Rwandan Patriotic Front

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The Rwandan Patriotic Front (also translated as: Rwandese Patriotic Front; or referred to as: Patriotic Front of Rwanda) abbreviated as RPF (also often referred to as FPR from French: Front patriotique rwandais) is the current ruling political party of Rwanda, led by President Paul Kagame. It governs in a coalition with other parties.

The RPF was founded in 1985 in Uganda. Tutsi refugees from Rwanda had helped overthrow the dictatorship of Milton Obote, but locals resented the presence of the Tutsis in the new Ugandan army. Many of them quit to join the RPF, dedicated to overthrowing the Hutu-led government in Rwanda.

At the last legislative elections, on 30 September 2003, the party won (as part of the ruling coalition) 33 out of 53 seats including the presidents seat, won by Paul Kagame.


[edit] The RPF as a military force 1990-1994

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On 2 October 1990 the RPF launched an invasion of Rwanda from their bases in southern Uganda. Originally the 5000 men of the invading force made good progress against the numerically superior but poorly trained soldiers of the RAF (the Rwandan Armed Forces). However the RPF commander Fred Rwigema was killed by a stray bullet within a week of the war beginning and the rebel forces were thrown into confusion. On the 7th of October the government forces, launched a counter-offensive. The RPF who had only prepared for a short war began to fall back when it became clear that they did not have the heavy equipment needed to face the government forces in a conventional conflict. Major Paul Kagame, who was in the United States, was contacted and returned to take control of the rebel forces. To make matters worse, on 23 October two more RPF commanders, Maj. Peter Bayingana and Chris Bunyenyezi were killed in an ambush. By the end of the month the RPF had been pushed back into Uganda or had taken refuge in the Akagera national park.

On his arrival Paul Kagame began to reorganize his forces and decided to develop a guerrilla style war in the north of the country. He pulled his forces back into Uganda during the night and then moved them into the forested Virunga volcanoes. The RPF spent two months in this area, without engaging the government forces. This time was spent reorganising the army and rebuilding the leadership which had suffered so much during the fighting. During this time the RPF also benefited from the recruitment of men from the Tutsi diaspora. Therefore by early 1991 the RPF had grown to 5,000 men, by 1992 it had reached 12,000 and by the 1994 genocide numbered 25,000.

In order to kick start the guerilla war, Kagame planned an audacious attack on the northern town of Ruhengeri. This had the aim of targeting a city in the north, a stronghold of the Habyarimana regime, as well as spreading insecurity to other towns throughout the country. On 23 January 1991 the RPF captured Ruhengeri, freeing numerous political prisoners and capturing a large amount of weapons and equipment, before retreating back to the forests that evening.

Following this action the RPF withdrew and began to carry out a classic hit and run style guerilla war. Low intensity fighting dragged on with neither side managing to inflict any major defeats on the other. Over the next few years there were numerous attempts at ceasefires, though they achieved little and the fighting continued until 13 July 1992 when a cease-fire was signed in Arusha. Over the course of the following months negotiations continued, though without any serious breakthroughs and with the tension on both sides mounting. Finally, following reports of massacres of Tutsis, the RPF launched a major offensive on 8 February 1993.

This offensive forced the government forces back in disarray, allowing the RPF to quickly capture the town of Ruhengeri, and then to turn south and begin advancing on the capital. This caused panic in Paris (a long term supporter of the Habyarimana regime) which immediately sent several hundred French troops to the country along with large amounts of ammunition for the FAR artillery. The arrival of these French troops in Kigali seriously changed the military situation on the ground. Implicit in their support for the government and their rapid deployment was the threat that, should the RPF advance on the capital, then they may find themselves fighting French paratroopers as well as Rwandan government soldiers. On 20 February, with the RPF only 30 km north of Kigali, the rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire and over the following months pulled their forces back.

An uneasy peace was once again entered into, which would last until 7 April of the following year. Over the following months the peace process developed. One of the stipulations of the agreement was that the RPF would station a number of diplomates in Kigali at the CND parliament building. These men were to be protected by between 600-1000 RPF soldiers.

[edit] The Rwandan Genocide and Civil War

On 6 April 1994 president Habyarimana was returning from Arusha, where peace talks had been taking place, when his presidential jet was shot down, killing all inside. That night elements of the Interhamwe and the presidential guard began to kill opposition politicians and prominent Tutsis. Over the following days it became clear that the target of these killings was the entire Tutsi population along with certain moderate Hutus. The Rwandan Genocide had begun and would last three months, killing hundreds of thousands of people, about 937,000 according to the RPF.

By evening on 7 April with killings becoming widespread and the RPF battalion in the CND coming under attack, the RPF renewed its offensive south. The RPF troops within the CND building, having dug strong defences during the previous months, in case they were caught in the capital with their supply lines cut and under attack, were engaged by the Rwanda army in the nearby army camp at Kanombe, near the airport. The rebel forces within the parliament complex began to fight its way out of the CND buildings and began to attack the surrounding government held districts. Its main focus however was to move north and link up with the main rebel army.

The main RPF forces in the north began a three pronged attack on the morning of 8 April. One group moved west to Ruhengeri and engaged government forces there, although they would make little progress and were more likely a defensive force securing the right flank of the RPF advance south. The second group moved down the eastern border of the country towards Kibungo. The third and main RPF advance was towards the capital, which they managed to reach by the evening of 11 April. Both sides began to reinforce and strengthen their positions, with the RPF beginning a slow but effective encirclement of the city. On 12 April the provisional government fled to Gitarama to attempt to escape the fighting.

In the east the RPF faced little government resistance and reached the Tanzanian border on 22 April. However, with almost all of the RPF's heavy equipment focused on the battle for Kigali, the advance on Ruhengeri stalemated.

In the capital, the RPF advance continued its slow yet methodical encirclement of the city, forcing the airport to close on 5 May due to intense shelling. A further sign of the success of Kagame's troops was the cutting of the Kigali-Gitaram road on 16 May. This was followed six days later by the capture of Kigali International Airport. In an attempt to reverse the defeats that it was suffering, the FAR launched a counter-attack on 6 June, although this was halted almost immediately and failed to achieve any significant gains.

The RPF forces, having control of the northern, eastern and southern suburbs, began to move north around the south-western edge of the city. This put further pressure on Gitarama which fell on 13 June. At this point the RPF began to close in on the center of the capital, hoping to defeat the government forces in the field. This took the form of putting pressure on three sides of the city with infantry and light artillery and mortars, allowing the defenders no respite. Heavy fighting continued through June and into the first week on July. However, on 3 July the government forces began to withdraw from the capital, taking with it the majority of the civilian population. According to UN sources they had almost completely run out of ammunition. The following day, after a three month long battle, the RPF moved in and captured the entire city.

In the mean time the RPF's eastern forces had reached the south eastern edge of the country and then swung on an axis, who's hinge was at Kigali, westward. Through June they pushed the government west through the southern region, along the border with Burundi. They finally stopped following their capture of Butare on 2 July and the arrival of the French, who blocked their path.

With the fall of Kigali the government forces began to disintegrate. The army lost cohesion and began to rout, being closely pursued by the RPF. This made defending the last two northern towns of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi almost impossible. With his forces in the capital now freed up from the battle for Kigali, Kagame moved the bulk of his army north to capture the government's power base. On 13 July Ruhengeri finally capitulated, followed on 18 July by Gisenyi.

In the south-west of the country French forces from Operation Turquoise controlled a large area, which was given over to the RPF on 21 August 1994, thus giving the RPF complete control of the country.

[edit] Existence after genocide and victory

After its conquest of Rwanda, the RPF was split into a political division which retained the RPF name, and a military one, called the Rwandan Patriotic Army (now the Rwandan Defence Forces). The RPF continues to be the dominant political party in Rwanda under President Paul Kagame.

[edit] External links

de:Ruandische Patriotische Front es:Frente Patriótico Ruandés fr:Front patriotique rwandais no:Rwandan Patriotic Front nl:Front Patriotique Rwandais ru:Руандийский патриотический фронт sv:Rwandas patriotiska front

Rwandan Patriotic Front

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