Protais Mpiranya was born in the prefecture of Gitarama, Rwanda. He was second-in-command of military operations and intelligence (S2 and S3) in the Presidential Guard Battalion. In 1993, he was appointed Commander of the Presidential Guard Battalion in the Rwandan Army. In this capacity he exercised authority over the units of this battalion.
From end 1990 until July 1994, Mpiranya was said to have adhered to, and participated in the detailed development of a plan aimed at exterminating the Tutsis. Amongst other elements, this plan included recourse to hatred and ethnic violence, the training of and distribution of arms to militias as well as the drafting of lists of people to be eliminated. In the accomplishment of this plan, he was accused of having planned, ordered and participated in the massacres.
Beginning in 1992, Mpiranya allegedly supervised the training of militiamen in the prefectures of Ruhengeri, Cyangugu, Gisenyi, Butare and Mutara, particularly in the military camps in Gabiro, Gako, Mukamira and Bigogwe. In 1993, Mpiranya also reportedly sent his subordinates to supervise the training of the Interahamwe (an extremist Hutu militia)
He was said also to have distributed weapons to the militia and to certain carefully selected members of the civilian population with the intent to exterminate the Tutsi population.
On January 1994, at the time of the swearing-in ceremony of the broad based Transitional Government, the Interahamwe organised a demonstration in conjunction with members of the Presidential Guard. At this event, and despite several attempts by the UNIMAR (United Nations Mission for Assistance in Rwanda) to negotiate with him, Mpiranya allegedly refused access of political opponents into the premises of the National Development Council and in particular to members of the Lando wing of the Liberal Party. As a result of this the swearing-in ceremony did not take place.
UNIMAR had been instituted to facilitate the application of the Arusha Accords, but was perceived to be an obstacle by certain extremist politicians. The latter therefore adopted a strategy aimed at provoking the Belgian soldiers, who formed the most efficient and well equipped contingent within UNIMAR, in order to force them into withdrawing. With this in mind they waged an anti-Belgium propaganda campaign.
On 8 January 1994, units of the Presidential Guard under the command of Mpiranya and elements of the Para-Commando Battalion in civilian clothes were reported to have taken part in a demonstration with the Interahamwe aimed at provoking the Belgians. They were said to have hidden arms within the vicinity of the demonstration site which were intended to be used to kill Belgian UNIMAR soldiers. In the end, however, no Belgian UNIMAR patrol was sent to the scene on that occasion.
In the early morning of 7 April 1994, in Kigali, the Prime Minister, Mrs Agathe Uwilingiyimana was tracked down, arrested, sexually assaulted and assassinated by Rwandan army personnel, and more specifically by members of the Presidential Guard who were under the command of Major Protais Mpiranya. Concurrently, units of the Rwandan army arrested confined and killed senior opposition leaders and prominent figures in the Tutsi community such as the President of the Constitutional Court, JosephKavaruganda; the Chairman of the PSD party and Minister of Agriculture Frederic Nzamurambago; the Vice-Chairman of the PL party and Minister of Labour and Community Affairs, Landoald Ndasingwa as well as a member of the Political Bureau of the MDR and the Minister of Information, Faustin Rucogoza. That same morning, the ten Belgian para-commandos from UNAMIR who were guarding the Prime Minister were murdered at Kigali military camp by elements of the Presidential Guard. This event led to the withdrawal of the Belgian contingent on 13 April 1994 and to a drastic reduction of UNIMAR’s civilian and military personnel.
During the morning of 7 April, Mpiranya, upon being told by his soldiers that the Minister of Information, Mr. Faustin Rucogoza, together with his wife, were being detained at the Presidential Guard camp, asked his soldiers why they were being held. Immediately after, the Minister of Information and his wife were assassinated by soldiers of the Presidential Guard inside their camp.
As of 7 April 1994, killings of the civilian Tutsi population, which was preceded on many occasions by rape, sexual violence and other crimes of a sexual nature, were carried out by civilians and soldiers under orders from Mpiranya as were the murders of numerous political opponents,
In July 1994, faced with the advance of the troops of the FPR (Rwandan Patriotic Front, an opposition movement composed essentially of Tutsi refugees and led by Paul Kigame), Mpiranya fled Rwanda most probably towards the Democratic Republic of Congo. As of today’s date, he has still not been arrested.