Azarias Ruberwa

Azarias Ruberwa Manywa (born August 20, 1964) is a Congolese politician, lawyer, and public figure. During the Second Congo War he was Secretary-General of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD-G) rebel group.[1] Following the war he was one of the vice-presidents in the transitional government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 2003-2006.[2] He has also been the leader and president of RCD-G's political party since 2003. He is a member of the Banyamulenge community of South Kivu who belong to the Tutsi tribe.

Azarias Ruberwa
Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In office
June 2003 – 6 December 2006
PresidentJoseph Kabila
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Minister of State, Minister of Decentralization and Institutional Reforms
Assumed office
November 2016
PresidentJoseph Kabila, Félix Tshisekedi
Prime MinisterSamy Badibanga, Bruno Tshibala, Sylvestre Ilunga
Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Transportation
In office
February 2019 – September 2019
PresidentFélix Tshisekedi
Prime MinisterBruno Tshibala
Preceded byJosé Makila Sumanda
Minister of State, Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals
In office
March 2019 – September 2019
PresidentFélix Tshisekedi
Prime MinisterBruno Tshibala
Preceded byAlexis Thambwe Mwamba
Succeeded byCélestin Tunda Ya Kasende
Personal details
BornAugust 20, 1964

Early life and educationEdit

Ruberwa was born on August 20, 1964, in the village of Rugezi, located in the highland region of the Fizi territory in the South Kivu province. He belongs to the Banyamulenge community who are a part of the Tutsi tribe.[3] Tutsis in the Congo makeup a very small minority.[3]

Ruberwa spent his early years in Minembwe, South Kivu before moving on to the Katanga Province to finish high school and college.[3] He attended the University of Lubumbashi where he received his LLB (degree in Law), specializing in economics and social law and finishing with highest distinction.[3][4] After graduation, he passed the Zaire national bar exam and became licensed to practice in August 1990.[3] After three years of working for a law firm in Lubumbashi, Ruberwa opened his own law firm known as “Cabinet Azarias Ruberwa Manywa” in 1993.[3] He practiced law in Lubumbashi until the war began in 1996.[3]

Congo Civil Wars (1996-2003)Edit

After the First Congo War began, Tutsis in the Congo were being persecuted against solely based on their ethnicity.[5][6] Ruberwa and his family were forced to flee the country because they were Tutsis. However, in early 1997, Ruberwa decided to join the AFDL rebel group as a political analyst and speech writer in order to help the group win the war against longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. Ruberwa is credited with writing Laurent-Désiré Kabila's victory speech after the fall of Lubumbashi, often described as the turning point of the war, as well as writing Kabila's inaugural speech.[7]

Once the war ended, Ruberwa was appointed Chief of Staff to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bizima Karaha. Among other things, he led a delegation to Rome during his tenure to represent the Democratic Republic of Congo in the negotiations leading up to the Treaty of Rome-which was responsible for creating the International Criminal Court.[8]

The Second Congo War began on August 2, 1998.[9] Ruberwa, along with several other Congolese politicians left the government to create the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD), a Rwandan-backed movement based in Goma which went on to amass between 30,000 and 40,000 troops and control about 50 percent of the country. Ruberwa first served as Chief of Cabinet for the RCD's Department of Exterior Relations. He later became a member of the Executive Committee and the Deputy Head (Chief of Adjunct) of the Department of Exterior Relations.

Ruberwa was eventually appointed RCD Secretary General in October 2000, which effectively made him the de facto political leader of the organization.[10] In this capacity, Ruberwa took on the chief negotiator role for the movement at both the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in Zambia and the Sun City Accords in Pretoria, South Africa.

Ruberwa did not become president of the RCD movement until after the transitional government began in July 2003.

Vice President of the DRC (2003-2006)Edit

Under the Sun City Peace Deal, a power-sharing transitional government was formed and Ruberwa was named Vice President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, along with Jean-Pierre Bemba, Arthur Z'ahidi Ngoma, and Abdoulaye Yerodia Ndombasi.[11] Vice President Ruberwa was given executive control of political affairs, defense, and security.[12] Under this title, he was given a broad range of responsibilities such as being in charge of the process to draft the country's newest constitution, helping to create a unified national army, and helping to organize the first legitimate elections in the country since the independence of Congo from Belgium in 1960. More or less, he successfully accomplished each of the three against many obstacles.

Gatumba MassacreEdit

One of the most difficult decisions Vice President Ruberwa had to make came on the night of August 13, 2004.[13] Having just come back to Congo that day from visiting a refugee camp full of mostly Congolese Tutsi refugees in Gatumba, Burundi, Ruberwa learned of an apparent attack on that same camp.[3] The attack was believed to have been carried out by members of the Forces for National Liberation, (a predominantly Burundian Hutu rebel movement known for its hostility towards Tutsis) and the Mai-Mai, a Congolese rebel group who seem to have also been complicit.[14] It resulted in one of the largest civilian massacres carried out in the history of Burundi and led to at least 166 deaths and another 106 wounded people.[6][15]

The next day the Vice President returned to the refugee camp to visit the survivors and help bury the victims; some of whom were members of his own family.[16] After further assessing the severity of what had happened, Ruberwa decided on August 23 to suspend his party's participation in the transitional government.[3] While many international observers viewed this as a potential threat to the peace deal, Ruberwa remarked that "this was not a call to go back to war, rather, a call to go back to the negotiating table in order to concretize outstanding issues regarding the protection of Congolese minorities."[17]

The suspension of the government continued for about a week until South African President Thabo Mbeki came to DRC to help mediate the conflict between Ruberwa and the Kinshasa government.[18] After meeting with the South African delegation, Ruberwa and members of the RCD party decided to end the suspension once they secured additional guarantees for a new road map for peace.[19]

Post-Government career (2006-2016)Edit

After running in the 2006 presidential elections and losing in a crowded field to incumbent President Joseph Kabila, Ruberwa decided to step away from politics and to reopen his law practice in Lubumbashi along with two additional offices in Kinshasa and Goma.[4] The firm specializes in corporate transactional work, commercial and white collar litigation, international arbitration, and lobbying.[3] The firm's clients range in industry: banking, mining, telecommunications, international development and non-profit organizations.[3]

Ruberwa previously served on the board of Mercy Ships[20] from 2010-2019. He continues to serve on several other boards such as The International Leadership Foundation, Congo Family Restoration, The Congolese National Prayer Breakfast Group, and a few other organizations. He has also spoken at numerous conferences, seminars and universities throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America.[21][22][23][24]

Return to DRC government (2016-)Edit

In November 2016, Ruberwa returned to the DRC government as the Minister of Decentralization and Institutional Reforms.[25] In this capacity, Ruberwa is in charge of the decentralization process for each of the 26 provinces in the country; fifteen of which were just recently created.[26] Ruberwa has been lauded for adopting a strong interdependence approach that favors empowering provincial and local officials in each province and helping them become less dependent on the national government.[27][28][29]

In the months leading up to the 2018 Elections, Ruberwa and his party joined the Common Front for Congo coalition, also known as FCC. After the 2018 Democratic Republic of the Congo general election, Ruberwa remained in government and was asked to concurrently serve as Vice Prime Minister and Interim Minister of Transportation after José Makila Sumanda stepped down to join parliament.[30] Ruberwa also served as the Interim Minister of Justice and Keeper of the Seals after Alexis Thambwe Mwamba stepped down to become the President of the Senate.[31] This was done in accordance with Article 108 of the Congolese Constitution which forbids members of parliament or senate from simultaneously also serving in a cabinet position. Since both Ministers had run in the parliamentary elections and won seats, they could not continue to serve as Ministers. Ruberwa further served as the Acting Prime Minister for several weeks between June and July 2019, while Bruno Tshibala took a medical leave of absence. After the new government was formed in September 2019, Ruberwa was one of a handful of Ministers to retain a Ministerial position in the new Government, keeping the Ministry of Decentralization and Institutional Reforms.[32]

On January 3, 2020, social media reports surfaced alleging that a bomb had gone off at Ruberwa's residence. However, these reports were quickly denounced by the Chief Police Commissioner of the City of Kinshasa, Mr. Kasongo Kisenge Sylvano, who released a statement warning that "instigators had spread this false information in order to manipulate the opinion and thus to disturb the public order in the capital."[33] He also mentioned that an investigation would be opened to dismantle the network of designers and propagators of false information against Ruberwa and other authorities in the country.[34]


Ruberwa is married to the former Chantal Shama.[35] The couple has three adult children.[3]

In preparation for his 2006 presidential campaign, Ruberwa wrote a book titled "Our Vision for the Democratic Republic of Congo: Assessment of an Action, Outline of a Project." It was published by the Paris-based publishing company, L'Harmattan.[35]


  1. ^ Gérard, Prunier (2009). Africa's world war : Congo, the Rwandan genocide, and the making of a continental catastrophe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195374209. OCLC 227574034.
  2. ^ Kisangani, Emizet Francois; Bobb, Scott F. (October 1, 2009). Historical Dictionary of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810863255 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l id.
  4. ^ a b "The Team – Cabinet Ruberwa".
  5. ^ Vlassenroot, Koen. "Conflict & Malitia Formation in Eastern Congo." Ed. Preben Kaarsholm. Violence, Political Culture & Development in Africa. Athens: Ohio UP, 2006. 49–65. p. 53
  6. ^ a b "The "Jews" of Africa". August 19, 2004 – via The Economist.
  7. ^ "A new cause for Congo rebels?". May 24, 2001 – via Christian Science Monitor.
  8. ^ "Key Figures in Congo's Electoral Process". The New Humanitarian. June 28, 2006.
  9. ^ "Congo at War: A Briefing on the Internal and External Players in the Central African Conflict - Angola". ReliefWeb.
  10. ^ "DRC: Rebel leader resigns admitting "errors" - Democratic Republic of the Congo". ReliefWeb.
  11. ^ "Key rebel named for Kinshasa". May 7, 2003 – via
  12. ^ "Interview with Azarias Ruberwa, secretary general of RCD-Goma". The New Humanitarian. May 2, 2003.
  13. ^ Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Burundi to set up refugee camp for new Congolese arrivals following deadly attack". UNHCR.
  14. ^ "Burundi Probes Refugee Slaughter".
  15. ^ "Burundi: The Gatumba Massacre - War Crimes and Political Agendas (Human Rights Watch Briefing Paper, September 2004): Summary".
  16. ^ "Press Review". MONUC. March 6, 2009.
  17. ^ "DRC: Ex-rebel group suspends participation in transitional government - Democratic Republic of the Congo". ReliefWeb.
  18. ^ Isango, Eddy. "Mbeki visits DRC amid political crisis". The M&G Online.
  19. ^ "DRC: Former rebel group re-enters government - Democratic Republic of the Congo". ReliefWeb.
  20. ^ "Mercy Ships | Board".
  21. ^ "AFREG".
  22. ^ Newsroom, St Thomas (November 30, 1999). "Durenberger and former Congo vice president to join Spring Community Dialogue here Thursday".
  23. ^ "Dignitary from Congo visits campus | Liberty University".
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Englebert, Pierre. "Below the Surface, a Game Changer in Congolese Politics". Atlantic Council.
  27. ^ "Officials Gather in Kinshasa, DRC for Course on Health Sector Decentralization | HFG".
  28. ^ Rédaction, La (March 13, 2019). "RDC : Ruberwa explique les "trois D" de la réforme institutionnelle !".
  29. ^ Bosengele, Merdi. "[Urgences de Félix Tshisekedi] Décentralisation : Azarias Ruberwa mobilise les partenaires !". Journal La Prospérité.
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ a b Ruberwa, Azarias, (2006). Notre Vision de la République Démocratique du Congo: bilan d’une action, esquisse d’un projet. L’Harmattan. ISBN 9782296011953 OCLC 2296011950

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