Grégoire Kayibanda (May 1, 1924 – December 15, 1976), educated at Kabgayi Mission, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic archdiocese, and from 1943 at the Grand Seminary of Nyakibanda. He was the first President of the Republic of Rwanda, Gregoire Kayibanda, took up this position in October 1961. The Republic itself was practically born on January 28, 1961, when the Mwami Kigeri V, the last lord of a kingdom that appeared to be one of the strongest in Africa, was declared deposed from his throne. Gregoire Kayibanda settled in Kigali, in a presidential palace inherited from the Belgian colonial administration and whose bad architectural taste rivaled the small size of the rooms.
The new president was to remain in power a little over twelve years. On July 5, 1973, an obscure soldier, Juvenal Habyarimana, and other officers or sergeants, formed a revolutionary council, declared to want to “liberate” the country, then distributed the prebends. Kayibanda was sentenced to death. A year later, the coup leader was pardoned by Hutu opinion .
The personality of Kayibanda, leader and inspirer of the social movement of emancipation, is not intelligible outside of its bonds of friendship and collaboration with a Catholic missionary, become bishop, Perrodin. Originally from the Swiss Valais, Perrodin dedicated himself to promoting and fighting the most disadvantaged Rwandans – exploited men and women, subjected to the chore, often suffering from hunger, most often Hutu, dominated by Tutsi, thanks to a feudal-type economic system.
Their movement of emancipation began in 1953, when Bishop Perrodin and ex-seminarian Kayibanda founded the first newspaper, and the only one that ever existed in the Kinyarwanda language. In 1956, the Christian activist, passionate of theology and Thomist philosophy, went one step further. Always inspired, financed, guided by the bishop, he founds a political party, the Hutu Social Movement, which aims to organize the Hutu, prepare their economic and political liberation.
Grégoire Kayibanda Full Biography and Profile
He became a teacher in Kigali in 1949 at the Leon Classe Institute and an inspector of schools in 1953. He continued as a government information officer until 1955 and then editor of “L’Ami” and “Kinyamateka”, two local newspapers. He founded the Rwanda Co-operative Movement in 1952 and his first purely political party in 1957 with the Muhutu Social Movement which campaigned for Hutu rights against the Tutsi government. He worked among the farmers throughout the country to create a “Muhutu cell on every hill”.
The Catholic Archbishop of Kabyagi, Monsignor Perraudin, was impressed by his zeal for social reform and encouraged him to form the Popular Catholic Action youth movement and had him invited to Rome and Belgium. In 1958 he was sent to do a course in Journalism at Brussels and became an attache at the missionary Press centre.
He returned to Rwanda in 1959 to find the Hutu rapidly organising themselves into a mass movement and demanding political changes. The Tutsi chiefs were alarmed, dismissed many of their Hutu sub-chiefs and stoked the fires of Hutu rebellion.
On July 25, 1959, the Tutsi King Mutara III died of suspected poisoning. This was the signal for Tutsi extremists to seize power and attempt to put down the Hutu leaders. Kayibanda, who was building his party into a national movement, named Parmehutu on October 9, 1959, had to be given Belgium protection to safeguard his life.
The -Belgians, barely in control of the country, organised local elections in June 1960 and Parmehutu and its allies won a majority of seats. In October, Kayibanda was made head of the provisional government. King Kigeri V went into exile during the 1959 struggles between the Tutsi and the Hutu and on January 29, 1961, a meeting .of 3,000 leaders was called to declare Rwanda a republic and elect Kayibanda Prime Minister.
In September he organised a referendum which overwhelmingly confirmed the republic, abolished the monarchy and made him an Executive President on October 26, 1961. He then led his country to independence on July 1, 1962.
Unlike neighbouring Burundi, Rwanda had achieved its social revolution with the majority of Hutu in control before independence, but Kayibanda, whose aim was to consolidate peace and build national unity, was unable to prevent an attempt by Tutsi refugees to invade and depose him in December 1963. The invaders were beaten back a few miles from the capital and another wave of vengeance against the Tutsi living in Rwanda was unleashed.
In October 1965 he was re-elected to the Presidency with an increased majority, confirmed yet again in October 1969. Both times his Parmehutu party won every seat in the National Assembly.
His main problem in foreign affairs was with neighbouring Burundi, which harboured tens of thousands of Tutsi refugees. Relations were much improved when Burundi became a republic in November 1966.
A meeting between himself. President Mobutu of Zaire and President Micombero of Burundi was arranged in March 1967, which agreed that refugees on both sides should lay down their weapons. This eased tension until the massacres of the Hutu in Burundi in May 1972, when he appealed to President Micombero for restraint. “The Rwandese Revolution in 1959 did not go to the extent of killing schoolchildren, no matter what tribe they may have been” he said.
He maintained good relations with neighbouring Uganda under President Obote, but when Idi Amin came to power he was accused of allowing his territory to be used for the infiltration of pro-Obote guerrillas. Amin closed the frontier in July 1971 for a month and allowed the exiled King Kigeri V to tour Uganda, but by December 1972 Amin had reversed his policy and was warning the ex-King not to plan subversive activities against Rwanda, “neighbourly brotherly state”.
Grégoire Kayibanda Personality
Before the military coup which ousted him he was the undisputed leader first of the Hutu, then gradually of the Rwanda nation. A self effacing modest man, he lived simply and ruled with impartiality, moderation and regard for the democratic institutions which he had established. He spent as much time as possible in his small home town of Gitarama. But though moderate and tolerant he was not politically creative m face of the overwhelming economic problems in the tiny, overcrowded country. The situation deteriorated in February 1973 when 300 people died in clashes between students of the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. Major General Habyalimana intervened on behalf of the army in July and placed Kayibanda under house arrest.
“Had the Tutsis Won, No Hutu Would Still Be Alive.” – Grégoire Kayibanda
Late Grégoire Kayibanda, President of the first Republic, spoke to them in clear terms, but they refused to understand. He told the Tutsis the truth and made them understand that the feudal regime can no longer be restored to Rwanda. He urged them not to listen to liars who claimed that the Tutsis would win whereas that was impossible. He continued to urge the Tutsis to wake up from the dreams and cooperate with other Rwandans, but in vain. You, yourselves, should read these two speeches of late Grégoire Kayibanda. The one titled “Power is democracy,” was delivered to the Inyenzi on 29 March 1964 and the other titled “Democracy is incompatible with violence” was delivered on 10 April 1964, essentially, to the authorities who did not know what democracy was and, more particularly, to the authorities who passed for Inyenzi accomplices like Nsengiyaremye. Democracy is incompatible with violence.
Power Is Democracy
You have noticed the path taken by Rwanda brought out of the abyss into which Ndahindurwa had precipitated it in 1956 following the death of Mutara.
You are aware of the tragedy that befell it particularly in 1959 and at the beginning of the 1960s, a period marked by the fight between democracy and feudalism and during which the feudal Ndahindurwa and his lackeys precipitated Rwanda into an abyss. This led to the upsurge of refugees, the Inyenzi, desolation and widows.
You have noted that we have brought Rwanda out of the abyss in which feudal Ndahindurwa had precipitated it at the time he fled, that we have established democracy, peace, and that we have led it to independence.
You, yourselves., can assess what the government of the Republic accomplished soon after feudalism and independence. The accomplishments are remarkable and praiseworthy, and we are determined to complete them.
You have observed the recent disturbances resulting from the indiscipline and wickedness of the Inyenzi refugees. The Nyamata population knows something about this and Bufundu population has witnessed it This is attributable to secular wickedness inspired by feudalism is imbued. The feudal and his lackeys continue to deepen their November 1959 abyss. They have demonstrated this recently.
Once they noticed that we had brought you out of this abyss, they devised another kind of wickedness: denigration and slander in newspapers. They allege that we have exterminated the Tutsis of Rwanda. Tell me sincerely, if the Hutus had been that wicked to exterminate the Tutsis, would he have waited for the Inyenzi to attack? Is it untrue that some of you assert: “If the Tutsis had won, no Hutu would be alive, except the one who would withstand the ten feudal chores.” We have made our will known to you in our speech of 1 July 1963. Embrace democracy and become the disciples of the new Rwandan system. We want that all citizens should be brothers. We will be lenient to you, as long as you cooperate. Do not take it out on anyone if you fail to conform to the good democratic system.
However, you are aware that the feudal Ndahindurwa and Rukeba as well as their Inyenzi would like to drag you into their sphere of influence. What is the situation of one who suffered from the Nyamata attacks? Do you think he is a lot better when compared to the situation prior to the Inyenzi attacks? You should sincerely examine your conscience! They have just devised another style of precipitating you into that abyss, which is: After noticing that their Inyenzi had just failed and that their denigration campaign was no longer tenable, they introduced the system of small secret tracts through which they urge you to unite; they claim that they will win and achieve their objectives.
The objective of the feudal and the Inyenzi is to set you at odds with the country that has opted for democracy. They want you to be rooted to your Tutsi ethnic group (you know the meaning in good Kinyarwanda). They want you to be wicked within the country, for the enemy of the Republic is the citizen who wishes feudal Ndahindurwa to become king. They have asked you to throw away these documents or hand them over to the authorities of the Republic. If not, you will become victims as others have been after Inyenzi attacks.
Our constant concern is to instill a veritable spirit of brotherhood amongst all Rwandans as well as establish democracy for all Rwandan citizens. In similar vein, we have continued to urge refugees who want to return, to do so voluntarily, but on condition that they lay down their weapons, stop quarrels, wickedness and feudalism.
We have stated this clearly in our numerous press releases on refugees and the wickedness of the Inyenzi. Recently, we have requested them to offer assistance to those obstructing the development of free Africa. Needless to repeat, dear Tutsis, that feudalism no longer exists, that the monarchy is gradually being abolished throughout the world and that recourse to war has for a long time been a blunder. I just wanted to warn you against this new system devised by the feudal Ndahindurwa and his Inyenzi: their small tracts lead you straight to the abyss from which we have just brought out those who opted for democracy. Let me talk to you in clear terms. The small tracts that the feudal Ndahindura and his Inyenzi are distributing to you in the hiding are nothing other than a Rucunshu strategy: “leave, we are safe.” The same thing as those who wore dry banana leaves before burning down houses. Kayijuka’s eyes. Nyirarukeba’s sword. The November 1959 abyss from which we brought you out but into which they would like to sink you again.
When we speak as the father of a family, we do not digress and that is how the father of the nation should behave in democracy. We want brotherly ties amongst the Hutus, Twas, Tutsis and other inhabitants of Rwanda. These messages that Ndahindurwa and his Inyenzi, supporters of feudalism, are transmitting to you in secret, as well as the lies they are spreading all over, will not be good omen to you. What can be said about rumors spread among the Catholic Church leadership in Rome, that the Government of Rwanda has crucified Monsignor Bigirumwami who had allegedly been pricked with a safety pin by any Hutu who had the opportunity to so? They allege that the Government of Rwanda killed Father Gasore and that Father Kagame was murdered at the altar. Do you not see all these Excellencies discharging their duties all over? We wish them to pursue their mission of the church of the Lord. Such are the poison and the 1959 abyss. That is the underlying meaning of the messages transmitted to you in secret.
Concerning the religious faith of the authorities of all shades of opinion with whom we rule Rwanda, Jean Baptiste Ndahindurwa and his Inyenzi are wasting their time. In fact, we did not espouse our faith to please the whites or to accept to share. We know our needs though they are different from those of other inhabitants of this earth. We cannot mortgage our faith for bothriocline ugandensis designed to attack Nyamata, or to search for it among the white imbeciles, atheists, like Vullemin who fled Butare after realizing that the Inyenzi had misled him by inciting him to spread rumors. We cannot but remind the Tutsis who have chosen the Protestant religion that their religion must not be used as a political instrument of the metropolis from whence this religion emanated. Furthermore, you know how the Hutus are viewed in the upper echelons of your religion.
You Muslims, you know well that the government has never disturbed your meetings and assemblies, which do not breach law and order in general. You know that I personally in the company of non-Muslim public servants graced the closing ceremonies of the Ramadan feast by our presence. He who respects the laws of the Republic is on the right path and is a child of the nation like all others. You all, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and sundry, know that the Constitution of the Republic does not exclude any person on religious grounds. Don’t allow yourselves to be fooled by messages designed to do you wrong. Take a cursory look at the development of Rwanda and the path taken by all of Africa and acknowledge democracy, loving it, supporting it as a militant of peace and remember that recourse to war is stupidity and its perpetrator is wrong.
We have banished mercenary within the government as well as violence amongst the population. That is the line of conduct that the Hutus, Twas and Tutsis must follow. We want brotherhood and freedom within respect for the rule of democracy. We want assiduity in work and self-abnegation in public service. Such is the line of action that all Hutus, Twas and Tutsis must follow. We are delivering a brief address to the Tutsis on this new plan and the messages that the advocate of feudalism and his Inyenzi are spreading among you. Those who fell into the abyss dug by the advocate of feudalism fall into three groups:
- Those who will elect domicile in the host countries. We wish them welcome, many children and good luck; the entire earth belongs to all of us.
- Those who will prefer war (by using guns, bows, secret messages, denigration and slander against the Government of Rwanda) will have to encounter the brave National Guard, that is, the Rwandan Armed Forces. Anyone who is out of the country must acknowledge it, and besides it’s simply stupid to provoke war.
- The entire population will welcome those who continue to pursue peace, advocate for a peaceful return, and help them to live well in democracy.
As for you within the country, rest assured: those who are in darkness must wake up and embrace democracy, which is Africa’s objective. Those who have understood well should help others to do likewise and we are thanking you. You still have to reassure and convince these people that feudalism and the monarchy had been abolished a long time ago. Some of you who are State employees have been urged to work with zeal, for you are also responsible for your employers, that is, your immediate superiors and the people. Do not fear to disclose all anomalies, for we are in democracy. We are all Rwandans, but we would not like Rwandan Tutsis to stand up to their brothers.
Kigali, 29 March 1964,
President of the Republic of Rwanda
- Grégoire Kayibanda Biography and Profile (Grégoire Kayibanda / WISC / Pray Book)