Former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu died this Saturday, December 2, in Brussels, Belgium, where he lived in self-imposed exile, at the age of 78. His family confirmed the death of the septuagenarian to Voice of America (VOA).
He was the first post-1994 Genocide against the Tutsi Prime Minister and head of government business, serving from 1994 to 1995 when he resigned from the position and joined opposition politics before exiling himself in Belgium.
Twagiramungu joined active politics in 1991, as the chairman of a new political party at the time, the Republican Democratic Movement (MDR), an offspring of what used to be MDR-Parmehutu. The party sought to challenge former President Juvenal Habyarimana’s National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), which had monopolised power.
A crafty politician with his own ambitions, Twagiramungu eyed becoming a Prime Minister in the so-called multiparty government set up in April 1992, but instead fellow MDR member, Dismas Nsengiyaremye, became the Prime Minister.
In July 1993, Twagiramungu engineered a split in MDR, with two factions emerging, one headed by Nsengiyaremye and the other by Twagiramungu. They both wanted to be the Prime Minister in what was to be known as the Broad-Based Transitional Government (BBTG).
The post had to be decided prior to the signing of the Arusha Accords. Twagiramungu’s faction was weak, but he succeeded thanks to support from the other political parties.
The Arusha Accords were signed on 4 August 1993, and Twagiramungu was chosen to be the Prime Minister but the BBTG was never installed. He would later align himself with RPF Inkotanyi, as he continued his opposition of the then government.
In July 1994, after the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF- Inkotanyi) stopped the genocide, Twagiramungu was made Prime Minister in the Government of National Unity set up by the RPF Inkotanyi.
A controversial figure in government, Twagiramungu resigned on August 28, and later fled the country the same year. In March 1996, Twagiramungu joined forces with former interior minister Seth Sendashonga to set up an exiled opposition party known as the Democratic Forces for Resistance (FRD), which was officially launched in April 1997.
In 1998, FRD was joined by other political parties in exile to form the Union of Rwandan Democratic Forces (UFDR), which sought to change leadership in Rwanda, with Twagiramungu as its leader.
However, the alliance would soon fall apart after members accused Twagiramungu of working as if he was alone, creating “a party within a party”, with many abandoning the cause.
“He was distanced even from the majority of his own party, the FRD and he was also unpopular with the old guard of the RDR”, with some accusing him of working in his own interests, dating back to MDR days.
Twagiramungu resigned from the presidency in December 2001 and “essentially detached himself from the opposition movements”. On 10 December 2002, Twagiramungu announced that he would be a candidate in the Rwandan presidential election of 2003, running against President Kagame.
Since his ‘Parmehutu’-inclined party MDR had been banned, Twagiramungu contested as an independent candidate, finishing second with 3.62 percent of the vote. Twagiramungu returned to Belgium in self-imposed exile again.
In Europe, Twagiramungu continued in opposition politics, becoming more popular for his comical comments in talk shows and on social media than his political exploits.
In 2010, Twagiramungu founded a “new political movement” known as the Rwandan Dream Initiative (RDI), which later in early 2014 joined other three opposition groups, PS-Imberakuri, UDR and militia group FDLR, to form the Coalition of Political Parties for Change (CPC).
The inclusion of FDLR became a point of controversy, with many writing off Twagiramungu’s political career. His comments that bordered on revising history and denying the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi made him more unpopular in his later years.
By the time of his passing, Twagiramungu had become more and more invisible from the public, with many suspecting that he had been unwell for a while.
Born on August 14, 1944 in Gishoma Commune, in the former Cyangugu prefecture, Twagiramungu studied and worked in Quebec, Canada, from 1968 to 1976, before he returned to Rwanda and worked with a transportation company called STIR -Société des Transports Internationaux au Rwanda. He later joined active politics.
He was a son-in-law of former Prime Minister Gregoire Kayibanda.