Rwanda

Analysis: Cold Shoulder for Excitable Nduhungirehe as Kagame Settles for Biruta to Succeed Sezibera

Finally, Rwanda’s finest diplomat, Dr Richard Sezibera, bowed out of Cabinet, having served as Foreign Affairs Minister for just one year.

Sezibera, a down-to-earth Uganda-trained medical doctor, took over from the outspoken long-serving Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo in October 2018.

Sezibera, who had previously served as East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, had worked well with Ugandan authorities until he was named Minister.

Born in Kigali in 1964 before being educated in Burundi and Uganda, Sezibera’s appointment came at a time of heightened tensions between Uganda and Rwanda.

Sezibera, whose main task was consolidating Rwanda’s relations with the rest of the world  including neighbours, found himself at the frontline of a cold war between his country and Uganda,

At press conferences, Sezibera apparently struggled to maintain a level of professionalism as his seniors including Gen James Kabarebe slammed Uganda at public functions.

He criticized Uganda for reportedly helping Rwandan dissidents and sabotaging his country’s economic interests.

In many instances, Sezibera preferred silence.

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His junior, Olivier Nduhungirehe, well known for shooting from the hip, literally took on the role of attacking Uganda in the media.

Suddenly, Sezibera went completely quiet. Efforts by ChimpReports to reach out to him on key bilateral issues did not bear fruit.

An aide who answered Sezibera’s phone refused to comment on the minister’s whereabouts.

Kigali also remained mute on Sezibera’s condition, fueling speculation about the minister’s health in corridors of power and regional media.

It later became clearer that Sezibera was not well.

ChimpReports later learnt that Sezibera had suffered a mini stroke and collapsed in his bathroom.

He was later taken out of the country for specialized treatment.

The cause of the stroke remains unclear.

Nduhungirehe ignored

The Monday night announcement that Sezibera would be replaced by Dr. Vincent Biruta, former Minister of Natural resources, did not surprise many.

His health had deteriorated. Attempts to use Twitter to rubbish claims of his ill health did not help.

However, Nduhungirehe, who in the past described South Africa’s foreign minister as a “prostitute”, possibly expected to be rewarded.

In the international community, Nduhungirehe is considered an amateur in diplomacy.

He also is known for being abusive, disrespectful and divisive – possibly explaining why he was never seen as a potential successor of the diplomatic Sezibera.

Kagame settled for Biruta, a mature politician who boasts a clean public service record.

He previously served as Education Minister.

Who is Sezibera?

The soft-spoken Sezibera graduated in human medicine and surgery from Makerere University in 1989.

He specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology at hospitals in Kampala and Mbale before joining the Rwandan Patriotic Army as a field medical officer.

In 1995, after the end of the Rwandan Civil War, he became a Member of Parliament.

He was elected President of the Parliamentary Commission on Social Affairs, which exercised oversight over the government departments mandated to deal with issues of health, education, social security, the environment, youth programmes, disability, and the promotion of gender equality.

He also served as a member of the Commission on Defense and National Security.

Sezibera was a Minister for Health, Ambassador to the United States of America, Presidential Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region and Senator for the Southern Region.

He has published widely in medical journals, political science journals and international media outlets.

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