I. The Bagogwe
If the West knows about ethnicity in Rwanda at all, it is in the familiar form of the Hutu and Tutsi. However, there are further sub-groups and clans within these broader configurations. One clan that features prominently in the story of Bishop John Rucyahana and his support for M23 is the Bagogwe clan.
Who are the Bagogwe? This article (in French) explains the roots of the Bagogwe ethnicity inside Rwanda:
Jason Stearns says of the Bagogwe that “clan identity amongst the Tutsi does play a difference, as does their socialization within the RPF. We currently see some divides between the Bagogwe, mostly from Masisi, and what is usually referred to as Banyanduga or Bajomba, many of whom are from Bwisha in Rutshuru. This is reinforced by a class divide – Bagogwe are often poor cattle-herders.”
|Masisi in the west, over the Virunga Mountains and in the DRC. Rutshuru in the east. Ruhengeri is southeast, and is familiar to many Anglicans as the base of operations for Bishop Rucyahana.|
Stearns is referring to divisions among the Bagogwe from the Congo who have participated in rebel movements fomented by Rwanda, but there is a strong Bagogwe presence inside Rwanda itself. In fact, prior to the outbreak of the genocide in 1994, the Bagogwe were themselves targeted for genocide by the Habyiramana regime in the towns of Ruhengeri and Bigogwe. Amnesty International wrote that the Bagogwe clan “was targeted for elimination”(AFR 47/02/92).
II. The Bagogwe as Soldiers for Kagame
It seems that after the RPF took over in Rwanda, the Bagogwe were often used to do Kagame’s dirty work. According to former Kagame bodyguard Aloys Ruyenzi:
In November 2009, Jason Stearns talked about unrest brewing in the DRC again, and said that “…previously the Tutsi faction was represented mostly by upper class Tutsi from Goma and Jomba, while this time they seem to be mostly from the lower class Bagogwe clan from Masisi.
The leader of the Bagogwe faction inside both M23 and the CNDP, which was the precursor to M23, was Bosco Ntaganda. Some of this ethnic background is explained in this story:
As this story put it:
The following table outlines the backgrounds of three rebel leaders who operated for Rwanda in the DRC.
|Bosco Ntaganda||Sultani Makenga||Laurent Nkunda|
|Bagogwe||Bagogwe, Banyejomba clan||Bagogwe, Banyejomba clan|
|Masisi region||Rucuru District||Rutshuru region|
III. Rucyahana’s Bagogwe Connection
Where does Bishop John Rucyahana fit into this picture? In 2012, the UN said that Rucyahana was the “president of the Bagogwe community”:
Details about this role in the Bagogwe community are lacking, but Rucyahana’s fundraising and recruiting efforts for M23 were clearly in support of the Ntaganda faction, as subsequent evidence makes clear.
In late 2012, Rwanda decided that Bosco Ntaganda was unreliable and decided to eliminate his faction of M23 in favor of a faction led by Sultani Makenga:
A “civil war” of sorts broke out between the two factions within M23, with Bosco’s faction losing badly because Rwanda was determined to eliminate him. Anyone who helped him was arrested:
With Rwanda hunting him, Bosco Ntaganda had to flee for his life. How he was able to do so is laid out for us by the UN and sources such as this:
The UN’s account of Bosco’s flight says:
According to confidential sources, the situation of bishops Rucyahana and Kolini is bad because since (a) the escape of Bosco Ntaganda into the American embassy in Rwanda and (b) intense external pressure to end support for M23, Paul Kagame has abandoned the bishops. A sign of this abandonment is his open admission that churches support M23 as a Tutsi self-protection campaign. A source says that Bishop Rucyahana cannot travel outside Rwanda on orders of the Government (or without its explicit permission); and that in fact Rucyahana’s own driver assisted Bosco Ntaganda to escape to the American embassy. If true, this means that Rucyahana’s driver is or was a relative of Bosco’s all along.
In short, Rucyahana (a) had a driver related to Bosco Ntaganda, (b) was the President of the Bagogwe community in Rwanda, and (c) was sidelined when Bosco’s support network was eliminated as part of the M23 civil war.
The civil war between Bosco’s faction and the Makenga faction may have hurt Bagogwe support for M23, since many native sons of the Bagogwe were betrayed by Paul Kagame. The UN says:
It is not as clear why Bishop Kolini would support M23, although he preached and served among the Bagogwe in the eastern Congo for many years, and his support for Paul Kagame is probably unwavering. He is also connected to the current bishop of Boga, the Rt Revd William Bahemuka Mugenyi. He has connected the severely weakened AMiA to Bishop William which means that Kolini has ongoing contact with clergy in the DRC.
Rucyahana has appeared in the US recently as part of Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council. Presumably, he is engaged in what Rwanda calls, “Kwicazwa ku gatebe” – literally “being made to sit on a small chair.” When you fall out of favor with Paul Kagame, you must keep silence and wait, hoping that someone else will soon fall out of favor and a replacement will be needed.