By Peter Muhumuza
This week ChimpReports published an open letter to Presidents Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda on the “silent war” between the two countries. Mr. Barnabus Taremwa, its author, tried to pass of as a concerned citizen whose interest for writing was solely to contribute to improving a bad situation; however, for reasons known only to him, he danced around the question of what is fuelling the silent war, shifting blame and overworking himself to find equivalency where there is none.
Harassing Rwandans in Uganda
It is not news to anyone that the relations between Uganda and Rwanda have not been good for more than two decades now. However, it is only over the last two years or so that President Museveni seems to have decided that ordinary Rwandans could be targeted for harassment, incarcerated without access to lawyers or access to their consular officials for support, that they could be tortured while on private business in different parts of Uganda, especially in Kampala and Mbarara.
Interestingly, the targeting of Rwandans for extra-judicial harassment by Uganda security agencies happened to coincide with the intensification of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) operations in Uganda. It is equally interesting that it was around the same time that a clear pattern emerged in the persecution of Rwandans in Uganda: The areas in Uganda where the RNC was recruiting the most also happened to be where most Rwandans have been targeted for arrest. Those refusing to join this group – or to make a financial contribution to it – often found themselves targets of persecution at the hands of RNC operatives working in tandem with those of the Chieftainship of Military Intelligence (CMI). Together they would make arrests, abduct, torture, and sometimes deport, their targeted victims without any pretence at following Uganda’s legal processes nor international law.
Eventually, RNC operatives became so emboldened that they began to make arrests on Ugandan territory on their own. They would bundle up their targets into unmarked vehicles in broad daylight and cart them into CMI cells in un-gazetted ‘safe houses’ for torture aimed at forcing them to admit to being Rwanda spies. The refusal to join RNC –and/or to contribute money – had become sufficient evidence that their victims must be spies for Rwanda. In the process, they would plant evidence on them, including guns, which is now also standard practice, with view to place them under military jurisdiction where they could undergo all forms of abuse without knowledge of the Ugandan public. Whether the person was arrested in a restaurant or a taxi park in broad daylight didn’t stop CMI from claiming that they were found with guns, usually AK-47’s and machineguns.
When the Rwanda high commission in Kampala raised concerns with that country’s foreign affairs ministry, these were usually met with a deaf ear. Lawyers were not allowed to access these innocent people. Even women were not spared. Two women who had been tortured in CMI cells said that they had been made to sit in water through which electrical lines pass, resulting in electrocution of their private parts. CMI operatives would then undress them because they “wanted to see how a Rwandan woman looks naked.” Even worse treatment was inflicted on many others.
When in January 2018 the RNC-CMI joint venture was leaked in the media, Rugema Kayumba who was the then coordinator of operations alongside CMI operatives across Uganda did not refute the truth of their working together; instead, he boasted on his Facebook page, “I will not only work with CMI but I will be part of them.”
A scheme to destabilize Rwanda
On November 11, 2017, at least 46 RNC recruits were intercepted at the Kikagati border on their way to a training base in South Kivu, DRC, via Burundi. This was confirmed by Museveni himself on 25 March 2018, during a press conference at Entebbe, “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 wasn’t exactly religious. It was something else.”
On 15-16 December, 2018, representatives of the RNC and FDLR were in Kampala at the invitation of Hon. Philemon Mateke, Uganda’s minister of state for regional cooperation, for a meeting whose aim was to strengthen ties between the two and also reinforce coordination with Uganda’s security agencies. The Minister is “the bridge between FDLR, RNC and Uganda.”
The RNC was represented in that meeting by a delegation led by Frank Ntwari, it’s so-called commissioner for refugees and human rights and brother-in-law of Kayumba Nyamwasa. Ntwali lives in South Africa but travels to Uganda often where he is accorded armed protection.
After the meeting in kampala, at the DRC-Uganda border post of Bunagana, DRC officials intercepted the FDLR representatives on their way back from that Kampala meeting. Among them was its chief spokesperson and deputy chief of intelligence Ignace Nkaka, aka LaForge Bazeye Fils. Upon arrest they were transferred to Kinshasa via Goma for questioning where they recounted details of their Kampala visit.
The United Nations Groups of Experts (UN GoE) Report that came out on 31 December, 2018, also confirms the existence of these rebel bases in North and South Kivu that are part of a new coalition grouping called P5, headed by Kayumba Nyamwasa. Significantly, it confirms that their recruitment and movement of rebels is facilitated by ‘neighbouring countries.’ One of these was specified in the report; it’s Burundi.
Space doesn’t allow for the recounting of all incidents that constitute the “silent war” in which only one side is doing the shooting without the other reciprocating. However, a small sample outlined above should suffice, especially since they are cases where the concerned parties themselves confirm the accusations levelled against them. This should help Mr. Taremwa get informed about what is fuelling the bad relations between the two countries in the event he chooses to write a follow-up letter.