East Africa

Former RDF boss Charles Kayonga appointed new ambassador to China in mini-reshuffle

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame has made a mini-reshuffle in his government, making Lt-Gen Charles Kayonga, the former Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwanda Defence Forces, the new ambassador to China.

Lt-Gen Kayonga has been without any appointment since June 2013, when he was replaced by Gen Patrick Nyamvumba at the helm of RDF command.

Once considered one of RPF “blue-eyed boys,”  the Fort-Leavenworth trained general is thought to have requested a less engaging role as he approaches retirement, having played an integral part in the liberation struggle and the rebuilding of the country’s military.

Speculation had been rife about the whereabouts of the meek general, who has kept a low profile since he was dropped from the army position.

Lt-Gen Kayonga, 51, is the second high ranking military officer to be appointed ambassador in less than a year, following the appointment of Lt Gen Caesar Kayizari, the former Army Chief of Staff, as Rwanda’s ambassador to Turkey in March 2013.

It is believed that President Kagame is overseeing changes in the army top brass, replacing some of the old guard with fresh blood.

For instance, Brig-Gen Damali Muzungu, the commander of Airforce, replaced Lt-Gen Emmanuel as (Acting) Chief of Staff (Airforce) in 2012 while Maj-Gen Frank Mushyo Kamanzi, replaced Lt Gen Kayizari as Army Chief of Staff. The two men are in their early 40s.

Several senior army officers are taking up diplomatic and administrative roles. Notable among these is Gen James Kabarebe, who was appointed the Defence Minister in April 2010. Gen Kabarebe was the Chief of Defence Forces Staff prior to his appointment.

Others are Maj-Gen Frank Mugambage, who was appointed Rwanda’s ambassador to Uganda in 2009 while Brig-Gen Frank Rusagara serves in diplomatic ranks in Rwanda’s High Commission in the United Kingdom.

However, there has been speculation that the recent reshuffles are meant to restore loyalty within the military as the generals could have fallen out of favour for “political” reasons, mainly related to the intrigues within the Rwandan armed forces, emanating from exiled former senior officers.

It is believed that the bitter falling-out between President Kagame and his former Army Chief of Staff Lt-Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa in 2010 could have sowed divisions within the military, with some sections secretly remaining “friends” with the exiled generals.

However, replacing the old guard is not limited to the military. In other changes announced by the Cabinet on Monday, Ben Kagarama was dropped as the Commissioner General of Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and replaced by his deputy in charge of Customs Richard Tushabe.

At Rwanda Social Security Board (RSSB), the Director General Angelique Katengwa was also dropped and replaced by Dr Daniel Ufitikirezi, who was her deputy in charge of Funds Management. Also dropped was the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Ernest Ruzidanza, who was replaced by Tony Nsanganira, who previously worked with Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

The extraordinary Cabinet meeting also appointed François-Xavier Ngarambe the new envoy to Switzerland, replacing Solina Nyirahabimana. The former Minister of Presidency was reportedly recalled from Geneva last year without any explanation.


Amandin Rugira, who until Monday was Rwanda’s ambassador to Kinshasa, was posted to Bujumbura but his replacement was not named. It is not clear when Rwanda will appoint a new ambassador to its vast neighbour to the west.

In another appointment, Caritas Mukandasira was appointed the governor of the Western Province, replacing Célestin Kabahizi, who was last year elected to the East African Legislative Assembly.

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