Special Report

World War II Veteran Denied ‘Kagame Cow’



Epimaque Ngashotsi aged 101 is one of the few living distinguished Rwandans that have a remarkable contribution to Rwanda’s liberation and the defeat of the Nazi regime in Germany. Taarifa visited him for a casual conversation.

The 2-meter-tall World War II veteran and Inyenzi fighter with an acute memory, now lives a humble life with his two granddaughters in remote Kamamesa village in Gatsibo district.

“I was born in 1920 at Gahini village part of present day Kayonza district,” Nyagashotsi told Taarifa from the comfort of his home on a Sunday afternoon.

Growing up through an entire century, Nyagashotsi says that his main food has been beans, potatoes, sorghum bread and large amounts of milk.

In 1941, Nyagashotsi was a very energetic young man and vividly remembers when he was enlisted into Britain’s colonial King’s African Rifles under the 7th Battalion. He was sent to Nairobi, Kenya for World War II- a conflict that involved virtually every part of the world during 1939–45.

Nyagashotsi was fighting on the side of Britain against a tyrannical Adolph Hitler of Nazi Germany that sought to conquer the world.

At the end of World War II, Nyagashotsi was decorated with a service medal and returned to Rwanda.

The World War II veteran married in 1952 and later had his first child- a girl in 1953. He was hard working and had managed to raise 50 cows.

From 1959 to 1961, the situation in Rwanda was tense with extreme ethnic violence targeting the Tutsi- some political analysts describe the period as a Social Revolution which saw the country transition from a Belgian colony and a monarch to an independent republic.

The revolution began in November 1959, with a series of riots and arson attacks on Tutsi homes and forcing hundreds of thousands into exile.

Nyagashotsi remembers that Parmehutu militia wrecked havoc across the country as they hounded every Tutsi they came across.

A helicopter hovered over villages and dropped match boxes so that the Parmehutu militia would set ablaze homes of Tutsi families.

“My house was burnt, cows looted and eaten by Parmehutu militia,” he says, adding that he fled immediately and crossed to Uganda just like other 336,000 Tutsi that fled to neighbouring countries and living there as refugees.

Exiled Tutsi refugees restless for an immediate return to Rwanda, were split between those seeking negotiation and those wishing to overthrow the new regime.

“I was bitter that the extremists had grabbed the country from us. I was determined to fight and rescue my country from the extremists,” Nyagashotsi sharply recounts the tense period that saw pooling of exiled refugees leading to the creation of an armed militia known as ‘Inyenzi‘.

In late 1963, the Inyezi launched an attack that approached the capital Kigali. The extremist Parmehutu government fought back and defeated these rebels and killed thousands of the remaining Tutsi in Rwanda. The defeated rebels retreated into Uganda and there was no more threat.

“King Kigeli V Ndahindurwa found us at Kazinga and told us that we were not strong enough for a fight against the government forces. He told us to instead train the youth and mobilise them to liberate their country,” Nyagashotsi explains adding that he actively took part in the attacks against government but were defeated because of poor weapons and lack of war skills.

Indeed in the 1990’s refugee youths grouped under the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army attacked and forced the government into negotiations. But inside the country, a genocide against the Tutsi was being executed leading to the killing of more than a million Tutsi before RPF took control and stopped the Genocide in 1994.

The King’s African Rifles (KAR) was a multi-battalion British colonial regiment raised from Britain’s various possessions in East Africa from 1902 until independence in the 1960s. It performed both military and internal security functions within the colonial territories, and served outside these territories during the World Wars.

A message to President Paul Kagame

The war hero is full of words of wisdom. He also has a message for the president.

“I would thank him very much for his leadership. I fought for this country, am an old man now and am very poor. You should come to my rescue. This is what I would tell President Kagame,” Nyagashotsi noted.

Nyagashotsi was listed by local authorities among those that would benefit from the one-cow-per family program. He has never received this cow and thus feels devastated.

He told Taarifa that local leaders in his area have repeatedly blocked him from accessing the cow. “My village leader asked for Rwf2,000 to get me the cow. He told me other beneficiaries give him about Rwf20,000 to Rwf50,000 to be put on the list. I refused and told him that in my entire life I have never given or received a bribe.”

With this back and forth chase to get a ‘Kagame cow’ as he calls it, Nyagashotsi is angry at his local leaders, “there is a problem of local leaders, I don’t know whether they have a different government.”

Referring to a parcel of documents, Nyagashotsi says that he has been among those listed for VUP direct financial support from government. VUP is an Integrated Local Development Program to Accelerate Poverty Eradication, Rural Growth, and Social Protection.

“I kept walking about 5 kilometres to the Sector office but was told someone else receives my cash. I complained and one day was given Rwf10,000 and the sector officials promised to remove the person (a wife of our village (mudugudu) leader) and replace my name.”

A bitter Nyagashotsi said nothing was done and nowadays receives nothing, “I have given up on the VUP money and I wish the president may help me one day. I can’t keep walking many kilometers to ask for this money because am now an old man.”

Nyagashotsi Epimaque is a decorated World War II soldier, his medal was burnt in his house by Parmehutu militia in 1959

Patriotism and youth

Nyagashotsi is concerned that the Rwandan youth are reckless and should mind their health. “They are consuming too much crude alcoholic concoctions which affects their health. They need to regulate and eat health food and change their behaviour.”

According to this WW II veteran, the Rwandan youth should consider enlisting in the army to ensure that they guard the country and the progress achieved, “I don’t regret fighting for this country and also mobilized my sons to join the liberation struggle,” Nyagashotsi advises the youth to love their country and be ready to defend it.

Comparing the Rwanda in the early 50s and today, Nyagashotsi could not hide his emotions because for him Rwanda today is “paradizo” (paradise), “in our past, Rwanda was very backward and underdeveloped including violence. Today, we are very safe and the country has greatly developed.”

While, in Uganda, Nyagashotsi was working at Kigungu landing site in Entebbe on the shores of Lake Victoria- One day President Field Marshal Idi Amin had driven to the site sandwiched by ruthless commandoes. Amin noticed a very tall Nyagashotsi and recognized him because they had all served in the 7th battalion of Britain’s colonial King’s African Rifles.

“Here is a real soldier and my comrade we served together in the KAR in Kenya,” Amin said as he quickly approached Nyagashotsi and hugged him twice and exchanged pleasantries.

“Amin gave me Shs50,000 (aprox U$7000) it was allot of money and was really grateful that the President recognized me,” Nyagashotsi remembers.

Below: Watch full-length video conversation with the centurion Nyagashotsi.

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She Was Demoted, Doubted And Rejected. Now, Her Work Is The Basis Of The Covid-19 Vaccine




(CNN)Covid-19 vaccines are starting to roll out in several countries, a momentous breakthrough that hopefully signals a light at the end of this dark pandemic. For Katalin Karikó, the moment is particularly special.

Karikó has spent decades of her career researching the therapeutic possibilities of mRNA, a component of DNA that is considered to be one of the main building blocks of life.

Through multiple setbacks, job losses, doubt and a transatlantic move, Karikó stood by her conviction: That mRNA could be used for something truly groundbreaking. Now, that work is the basis of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Karikó, 65, began her career in her native Hungary in the 1970s, when mRNA research was new and the possibilities seemed endless. But the call of the American dream (and more researching and funding opportunities) took root.

In 1985, she and her husband and young daughter left Hungary for the US after she got an invitation from Temple University in Philadelphia.

They sold their car, Karikó told The Guardian, and stuffed the money — an equivalent of about $1,200 — in their daughter’s teddy bear for safekeeping.

“We had just moved into our new apartment, our daughter was 2 years old, everything was so good, we were happy,” Karikó told the Hungarian news site G7 of her family’s departure. “But we had to go.”

She continued her research at Temple, and then at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine. But by then, the bloom was off the rose of mRNA research, and Karikó’s idea that it could be used to fight disease was deemed too radical, too financially risky to fund. She applied for grant after grant, but kept getting rejections, and in 1995, she was demoted from her position at UPenn. She also was diagnosed with cancer around the same time.

“Usually, at that point, people just say goodbye and leave because it’s so horrible,” she told Stat, a health news site, in November. “I thought of going somewhere else, or doing something else. I also thought maybe I’m not good enough, not smart enough.”

From doubt to breakthrough

But she stuck with it.

Eventually, Karikó and her former colleague at the University of Pennsylvania, Drew Weissman, developed a method of utilizing synthetic mRNA to fight disease that involves changing the way the body produces virus-fighting material, she explained on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time.”

That discovery is now the basis of the Covid-19 vaccine, and some have said both Weissman and Karikó, now a senior vice president of the Germany-based BioNTech, deserve a Nobel Prize.

“If anyone asks me whom to vote for some day down the line, I would put them front and center,” Derek Rossi, one of the founders of pharmaceutical giant Moderna, told Stat. “That fundamental discovery is going to go into medicines that help the world.”

While recognition, after all of this time, must be nice, Karikó says scientific glory isn’t what’s on her mind right now.

“Really, we will celebrate when this human suffering is over, when the hardship and all of this terrible time will end, and hopefully in the summer when we will forget about virus and vaccine. And then I will be really celebrating,” she told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Karikó said she plans to get the vaccine soon, along with Weissman, and she said she’s “very, very confident” it will work. After all, it was their discoveries that contributed to it.

In the meantime, Karikó said she allowed herself a little treat to celebrate the vaccine news: a bag of Goobers, her favorite candy.

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Special Report

How Israel Airforce Can Attack 3000 Targets in 24hours



On Tuesday at noon, something absolutely wrong happened- an Israeli jet fighter was shot down by the Hezbollah in neighbouring Lebanon. The Israelis summoned all their airpower might into action.

In a simulated situation, the entire air force is scrambled to participate in a broad offensive against Lebanon, including attacks against infrastructure such as bridges, power plants and airports spanning 24 hours.

During the drill, the IAF proved its ability to strike at 3,000 Hezbollah targets within a 24-hour period.

“We practiced defending Israel’s skies against cruise missiles and operating our active [aerial] defense system against the rockets that they will want to use to target air force bases and densely populated areas,” a senior IAF officer said.

“We practiced attacking high-value targets in quantities in a way we never did before,” the officer added. “It was 24 hours with more than 3,000 targets attacked, causing severe damage to the operations of the enemy.”

Despite the limitations imposed by the covid-19 pandemic, about 85% of IAF personnel participated in the exercise, which involved all branches, including technicians, ammunition officers and reservists, who were called up to participate.

One of the main tasks simulated was achieving air superiority over Lebanon. This was achieved by destroying all elements that could threaten Israeli aircraft, including antiaircraft launchers, especially in southern Lebanon and Beirut, where Hezbollah has its headquarters.

Two weeks ago, Hezbollah tried to shoot down an IAF drone over Lebanon. The surface-to-air missile missed, and the drone continued its reconnaissance mission, the IDF said at the time.

While the drill focused on Hezbollah and Lebanon, the IAF considers the North as a single front and understands that Hezbollah also operates in Syria and that Iran is present throughout what is referred to as the “Shi’ite Crescent,” spanning Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the senior officer said.

“We look even further east, but we operate there only in response to [incidents],” he said. Lt.-Col. S., commander of the 201st Squadron that flies the F-16I and participated in the drill, told local media his unit practiced a wide range of missions, including collecting intelligence and using many types of munitions in attacking multiple targets.

“This drill demonstrated a response to a mistake the other side made,” he said. “It shows the enemy what the air force will do in response to an attack on a fighter jet.”

During the 60 hours of the exercise, the entire staff of the squadron, including pilots and technicians, practiced loading and unloading different types of munitions onto and off of their fighter jets, all of which participated in the drill, S. said.

“We’re talking here about lifting munitions weighing tons… We basically did everything we will do in a war, except actually flying to the operational area, and dropping the bombs,” he said.

Another aspect of the exercise was getting the participants into the mood of the drill and hoping that reservists, who are considered a vital element in the air force, drop their day-to-day lives and attend.

“On Sunday morning we got the call that the drill is starting,” S. said. “It caught us by surprise. We changed all our plans and started operating in war mode.” “People who planned to be with their loved ones on Valentine’s Day had to cancel the plans,” he said.

“Our reservists who planned on going to work on Sunday and Monday had to call their bosses or their colleagues and tell them they couldn’t come.”

“But above all, it was a mental exercise,” S. said. “Just after the lockdown and the uncertainty, people understood that this is what they have to do, and they attended the drill.”


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Special Report

200 Highly Educated RAB Scientists ‘Maliciously’ Kicked Out In Restructuring



Rwanda government has lost about 200 scientists in a restructuring process, which some insiders say was maliciously conducted despite the good intentions of the current public sector rationalization.

On June 30, 2020, the Cabinet convened and had discussions, part of which included approval of the rationalised structures of public institutions aimed at increasing efficiency and improving delivery in the Public Sector.

Focusing on Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), on February 2, 2021, the staff of this autonomous institution were informed of the outcome of the rationalization process.

“A Public Servant: (i) whose job position was removed (ii) whose job position was upgraded (iii) who does not meet job profile requirements is suspended,” according to an internal memo addressed to all staff as signed by the Director General.

This internal communiqué says that 231 staff, are not placed, out of existing 389 positions of the new structure.

In defence of these adjustments, the Director General’s office explains that previous RAB structures used to have “pools” or groups of staff without specifying their positions.

The old structure (2018) used to have “Research and Technology Transfer Staff”, without specifying their areas or ranks.

As a consequence, “we ended up having unbalanced programs, for example so many breeders in beans, maize; so many pathologists in roots and tubers. In the current public sector rationalization, this confusion was addressed.”

Each program must have very specific number of breeders, pathologists/crop protectionists, agronomists/physiologists, and technicians, in well specified and balanced numbers and ratios.

As a consequence, if one program had five breeders and now there are only two positions, three must be suspended and compete for positions in other programs.

“Staff in the category of technicians. All technicians used to be all at the same level, no matter if you have an A, A1, A0, or postgraduate degree. This new structure provides for different levels among technicians, and those who meet requirements cannot be automatically promoted without competition,” the memo reads in part.

Salaries have been increased for all research – extension carrier staff, hence their levels have been upgraded.

The laws and regulations of recruitment stipulate that any staff whose job position has been upgraded cannot be automatically promoted without competition.

The most contentious part is how requirements and job profiles have been handled in this rationalisation process.

Sources privy to RAB’s inside dealings argue that this area has been mishandled and abused to favour or uproot some staff.

Meanwhile, “Requirements for previous restructuring job profiles were set lowly, and we could have researchers in senior positions while they are low in terms of education level, scientific achievements. Standards are now higher, to align with ambitions of our country’s national strategy of transformation (2017-2024) and goals of our nation to attain upper middle income country by 2035 under Vision 20250, our institution playing rightly its role – transformational growth of economy through research and innovation,” the memo says.

Patrick Karangwa, RAB Director-General (centre) presides over a meeting

Experts point of view

Taarifa has established that before the profiles were published, some favoured staff were asked to clandestinely submit updated CVs.

“Updated CVs were requested and submitted before the profiling. After gauging who has what; then profiling was done, in a way tying certain posts and ranks to observed credentials by some individuals long before the profiling was made,” an expert told Taarifa on condition of extreme anonymity.

According to our reliable source, a certain DM (MSc holder) in consultation with some of the candidate scientists actually did major profiling exercise with and for final approval by higher authorities – “this could compromise quality and impartiality of the profiling.”

“The different rankings for similar positions is believed, tended to exclude and or favour certain individuals. In other words, some positions were pre-set for some individuals,” the source said.

In expounding on this issue, for example several heads or programs coordinator positions required Senior Principal Research Fellows, Principal Research Fellows, Assistant Principal Research Fellows or Senior Research Fellow rankings with possibly holders and new entrants in mind.

Evaluation exercise itself broke instructions in article 6 requiring 3 person’s panel – it was not respected (perhaps meant to ensure professionalism, neutrality, uniformity, transparency, consensus and confidentiality).

It is alleged that the DG decided to go on leave at the time of the evaluation exercise.

“He virtually relegated the work to the Ag DG, also DDG, Head of Departments, Division Managers, Human Resources personnel all numbering more than 10.”

Most of them couldn’t interpret the scientific details of the CVs, hence the large number of causalities in the research technical field of close to 300 unplaced researchers and technicians.

The CVs were haphazardly interpreted due to lack of professional capacities and non-scientific knowledge and paraphernalia by evaluators; few understood the different forms of peer reviewed publications.

Thus this entire hurried handling of the process has led to loss of 231 professionals (mostly PhDs, MSc and other professional on-job trainings), skilled and experienced workers in research and technical fields that the government has spent so much on in training.

Obsevers say it might take decades to replace them.

In his assessment, those dropped will most likely come back at a cost and under revised profiling after the elimination of some key individuals and or their replacements through some convenient means.

Replacements are impossible to get by, or will take decades to perform under this same unique mandate, even at a time when there is most urgent calling for agriculture to drive the covid-19 ravaged economy.

However, the office of Director General argues that having a very large number of staff affected as the non placed does not mean that services are going to be disrupted.

For any positions where it appears that services are to be disrupted, RAB management appoints, temporarily, a competent staff in an acting position until recruitment is conducted, and the non placed staff are allowed to compete for the vacant positions.

“Staff appointed as ‘Acting’ start benefiting from the salary of the acting position after the first month until as long as they’re in acting position. In any case we aim to complete all recruitment within three months,” the DG said in a memo.

However, there are fears that selection of persons in acting capacity might be biased towards individuals that may have been groomed to remain in the same positions.

Basically at some point these positions will be advertised and these persons in acting positions shall have the advantage because the ground will have been laid for them.

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