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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 January 2007, 16:27 GMT
Profile: Rwanda's strongman
President Paul Kagame has been the dominant figure in Rwandan politics since the genocide almost a decade ago.

In 2003, he romped home in presidential elections, which marked the end of nine years of transitional government.

Paul Kagame
Kagame tries to downplay past Hutu/Tutsi divisions
He won a seven year term after running on a platform of national unity, boosting economic growth, strengthening governance and delivering justice.

But opposition claims of intimidation and rigging tarnished his triumph and raised questions over his future intentions.

His then rebel group brought the 1994 genocide against his ethnic Tutsi people to an end but a French judge has accused him of ordering the assassination of his predecessor Juvenal Habyarimana - the act which sparked the killings.

He strongly denied the accusations.

Is he committed to genuine democracy in Rwanda, or is he simply an old-style African president, intent on crushing dissent?

For most of his adult life he has been a soldier.

Born in the western Rwanda region of Gitarama in 1957, he left with his family for Uganda four years later amid growing anti-Tutsi violence in his home region.

He joined Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA) in 1979, and spent years fighting in the Ugandan bush.

Mr Kagame was made head of NRA military intelligence in 1986 and was always viewed as a close ally of Mr Museveni, both as a guerrilla fighter and in the Ugandan military afterwards.

But Mr Kagame's first allegiance was to Rwanda. Together with Fred Rwigyema, a long-standing friend, Mr Kagame was instrumental in establishing the RPF, drawing heavily on Rwandan soldiers who had fought alongside him in the NRA.

Military commander

When the RPF first invaded Rwanda from Uganda in October 1990, Paul Kagame was in the United States on a military training programme.

Vote Kagame
The poster reads: Vote Paul Kagame
After Fred Rwigyema's death on the second day of the war, Mr Kagame became military commander of the RPF.

The RPF seized power from the genocidal Hutu government in July 1994.

Mr Kagame took on the vice-presidency of Rwanda and the defence portfolio, leaving the presidency to Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu who had joined the RPF in Uganda after breaking with the regime of Juvenal Habyarimana.

Long seen as the most powerful man in Rwanda, Paul Kagame did not ascend to the presidency until April 2000 when Mr Bizimungu resigned amid growing differences with the government.

Mr Bizimungu criticised his former colleagues of an unwarranted crackdown on dissent. He was later jailed, accused of illegal political activity and threats to state security.


Like the RPF as a whole, Mr Kagame downplays any ethnic agenda in Rwanda, presenting himself as a Rwandan and not a Tutsi, and has taken a strong line with elements accused of spreading any form of ethnic "divisionism".

But his critics say that this has been used as a pretext to clamp down on political opponents. Human Rights Watch accused Mr Kagame's RPF of trying to silence opponents ahead of this year's elections, following moves to ban the second largest party, the Democratic Republican Movement (MDR).

Along with addressing poverty, Paul Kagame has placed security at the top of his agenda. His armed forces dealt firmly with insurgents infiltrating into northwest Rwanda from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo in the late 1990s.

They repulsed the rebels, but at a heavy cost to the local civilian population human rights groups claimed.

Mr Kagame was also a firm advocate of Rwanda military engagement in DR Congo - arguing that it was essential in order to protect Rwanda's security from Hutu rebels.

But Mr Kagame finally made peace with Kinshasa in July 2002 - agreeing to withdraw Rwandan troops from eastern DR Congo in return for a Congolese commitment to disarm and repatriate Rwandan rebels believed to be responsible for the genocide.

It was also in DR Congo that Mr Kagame's relations with former close friend and comrade in arms, President Museveni of Uganda, turned sour.

Their two armies clashed in Kisangani during 1999 and 2000 - competing for the greatest share of spoils and influence in the war ravaged region.

Relations between the two strongmen are still strained with both countries supporting rival groups in the DR Congo - despite peace agreements.

Colleagues hint at an ascetic temperament, presenting the president as an incorruptible teetotaller and strong disciplinarian.

Mr Kagame eschews any form of flamboyance and is a low-key, dry public speaker.

He is married with four children. Leisure pursuits include playing tennis and reading.

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