Image: Pasteur Bizimungu

Pasteur Bizimungu

Pasteur Bizimungu, born in 1951, president of Rwanda (1994-2000). A member of the Hutu ethnic group, Bizimungu was educated in Rwandan schools, where he joined radical political organizations that opposed the rival Tutsi. He served as the manager of the state-owned utilities corporation Electrogaz and generally supported the policies of Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana. In a striking political reorientation, he resigned from his government appointment with Electrogaz in 1990 and publicly accused Habyarimana of practicing nepotism, encouraging regional and ethnic tensions, and condoning corruption. Bizimungu fled to Uganda in August 1990 and resurfaced two months later in Kampala as the spokesperson for the rebel army Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The RPF, composed primarily of Rwandan Tutsi refugees in Uganda and some moderate Hutu, invaded northern Rwanda in October 1990, sparking a civil war between Hutu and Tutsi. Bizimungu served in several administrative roles for the RPF, including chief negotiator at peace talks held in Tanzania in August 1993. In December of that year, Bizimungu was named minister of the interior in a transitional government that was expected to prepare for multiparty elections. However, in April 1994 Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira were killed when their plane was mysteriously shot down near the Rwandan capital of Kigali. Rwanda plunged into anarchic ethnic violence that involved the Hutu-dominated Rwandan Army and the RPF. During this civil war, as the RPF drove out the Rwandan Army, it is estimated that between 500,000 and 1 million Rwandans, mostly Tutsi, were killed. After the RPF gained control of the country in July, Bizimungu was appointed president for a five-year term, although many members of the opposition believed that real power in Rwanda lay in the hands of former rebel commander Paul Kagame, who held the posts of vice president and defense minister in the transitional government. Bizimungu`s term was prolonged in 1999 when the government extended the transitional period another five years. However, after clashing with the RPF over the appointment of a new cabinet and accusing parliament of discriminating against Hutu politicians in its campaign against government corruption, Bizimungu resigned the presidency in March 2000. He was succeeded by Kagame.

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