UGANDA’S RELEASE OF RNC REBELS SENDS STRONG MESSAGE TO RWANDA
Last Monday, June 25, the Magistrates Court in Mbarara released 39 Rwanda National Congress (RNC) recruits who have been in custody awaiting trial for breach of laws precluding refugees from involvement in criminal activities, including taking part in plans to overthrow another country, and using forged documents, among other violations. The recruits are part of the group of 46 young men who were intercepted trying to cross at Kikagati, along the Uganda-Tanzania border, on December 11, 2017.
The young men appeared suspicious to Uganda immigration officers after the officers discovered that they were carrying fake travel documents.
In addition to the fake documents, the stories about where they were going and the purpose of travel were not consistent. The young men had been coached by officers of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) that when they reach immigration they should say they are going for an evangelical mission in Tanzania. However, most of them failed to stay on the script. They couldn’t answer simple questions about the name of the church they were going to; neither could they recall the name of the pastor of the church. Some of them panicked and revealed that someone was waiting for them in Bujumbura to take them to the RNC training Center in Minembwe, DRC via Bujumbura.
The immigration officers immediately alerted the police. Efforts by Captain Charles Byaruhanga, the CMI officer attached to Kikagati border, to intervene with “orders from above” clearing the recruits to continue their journey proved fruitless; neither did those of Major Fred Mushambo, the UPDF 2nd Division Intelligence Officer (IO). The police took the recruits to Isingiro police station. While there, they revealed that they had been recruited from different places in Uganda (Nyakivala, Kiboga, Kibale, and Mubende) to join the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), and revealed their recruiters as Musoni Jeffrey, Moses Bijura, Felix Mwizerwa, and Dr. Sam Ruvuma. Among the recruiters, only Musoni, a former Sgt deserter in the Rwanda Patriotic army (RPA), and Bijura, a pastor in Rubare, Ntungamo, were arrested at Kikagati. Dr. Sam Ruvuma, a brother to Lt. Colonel Gideon Katinda of the military court, and Felix Mwizerwa, a son of Pastor Deo Nyirigira, also a known RNC coordinator in Mbarara, somehow managed to flee the scene at Kikagati, abandoning the young recruits there. Dr. Sam Ruvuma was only arrested by police days later in Mbarara and kept for a few days before he was released following orders from “way” above. He is back to his RNC recruitment activities in, and around, Mbarara. As for Felix Mwizerwa, he has now relocated to Minembwe, DRC, where he is an RNC Commander.
The release of the 39 recruits last week was a result of a bribe that was given to the magistrate judge handling their case. This bribe, sources say, was negotiated on behalf of the RNC by Edgar Tabaro Muvunyi of the law firm Karuhanga, Tabaro, and Associates.
Moreover, the remaining seven, including the recruiters Bijura and Musoni, whose case is at the High Court, are also expected to be released soon, according to testimony from those who have been set free and are now back to Nyakivale, Bubende, Kiboga, and Kampala. They have been told to prepare to continue with their journey to the RNC camp in the DRC in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, one of the recruits from Kibale, upon his release from jail, returned home angry because of the suffering he had been duped into by the person who recruited him. He reported the RNC recruiter in the area to the police, which promptly arrested him (the recruiter). However, it is expected that he will also be released like the rest of them. On March 25 during a joint press conference between President Museveni and President Kagame, the Ugandan president acknowledged that, “When I met president Kagame in Addis Ababa he gave me some facts which I followed up. A group of Banyarwanda was being recruited through Tanzania and Burundi to go to Congo. They said they were going for church work but when they were interrogated it was found the work was not exactly religious. It was something else.”
Museveni’s own admission of a rebel group being recruited in his country with the support of his intelligence agencies ends up with the recruits being freed without charges brought against them, and are now free to proceed to the rebel training grounds in the DRC. Significantly, the release of the recruits by the courts after such admission from the president himself does more than embolden the RNC and CMI in their scheme to destabilize Rwanda; it’s nothing short of an instruction of intent from the Commander in Chief. Which leads to the questions: What message does Uganda send to Rwanda when rebels recruited to fight the latter are caught and set free? And has Uganda thought well and hard that this is the message it really wants to send to its neighbour??