Rwanda: The Life and Times of Gen Marcel Gatsinzi

Rwanda's former defence minister, General (Rtd) Marcel Gatsinzi,who died on March 6in a Belgian hospital, will be laid to rest on Thursday, March 16 in Kanombe Military Cemetery.

Gatsinzi succumbed to an unnamed illness. He was 75.

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Below is a short biography of the man who began his military career at the age of 20 and became Rwanda's first soldier to attain the rank of four-star General.

An expert in commanding military units, Gatsinzi retired in 2013 after serving as the Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs.

Gatsinzi was born on January 9, 1948 in the Muhima area of Kigali.

He began his formal education at the Catholic-run Saint Famille Primary School. For his secondary school education, Gatsinzi went to Collège Saint-André in Nyamirambo, Kigali, from which graduated with a diploma in Latin and sciences in 1968.

Saint-André is also run by the Catholic Church.

In the same year, Gatsinzi began his military career at the then Ecole Supérieure d'Officiers Militaires (ESM), which was based in Kigali and graduated with the rank of Lieutenant in 1970.

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Between 1971 and 1976, Gatsinzi underwent training in command duties at the Royal Military Academy in Belgium.

1994年,Gatsinzi,上校,是导演r of the school of junior officers (Ecole des Sous-Officiers) in Ngoma Commune, in today's Huye District.

In a country plagued by discrimination and on the brink of one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century - the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi - Gatsinzi cherished togetherness.

ALSO READ:A General's memories of 45 years in the army

When President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, Gatsinzi was appointed army Chief of Staff in the interim government - a position he held for 10 days, before he was sacked and replaced by Col Augustin Bizimungu.

Joining the RPA

After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Gatsinzi, then a Brigadier General, fled to DR Congo only to return a month later to be integrated into the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA).

The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) was born out of the RPA which at the time included the vanquished soldiers (Ex-FAR) who had been integrated.

Gatsinzi's first assignment in RDF was Deputy Chief of Staff, then Chief of Staff of Gendermerie (the then equivalent of national police), before being appointed intelligence chief in 2000. At that time, he held the rank of Major General.

Gatsinzi became the first Rwandan soldier to attain the rank of General in 2004, and was also appointed Minister of Defence - a position he held until 2010, when he became Minister of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs.

In a2013 interview withThe New Times, months after he began his retirement, Gatsinzi said gaining the rank of General was one of his happiest moments of his military career spanning over four decades.

"When the President promoted me to a full General, I was very excited," he said. "First of all, I was the first Rwandan ever to get that rank and, secondly, being a soldier reintegrated from another force - it was amazing."

He was an ardent fan of football and he supported Kiyovu Sports and APR FC. In 2013, Gatsinzi retired after a 45-year military career.

Gatsinzi believed in unity. His message to RDF soldiers was: "Favoritism and selfish interests are the worst enemies of any army."

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