By: Robert Rutooma
“Corrupt, arrogant, promiscuous and greedy,” former friends and colleagues summed up the character of Jean Marie Micombero, a disgraced former RDF officer that fled Rwanda when the walls of accountability began to close in on him. Maj. Micombero is one of “a very few bad apples of the normally highly disciplined Rwanda Defense Force,” remarked a now retired former colleague of Micombero’s who preferred anonymity.
Those who know Jean Marie Micombero will tell you that he lived his life in the fast lane. Born in neighboring DRC, in Walikale, North Kivu Province, the flashy gentleman was known for his “cool” execution of “Ndombolo dance moves” on weekends.
It probably was the fact of his fast lifestyle of clubs “and everything that goes with such a life” that caused an uncontrollable thirst for money, those that knew him well say. “He was living far beyond his means, and inevitably he developed corrupt habits,” one source told Virunga Post. But much as Micombero seemed to be enjoying the fruits of liberation more than most, it is revealed that during the struggle he did far less than most colleagues.
Among those he served in the army with at various periods beginning in the early 90s, Micombero was known as the “white collar soldier”. This was in allusion to the fact that during the hardest battles of the struggle for liberation, he was always finding ways of dodging the frontline.
A former colleague told this website that while others were facing fire at the front line head-on, Micombero spent most of his time at the sick bay, “feigning one ailment or another.” Another former colleague reveals something else about him. “Micombero yari maringaringa kabissa!” (The man really liked to avoid duty).
However, despite this reputation for cowardice, and for dodging to carry out his duties, Micombero was an “incurable braggart”, always making sure everyone knew he joined the struggle from the University of Lubumbashi (in neighboring Congo). He was always boasting, “I can only be assigned office jobs.”
Empathy, however, has always been a key principle of the RPF, and of its struggle for liberation. However bad someone’s flaws were, the leadership always tried to find the good in anyone, and give them a chance to serve their country. And so, despite Micombero’s cowardice, coupled with arrogance, he still got a chance. After the end of the liberation struggle Micombero was granted permission to complete his education, after which he would return to his position in the Ministry of Defense.
He went back to university, where he was in his third year pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Law. Upon graduation from the National University of Rwanda in Butare, he served as a judge in the military court of appeal. He was later on to serve as the legal advisor at the Rwanda Ministry of Defense, shortly followed by an appointment as director of judicial affairs, before he was appointed secretary general – a position he served in for a period of one year.
Owing to his playboy lifestyle, however, Micombero had several run-ins with the law. Audit reports were implicating him in cases of financial misappropriation, “the bulk of which involved gross transgressions in tendering processes for supplies,” reports say. Micombero was found guilty after a trial, and put behind bars for a year. When he came out, he devised ways to flee, and ended up in Belgium in 2011.
There he joined a cohort of self-exiled Rwandans of the same character as his. Jean Marie Micombero took the same route as others, becoming a self-styled “expert” on Rwanda’s politico-military affairs.
Today he is often sought out by Francophone media like RFI and RTBF as an “expert”, or “eyewitness” commentator on issues – especially those where there is an anti-Rwanda agenda.
Before the current crumbling of Kayumba Nyamwasa’s Rwanda National Congress, Micombero was the organization’s de-facto number three.
Now, he is living a dead-end existence, a sad exhibit to the moral that we must always try to live within our means.