Rwandan President Paul Kagame has embarked on a major shakeup of the country’s military, with a round of dismissals announced Wednesday following the appointment of a new defence minister, the army chief, and the head of internal security.
The Rwanda Defence Force said in a statement that two senior commanders had been sacked, along with 14 officers and more than 200 people in other ranks.
No reason has been given for the changes.
On Tuesday, Kagame announced the appointment of Juvenal Marizamunda as defence minister, replacing Albert Murasira who had served in the post since 2018.
The 58-year-old Marizamunda was previously the head of Rwanda’s correctional services and also a former deputy inspector general of police.
Kagame also appointed Mubarak Muganga as the new chief of defence staff, and Vincent Nyakarundi as army chief of staff, a statement from his office said.
Jean Bosco Ntibitura was named director general in charge of internal security in the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
Other changes were also made to command roles in the Rwandan force, which has been deployed in Mozambique since 2021 to counter a jihadist insurgency.
Meanwhile, the RDF said that Major General Aloys Muganga and Brigadier General Francis Mutiganda had been dismissed along with 14 officers.
Muganga had been appointed commander of mechanized forces in 2019, while Mutiganda had been in charge of external security at the NISS until October 2018, when he was called back to RDF headquarters in an unspecified role, local media reports said.
“He (Kagame) has also authorised the dismissal of 116 other ranks and approved the rescission of 112 other ranks,” the RDF statement said, adding that the moves were effective immediately.
Last week, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s army accused the Rwandan military and the M23 rebel group of planning to attack the eastern Congolese city of Goma.
The Tutsi-led M23 has captured swathes of territory in North Kivu province since taking up arms in late 2021 after years of dormancy, with over one million people displaced by the fighting.
The DRC has repeatedly accused neighbouring Rwanda of backing the M23, a charge backed by several Western countries and independent UN experts but one that Kigali denies.
Rwanda has increased its presence in northern Mozambique in response to the growing jihadist insurrection in the area. In June 2021, the Rwandan government deployed more than 1,000 troops to the region to provide additional security and assistance to the Mozambique Defense and Security Forces at the request of the Mozambican government.
“The Rwandan contingent will support efforts to restore Mozambican state authority by conducting combat and security operations, as well as stabilisation and security-sector reform,”
The troops are providing training and support to the Mozambique military in the fight against the Islamic State-affiliated jihadists. The troops are also helping to improve infrastructure, such as roads, in the region to facilitate the deployment of additional forces. The Rwandan troops are expected to remain in the region for the foreseeable future, providing support to the Mozambique military and helping to protect the local population.