Luis Nhachote Every 25 September each year, Mozambique celebrates its armed forces. That’s the date on which, in
Every 25 September each year, Mozambique celebrates its armed forces. That’s the date on which, in 1964, Frelimo’s insurrection against Portuguese colonialism began, with the first shot fired at the village of Chai, in Macomia district in the province of Cabo Delgado.
This year, however, honours were shared with the armed forces of Rwanda – whose president, Paul Kagame, had been welcomed on a red carpet when he landed at Pemba, capital of Cabo Delgado, a day earlier. Cabo Delgado today is home to another armed insurrection, and the Rwanda Defence Force is helping Mozambique’s Frelimo government to try to snuff it out.
Kagame sent 1,000 soldiers and police to fight the Islamist-inspired insurgency well before the SADC community
managed to mobilise its own military mission to Mozambique.
So far, the Rwandan forces have seen great success – apparently turning the course of the war in favour of the
Mozambican government. But the celebratory mood is not shared by the 4,300-strong Rwandan refugee community in Mozambique, centred on the capital Maputo, some 2,440 km from Pemba. They view the rapprochement
between Mozambique’s President Filipe Nyusi and Kagame with suspicion.
The Rwandan Refugees Association’s chairperson, Cléophas Habiyaremye, believes that the deepening of ties
between Kigali and Maputo is fuelled by a shady deal under which Kagame helps quash the Cabo Delgado insurrection on the understanding that his “Kigali death squad” is given carte blanche to target Rwandan refugees in Mozambique unhindered. Already, members of the community have been killed and kidnapped without the Mozambican authorities ever solving the crimes.
A litany of violent crimes
On 13 September this year, Révocat Karemangingo was gunned down 50 metres from his house in Maputo by two
Karemangingo was a lieutenant in the Rwandan army that was overthrown by Kagame’s forces in 1994, but had since
become a businessman in Mozambique, and deputy chair of the Rwandan Refugees Association.
On 23 May, alleged Mozambican police officials kidnapped Rwandan journalist Ntamuhanga Cassien on the
island of Inhaca, 38km off the Maputo coast.
They then reportedly took him to a police station in the neighbourhood of Chamanculo, before handing him over
to the Rwandan High Commission in Maputo – even though there is no formal extradition treaty between Maputo and Kigali.
He has not been seen since then.
The high commission did not respond to a request for comment.
Cassien had been living in exile in Mozambique for four years, after escaping from a Rwandan prison where he was serving a sentence for allegedly plotting against President Kagame.
In October 2012, the body of Théogène Turatsinze, former head of the Rwandan Development Bank and at
the time deputy vice-chancellor of the Mozambique Saint Thomas University (USTM), was found tied up and floating
in the Maputo channel.
The last time he was seen alive was in the company of foreign investors at a hotel where they were staying.
The crime remains unsolved.
Our crime? Being born in Rwanda
Speaking to The Continent at the weekend, Habiyaremye said that the sight of Kagame being received with full state
honours has increased the fear within the Rwandan refugee community.
The two countries have historically not gotten along, but in 2019 Rwanda established a high commission in
Mozambique. To the consternation of both refugees and international observers,
the inaugural high commissioner was revealed to be Claude Nikobisanzwe.
Nikobisanzwe had previously been a diplomat in South Africa – but was expelled from that country on suspicion
of involvement in the murder of Rwanda’s former head of intelligence, Patrick Karegeya, in a Johannesburg hotel in
2014. Karegeya had turned against the regime i
This article was appear at the first time at https://mg.co.za/thecontinent/
n Kigali and became a prominent critic of Paul Kagame.
Habiyaremye said the Rwandan community in Mozambique cannot seek help from the High Commission because
“we don’t have any relationship with the embassy – it serves the regime and not the interests of the Rwandese citizens”.
Many Rwandan exiles in Mozambique have registered as Burundians or other citizens of other countries, Habiyaremye said. “There are officially 4,300 registered [Rwandan] refugees, but I believe there are around 10,000. They hide behind other nationalities because they are persecuted by the Kigali regime. Our sole
crime is to have been born in Rwanda”. ■