President Paul Kagame has warned Rwandans involved in acts that destabilise the country, vowing that “the cost is going to be very high.”
In a speech delivered in parliament on Thursday, November 14, during the swearing-in ceremony of new Cabinet members, President Kagame said:
“Those who want to destabilise our country will incur a very high cost, and I mean it. In fact, I want to warn those among us who hide behind politics, democracy, and freedom. Those behind this nonsense and are backed and praised by people from outside, you will reckon with us,” he said.
“And those who are involved better come out clean very fast. You cannot be here benefiting from the peace and security that we paid for in blood over many years and go behind our backs and cause us problems. We will put you where you belong. No question about it,” he added.
Without mentioning names, the president sent a not-so subtle warning to government critic and politician Victoire Ingabire, telling those who obtain presidential pardons after committing crimes must toe the line or face repercussions.
The president said: “People who have been involved with the tragedy of the genocide and have continued to play that politics and ideology and have gone to prison and have come out, and we have forgiven them for it and then they start playing those games again. We will put you where you belong. And those who make noise about it, we will see what they will do.”
Ms Ingabire was in 2013 sentenced to 15 years in jail for denial of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis and conspiracy to commit terrorism.
She was granted a presidential pardon in September 2018.
But shortly after leaving prison, Ms Ingabire addressed the press saying that several other political prisoners should be released, a claim that was criticised by government officials.
The 51-year-old has in recent days been interrogated by the Rwanda Investigative Bureau in connection with a rebel attack that killed a number of people in the Northern Province last month.
She denied any personal connection to the attack at a press conference, noting that her “movement is peaceful” and that she does not support “cowardly acts of rebels that target innocent civilians.”
Ms Ingabire has launched a new political party, Development and Liberty for All, in the hope that it will be registered. It is yet to be officially recognised. Her previous party, FDU Inkingi, was denied registration.
Ms Ingabire has said the idea was to get her closer to Rwandans after deeming her former party “too distant” and made up of people mainly living in exile.
President Kagame also chided foreign powers and neighbours that support his enemies, noting that he will ignore them and concentrate on what is inside his borders.
“There is not much I can do about the noises being made from the neighbouring countries and beyond, and the best way is to ignore it. But anything crossing our borders to destabilise us, we will prove that we can deal with it,” he said.
President Kagame’s warning comes in the wake of recent developments in the security sector in the country.
In October, armed attackers reportedly went on the rampage with knives, machetes and stones in Musanze district near the Volcanoes National Park, which is popular with tourists for its mountain gorilla sanctuary.
While the death toll was initially put at eight, authorities are now saying that 14 people were killed. The area has been targeted by Rwandan Hutu rebels active within DR Congo in the past.
This includes the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia, whose leaders are accused of complicity in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.
Rwandan police say they were able to track down some of the perpetrators.
“The security forces were able to follow these terrorists, to kill 19 of them and arrest five,” the police said in a statement. Tourism officials said that all visitors to the area were safe.
Then late in October, President Kagame made major changes in the army by promoting Jean-Bosco Kazura, 56, to a full general and also appointed him to the Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwanda Defence Forces.
He replaced Gen Patrick Nyanvumba who served in that capacity since 2013 and will now serve as minister in the newly created ministry of Internal Security.
Gen Kazura was arrested in June 2010 for being away without leave and for traveling to South Africa without permission—and released after spending a month in military detention.
He rebounded from his debacles later in 2013 when he was appointed Force Commander of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali.
President Kagame also returned Gen Fred Ibingira as Chief of Staff of the Reserve Force, a position he had previously held for eight years before being sacked last year.
He has replaced Lt Gen Jacques Musemakweli who is now the Inspector General of the RDF, which is a new office.