Pasteur Bizimungu

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Pasteur Bizimungu
President of Rwanda
In office
19 July 1994 – 23 March 2000
Preceded by Théodore Sindikubwabo
Succeeded by Paul Kagame
Personal details
Born 1950
Gisenyi, Rwanda
Political party Rwandan Patriotic Front (1990-2000)
Party for Democratic Renewal (2001- )
Spouse(s) Serafina Bizimungu

Pasteur Bizimungu (born 1950) was the fifth President of Rwanda, holding office from 19 July 1994 until 23 March 2000.

Early life[edit]

Bizimingu belongs to the Hutu caste/ethnic group and was born in the Gisenyi prefecture of Rwanda.[1] According to author Philip Reyntjens, Bizimungu had ties to radical anti-Tutsi groups as a student in the 1970s but was also pivotal in the unifying of Hutu and Tutsi protagonists that did not agree with the genocide. He later joined the RPF movement that was a popular and largely Tutsi-led rebel force, he served as president after the genocide to appease the millions of ethnic Hutus to allow the RPF to gain control with a hutu face as the commander in chief. A great reformer[clarification needed] and believer in reconciliation and subsequently the recipient of President Bill Clinton's visit, despite his attempts to unify the nation he was arrested under unsubstantiated divisionism charges and imprisoned by his vice at the time Paul Kagame.[2]

Relationship to MRND[edit]

In the 1980s and '90s, Bizimungu worked within the Hutu MRND government which ruled Rwanda until 1994. Prior to 1990, Bizimungu had close ties to Hutu president Juvénal Habyarimana.[2] During this period, he held several positions, including director general of Electrogaz, the national electricity company.[1]

In 1990 he joined the primarily Tutsi Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) when his brother, a colonel in the Rwandan Armed Forces, was assassinated, possibly on the orders of the government.[3] At the time, dissatisfied with the Hutu government of Habyarimana, the RPF was just beginning its invasion of Rwanda from Uganda.[1] Bizimungu lived in exile in Belgium, serving as the party's information officer.[4] In 1993, he helped negotiate the 1993 Arusha Accords, ending the three-year Rwandan Civil War.[1]

After Habyarimana's death in a plane crash on 6 April 1994, decades of complex ethnic, social and political hatreds were ignited and led to the Rwandan Genocide.


In July 1994 the RPF gained control of the country and established a national unity government. The RPF leader, Tutsi Paul Kagame, was chosen vice-president, and Bizimungu was chosen President so that the majority Hutus would still be highly represented in the government.

During Bizimungu's administration, many believed that he was merely a figurehead, and Kagame held the real power.[3] Bizimingu soon found himself in conflict with Kagame over what Bizimingu argued was unjustified repression of dissent.[1] Former Speaker of Parliament Joseph Sebarenzi was accused of treason and fled the country, and in March 2000, administration official Assiel Kabera was shot in the head by three men said to be in military uniform.[5] Critics accused Bizimungu of corruption, alleging that he had blocked parliament's attempts to censure corrupt ministers, refused to pay compensation to evicted residents on one of his building site, and dodged Rwandan taxes by registering two of his trucks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.[3]

Bizimingu resigned in March 2000 in a dispute over the make-up of a new cabinet, and Kagame became president.[4]

Party for Democratic Renewal[edit]

In May 2001, Bizimungu founded an opposition movement, the Party for Democratic Renewal (PDR), known as Ubuyanja in the Kinyarwanda language. It was almost immediately banned by the government, which accused it of being a radical Hutu party. Bizimingu was arrested, and Amnesty International named him a prisoner of conscience.[6]

He was placed under house arrest for continuing the operations of the party on 19 April 2002 and charged with endangering the state. On 7 June 2004 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempting to form a militia, inciting violence and embezzlement. He received a five-year sentence for each of these convictions, which were to run consecutively.[1] On 17 February 2006, Bizimungu's appeal, based on the fact that he was convicted of crimes different from those with which he was initially charged, was denied by the Supreme Court.[7]

He was released on 6 April 2007, having been pardoned by Kagame. Kagame gave no explanation of the pardon.[4] As of April 2011, PDR co-founder and later co-defendant Charles Ntakirutinka remained in prison, and was named an Amnesty International "priority case."[8]


Bizimungu's wife, Séraphine Utamuliza, is a Tutsi. He has 3 children, a boy who is the eldest, and 2 girls. Alexander Tabera, Nicole Tamara, and Carine Cyuzuzo. [1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "From president to prison". BBC News. 7 June 2004. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "The Three Victors Who Will Lead Rwanda". The New York Times. 20 July 1994. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "Analysis: Why Bizimungu mattered". BBC News. 23 March 2008. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c Arthur Asiimwe (6 April 2007). "Rwanda's ex-president freed from prison". Reuters. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  5. ^ "'Assassination' in Kigali". BBC News. 6 March 2000. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "Rwanda: Number of prisoners of conscience on the rise". Amnesty International. 7 June 2002. Retrieved 22 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "Rwanda's ex-leader loses appeal". BBC News. 17 February 2006. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Charles Ntakirutinka, prisoner of conscience". Amnesty International. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Théodore Sindikubwabo
President of Rwanda
19 July 1994 – 23 March 2000
Succeeded by
Paul Kagame