Juvénal Habyarimana

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Juvénal Habyarimana
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Full Name: Juvénal Habyarimana
Alias: Kinani
Origin: Gisenyi, Ruanda-Urundi
Occupation: President of Rwanda (1973 - 1994)
Goals: Keep the Tutsis out of the government (failed)
Implement the Arusha Accords (failed)
Crimes: Corruption
Election fraud
Type of Villain: Moderate Dictator

Our job is to cultivate. All the rest is good luck.
~ Juvénal Habyarimana

Juvénal Habyarimana (March 8, 1937 – April 6, 1994) was the 2nd President of the Republic of Rwanda, serving from 1973 until 1994. He was nicknamed "Kinani", a Kinyarwanda word meaning "invincible". He described himself as a "Moderate Hutu" and even allowed ethnic Tutsis to start their own businesses, yet tried to keep them out of government.


Juvénal Habyarimana was born on March 8, 1937, in Gisenyi, Ruanda-Urundi to a wealthy Hutu family. After receiving a primary education, he attended the College of Saint Paul in Bukavu, Belgian Congo, where he graduated with a degree in mathematics and humanities. In 1958 he enrolled in Lovanium University's medical school in Léopoldville. After the beginning of the Rwandan Revolution the following year, Habyarimana left Lovanium and enrolled in the officer training school in Kigali. He graduated with distinction in 1961 and became an aide to the Belgian commander of the force in Rwanda. He married Agathe Kanziga in 1962.

In 1963 Habyarimana, due to his educated status and attractive personality, was appointed head of the Rwanda National Guard. That January he was promoted to the rank of major general. Two years later he was made Minister of the National Guard and Police.

On July 5, 1973, while serving as Army Chief of Staff, Habyarimana seized power in a coup d'état against the incumbent President Grégoire Kayibanda and ousting Kayibanda's ruling Parmehutu party. In 1975, he created the MRND as the country's only legal party. The government stayed almost entirely in military hands until 1978, when a new constitution was approved in a referendum. At the same time, Habyarimana was elected to a five-year term as president. He was reelected in single-candidate elections in 1983 and 1988.

Habyarimana was a dictator, and electoral fraud was suspected for his unopposed re-elections: 98.99% of the vote on 24 December 1978, 99.97% of the vote on 19 December 1983, and 99.98% of the vote on 19 December 1988. During his rule, Rwanda became a fascist totalitarian order in which his MRND-party enforcers required people to chant and dance in adulation of the President at mass pageants of political "animation". While the country as a whole had become slightly less impoverished during Habyarimana's tenure, the great majority of Rwandans remained in circumstances of extreme poverty.

A Hutu himself, he initially won favor among both Hutu and Tutsi groups given his administration's reluctance to implement policies that catered to his primarily Hutu supporters. This restraint did not last and Habyarimana eventually began to oversee a government that mirrored the policies of Kayibanda. Quotas were once again applied to jobs for "universities and government services" which intentionally disadvantaged Tutsis. As Habyarimana continued to favor a smaller and smaller coterie of supporters, the more Hutu groups —slighted by the nation's leader— cooperated with Tutsis to weaken his leadership.

By the start of the invasion from Uganda by the army of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, a rebel army made up mostly of refugee Tutsi who had helped Uganda's Museveni seize control of the presidency, Habyarimana's supporters had shrunk down to the akazu ("little house" or "President's household"), which was mainly composed of an informal group of Hutu Power adherents from his home region, namely from the northwestern provinces of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri.

From 1975 to 1990, the MRND and the Habyarimana government were one. Local administrations simultaneously represented the official party as well as the local authority. Legal and party policies were communicated and enforced from the Head of State down through the local administrative units, especially the general policy of Umuganda where Rwandans were required to "allocate half a day's labour per week" to infrastructural projects. Habyarimana is sometimes described as a moderate though the party is said to have used right-wing propaganda methods, advanced a conservative political agenda and was anti-communist.

However, in 1990, before the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invasion, and because of mounting pressure from several sources—Rwanda's main ally and financial backer, France, its main funders, the IMF and the World Bank, and from its own citizens wishing for a greater voice and economic change—he agreed to allow the formation of other parties such as the Republican Democratic Movement, the Social Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Party. In 1993, Habyarimana met with RPF leader Paul Kagame and announced he would form a coalition government with the RPF by signing the Arusha Accords.

On April 6, 1994, he died when his plane, which also transported the president of neighboring Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down over Kigali by a surface-to-air missile. His assassination ignited ethnic tensions in the region and helped spark the Rwandan Genocide.

To this day, it is unknown who fired the missile that shot down Habyarimana's plane. Some believe that it was the RPF acting on orders from Paul Kagame, while others believe that it was Hutu Power followers within the Rwandan Army (possibly acting on orders from Colonel Théoneste Bagosora.)

After his death, his remains somehow ended up in the hands of Mobutu Sese Seko, the president of neighboring Zaire. Mobutu kept Habyarimana's remains in a private mausoleum in Gbadolite. Mobutu promised Habyarimana's family that his body would eventually be given a proper burial in Rwanda. However, once the First Congo War got under way, this never came to fruition, and Mobutu would eventually flee the country all together. What exactly happened to Habyarimana's remains after this is unknown, though it is widely believed that they were burned and buried somewhere in Kinasha.