By Jean Gatera
A senior member of FLN (“Front de Liberation Nationale”) terrorist outfit extradited to Rwanda in March 2020 from the jungles of eastern Congo has revealed how FLN replenished its ammunition and supplies from Burundi, back when Pierre Nkurunziza was president of the country.
When the FLN came under fire last year, “Col.” Nizeyimana Marc alias Massamba, second in command of the Kalehe Sector for the militia, says that is was Brig. Gen. Agricole Ntirampeba of State House Burundi “that donated ammunition to FLN.” This particular group suffered a particularly big setback when it’s public face, “Maj.” Callixte Nsabimana was arrested, and extradited to Kigali. During his trial he spilled every FLN secret – including the group’s links with the intelligence security organs of Uganda (CMI) and Burundi.
Nizeyimana made his particular revelations last Friday when Rwanda Investigation Bureau paraded 57 members of terrorist groups accused of threatening state security. The FLN, the so-called “armed wing” of the MRCD terrorist coalition, mid last year was pushed back over 200 km southwards in a military route to rid Congolese territory of illegal armed groups. The likes of RNC, FDLR suffered even a worse fate, losing top commanders and hundreds of fighters.
“We retreated towards Uvira – not far from Bujumbura – and I crossed to Burundi to get the ammunition”, Nizeyimana said.
“This is hardly surprising knowing the role of the then president Nkurunziza in propping up anti-Rwanda terrorist groups that FLN too was getting its supplies and replenishments from Burundi,” a security analyst that followed Nizeyimana’s testimony said.
The rebel member said after he left Bujumbura he was apprehended on his way back to Congo as he crossed the River Rusizi along with 20 of his escorts. Narrating his arrest, the FLN man told the press how on other days (in the days before they suffered the military rout in DRC) he also sometimes went through Bujumbura to visit FLN fighters in the Burundian Forest of Kibira.
The Kibira forest crosses into Rwanda into Nyungwe, and has been a route used by the FLN in the past to launch terrorist attacks into Rwanda, and every time they are repulsed by Rwandan security forces, they flee back to Burundi through the same forest.
Narrating back to the time he was in Bujumbura to meet big Burundian officials, Nizeyimana said, “We bought some ammunition, but most of it was a gift from Burundi.” Although he insisted that the support from Burundi was “by individuals,” he proceeded to name a top official of the government – President Nkurunziza’s principal advisor, Brig-Gen Agricole Ntirampeba, as the main donor of guns and ammunition. Nizeyimana in his testimony disclosed that his ties with Ntirampeba go back a long way. “We lived and studied with Ntirampeba in Lubumbashi,” he said.
Gen. Ntirampeba occupied several important positions in the first 15 years of the CNDD-FDD rule under the leadership of the deceased Nkurunziza. Ntirampeba was previously mentioned in a UN Group of Experts report for his role in Burundi’s support of anti-Rwanda groups like FDLR. In 2009, the UN Group of Expert (UNGoE) of 2009, S/2009/603, directly named him as a collaborator of FDLR.
According to the report, Agricole Ntirampeba – then chief of staff of the country’s intelligence organization, SNR – was in constant communication with senior FDLR officials like “Maj.” Mazuru. The UN report obtained call records that showed 13 calls between Ntirampeba and Mazuru.
“For these reasons the FLN member’s story adds up,” a Kigali security analyst observed. “Under the Nkurunziza’s regime, Burundi was a known terrorist hub and Ntirampeba was mentioned in several reports.” The analyst pointed at other testimony by the likes of Callixte Nsabimana, or other terror suspects facing trial in Rwanda like Maj. Habib Mudathiru of RNC.
But observers are cautioning against automatically equating the new administration in Burundi with the old one. “It shouldn’t be forgotten that these events took place in 2019, and before – under Nkurunziza”, one said.