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Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 12:13 GMT
Kagame: Quiet soldier who runs Rwanda
Paul Kagame
Kagame served in both Ugandan and Rwandan liberation armies
By Chris Simpson in Kigali

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame has been a soldier for most of his adult life.

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 longstanding friend, Kagame was instrumental in establishing the Rwandan Patriotic Front (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.
RPF soldiers
The RPF overthrew the previous Hutu extremist government
After Fred Rwigyema's death on the second day of the war, Mr Kagame became military commander of the RPF.

On taking power 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.

Paul Kagame has long been viewed as the most powerful man in Rwanda.

Although Mr Kagame often mocks his image as a military strongman and powerbroker, little takes place in Rwanda without his knowledge.


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.

Like the RPF as a whole, Mr Kagame downplays any ethnic agenda in Rwanda, presenting himself as a Rwandan and not a Tutsi. He is a frank and forthright critic of the United Nations, believing the UN could have done far more to prevent the genocide of 1994.

Paul Kagame is also a firm advocate of Rwanda's continuing military engagement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, arguing that vital security issues are at stake and nobody but Rwandans will protect his country's security.

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See also:

23 Mar 00 | Africa
Rwanda seeks new president
08 Mar 00 | Africa
New Rwandan prime minister named
06 Mar 00 | Africa
'Assassination' in Kigali
28 Feb 00 | Africa
Rwandan PM resigns
23 Mar 00 | Africa
Analysis: Why Bizimungu mattered
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