News of Rwanda (Kigali)

Rwanda: Tanzania President Kikwete "Married to Habyarimana Cousin"

Photo: Samuel Okiror/IRIN
More refugees are expected as fighting continues in the DRC

New details obtained by News of Rwanda may give insight into why Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete came out as the sole global leader sympathetic to Rwandan FDLR rebels based in DR Congo jungles since 1994.

According to secret US State Department cables published by whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, President Jakaya Kikwete's wife fondly known in Tanzania as "Mama Salma Kikwete" is a cousin of former Rwanda leader Juvenal Habyarimana. The shocking details are contained in a cable sent to Washington on Thursday May 5th, 2005, by Shabyna Stillman, a senior diplomat at the US embassy in Dar es Salaam.

The US embassy was giving update on the selection of Mr Jakaya Kikwete to be the CCM flag-bearer in the presidential election late that year. "For years, observers of the Great Lakes conflicts have considered Kikwete to be virulently pro-Hutu," reads the cable, in part.

"Kikwete's marriage to a cousin of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana may have fueled these rumors, which are now fading as the Burundi conflict winds down," adds the cable, signed by Stillman.

According to the US embassy, Mr Kikwete's love affair with "Hutus" could be seen in his spirited support for Burundian rebels at the time fighting former President Pierre Buyoya.

Since 1995, up until 2005 when Mr. Kikwete was foreign affairs minister of Tanzania, rumours have swelled around him suggesting he sided massively with the ethnic extremist establishment. It is this system that planned and executed the genocide against Tutsis in 1994, and fled across to Zaire and other parts of the world.

It is alleged, around 1996, Mr Kikwete suggested publicly that "Hutus" need to be armed to fight off the government in Kigali at the time. A book published by virulent critic of President Paul Kagame and historian Gérard PRUNIER writes that Tanzania did offer to train troops for Seth Sendashonga.

A former leader of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), for whom he was a minister in the government set up after the rebel movement's victory over the army and the militias responsible for the genocide in 1994, Mr. Sendashonga was murdered in Nairobi, Kenya, on 16 May 1998 by, according to PRUNIER, "unknown assailants."

Fast forward to May 26, 2013, President Jakaya Kikwete goes public with a suggestion that the government of President Kagame in Rwanda negotiates with rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The group was formed in May 2000, but its members had been roaming DRC forests ever since they lost power in Kigali.

The suggestion by a head of state of Tanzania, a country that had long been considered a friendly nation to Rwanda, caught many by surprise. Since then, the two countries are embroiled in a bitter war of words.

The ex-Rwandan Juvenal Habyarimana died on the evening of April 6th, 1994, after his plane was shot down by extremist members of inner circle who did not want the peace talks with the RPF rebels. In the same plane was Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira and French pilots.

The death of the French crew has been the centre of legal battles in France and the United States. A French judicial inquiry did confirm that the plane was brought down by a missile fired from a military camp next to Habyarimana's home near the airport.

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