Fred Gisa Rwigyema (also spelled Rwigema; born Emmanuel Gisa; 10 April 1957 – 2 October 1990) was a founding member and leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a political and military force formed by Rwandan Tutsi exiles descendants of those forced to leave the country after the 1959 "Hutu" Revolution.
Rwigema was born in Gitarama, in the south of Rwanda. Considered a Tutsi, in 1960 he and his family fled to Uganda and settled in a refugee camp in Nshungerezi, Ankole following the Hutu Revolution of 1959 and the ouster of King Kigeri V.
After finishing high school in 1976, he went to Tanzania and joined the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), a rebel group headed by Yoweri Museveni, the brother of his friend Salim Saleh. It was at this point that he began calling himself Fred Rwigema. Later that year, he travelled to Mozambique and joined the FRELIMO rebels who were fighting for the liberation of Mozambique from Portugal's colonial power.
After the NRA captured state power in 1986, Rwigema became the deputy Minister of Defence. He was regularly at the front line in northern Uganda during the new government's offensives against remnants of the ousted regime.
On 1 October 1990, Rwigyema led the RPF troops in the first battle against the regime of President Juvénal Habyarimana. On the second day of the struggle, Rwigyema was shot in the head and died, which discouraged the RPF fighters. There is a dispute about the exact circumstances of Rwigyema's death; the official line of Kagame's government, and the version mentioned by historian Gérard Prunier in his 1995 book on the subject, was that Rwigyema was killed by a stray bullet. In his later book, however, Prunier states that he had established "from incontrovertible evidence (including an interview with an eyewitness to the killing)" that Rwigyema was killed by his subcommander Peter Banyingana, following an argument over tactics, and excused his readers for having accepted the "cooked version of facts [the RPF] provided" him with. Paul Kagame who is now the president of the Republic of Rwanda replaced Rwigyema as the head of the RPF army until the victory in July 1994.
Rwigyema is one of Rwanda's national heroes. His body was buried at the Heroes Cemetery in Kigali.
- Government of Rwanda (2009). "Chronology of Events Leading to Liberation". Official Website of the Government of Rwanda. Archived from the original on 2012-03-07. Retrieved 2013-05-09.
- Prunier 1999, pp. 95–96.
- Prunier 2009, pp. 13–14, note 50 for "cooked version of facts". For "incontrovertible evidence", see p. 355.
- Prunier, Gérard (1999). The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide (2nd ed.). Kampala: Fountain Publishers Limited. ISBN 978-9970-02-089-8.
- Prunier, Gérard (2009). Africa's World War : Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-970583-2.