that all RPA mobile forces had extra duty of rescuing people trapped in houses, churches, schools, swamps, forests and any place they could find to hide, treating the injured and putting them to safety along our path. Those rescued and injured around Kigali were being taken care of in CND’s underground basement.

Meanwhile, 7th mobile force moved out of Karama sector through Ngarama, Gatsibo, Gituza, Muhura up to Kiziguro where they met 157 mobile force. 157 mobile force had moved out of Tabagwe sector, bypassed Gabiro barracks by going through Cyabayaga, Rwangingo and entered the Kagitumba road at Kabarole and joined 7th mobile force at Kiziguro. Gabiro barracks Ex-Far force deserted on its own.

On reaching Kayonza, 7th continued the Kayonza, Rwamagana and Kabuga axis up to Kanombe, captured the Kanombe  barracks and moved on to the Kigali International Airport which was also captured on 22nd April 1994. Meanwhile 157 continued the Kibungo - Rusumo road, captured Rusumo on 30th April 1994, then through Bugesera, Ruhango and captured Huye on 3rd May 1994. From Huye, since Gikongoro, Cyangugu and Kibuye were under Zone Turquoise, 157 headed backwards towards Nyanza which they captured on 29th May 1994. Muhanga fell on 13th June 1994. The 157 mobile force did this to avoid direct confrontation with the French although skirmishes did occur. 

21st mobile force moved out of Bwesige and started sieging Byumba town and Barracks. Byumba town and barracks was captured around mid - April 1994. The routed Ex-Far force headed towards Kigali and this caused some panic to us who were fighting in Kigali. We thought we were going to be attacked from the rear. However, the running away Ex-Far force was diverted by the companies we had left at Mugambazi, joined by 21st mobile force and some companies from 101 mobile force. The entire Ex-Far force from Byumba was diverted towards Ruhengeri.

21 mobile force then moved from Byumba towards Kigali and attacked Camp Kami situated in the now Kinyinya Sector and routed it. As this was happening, the Chairman of the High Command kept shifting his H/Quarters depending on the combat situation obtaining then and to be as close to his forces as possible to coordinate and give guidance on the battle field.

101 mobile force had split into two, some of its companies joined 7th mobile force while others reinforced Bravo’s companies to attack Ex-Far in Mugambazi, Rutongo and Rubongo areas.

After 7th mobile force had captured the Kigali International airport, it moved to Mount Jali to replace Bravo mobile force, then Bravo moved to Gisozi from where its commandos stormed St. Paul/St Famille on 17th June 1994 and rescued people there from the Interahamwe militia and marauding Ex-Far. After this rescue, Bravo mobile force moved out of Kigali and went through Gatonde, Ndusu, Kabaya (where late Nsekarije was found hiding), Gishwati, Kanama and Brarirwa and joined Charlie mobile force to attack Gisenyi. Gisenyi fell on 17th July 1994. Ruhengeri town was captured by 7th mobile force on 12th July 1994 after moving from Mount Jali through Shyorongi along the Kigali Ruhengeri road.

Sensing the danger of having our rear guard unprotected from the enemy forces, be they internal or external, the Chairman of the High Command decided in early May, to detach Bravo’s H/Quarters to go back and protect the borders of Rusumo and Kagitumba as well as to start recruitment and training of personnel which was done at Gabiro training wing. By the time Kigali was captured, we had trained and added 3 battalions, 105th, 35th and Zebra to the RPA force.

The CND heavy shelling was by the French Army using 106 mm long range artillery in batteries that left the gaping holes in the CND (now Parliament Building) we see today. The artillery was stationed at Kuruyenzi across river Nyabarongo. Their aim was to kill our politicians living there, targeting also the H/Qrts of the 600 force, the refugees (mostly Tutsi) sheltered there and causalities rescued from battlefront.

It should be noted that Kibuye, Gikongoro and Cyangugu, under Zone Turquoise, were liberated later when the French forces withdrew.

Kigali was captured on 4th July and the Government of National Unity was sworn in on 19th July 1994.

With that Dear Esteemed readers of the articles on our RPF/RPA struggle, I end the battle series I had started way back in August of 2015.

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