By Patience Kirabo
Twenty five members of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) terrorist group have appeared before the Nyarugenge Military Tribunal in Nyamirambo-Kigali for pretrial hearing, most notable amongst them Maj. (Rtd) Habib Mudathir who was walking on crutches.
The group has been slapped with charges of being part of an unlawful military outfit, forming an illegal military, conniving with foreign countries to destabilize the nation and treason.
The tribunal heard that RNC, which is headed by Kayumba Nyamwasa received the help of Ugandan and Burundian military officials. It was further revealed that the suspects were recruited in Uganda and taken to the RNC’s training and operation camp in Minembwe, eastern DRC. There, the court heard, they trained for months before they launched assaults in some parts of South-Eastern Kivu.
Prosecutors in court named senior operatives of Ugandan military intelligence, CMI, that facilitated Habib, and another RNC high-ranking military trainer, the deceased Charles Sibo. Both men had been charged with setting up training bases for RNC rebels. CMI also worked with them to transfer RNC recruits from Uganda through Tanzania and Burundi, then to Minembwe.
The suspects mentioned CMI operative Capt. Johnson, who in Uganda facilitated Mudathir cross over to Tanzania with forged papers before heading to Burundi. The suspects also named two Burundians: Col. Ignace Sibomana, the head of J2 in Bujumbura and Maj. Bertin, who is in charge of Burundian External Intelligence.
These availed military personnel to receive, and help Mudathir’s recruits cross over to DRC. Also mentioned was Richard Mateeka, son of Ugandan retired General Mateeka. These facilitated RNC movements to Burundi, where they were briefed about the P5 alliance before the provision of arms and embarking on their journey to Minembwe.
These revelations were consistent with the details unearthed in a report by the UN Group of Experts on DRC published on 31 December 2018.
That report described a coordinated recruitment, training and arming process benefitting the so-called “P5” anti-Rwanda rebel groups chief of them RNC, but also consisting of FDLR, FDU Inkingi and others. The report revealed that Burundi was the main conduit of arms to P5, while recruitment of fighters was from across the region.
Mudathir and Sibo were members of the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) before retiring and later travelling to Uganda, in 2013. While in Uganda, prosecutors charged, Mudathir linked up with one Maj. Robert Higiro of RNC who shared with him a message that had specifically come from the RNC head Kayumba Nyamwasa.
Higiro told Mudathir that while RNC is solid, there is need to build a military wing, Prosecution revealed. According to Prosecution, Higiro also said “they had already found a base in Congo.”
In their meeting, Higiro briefed Mudathir on all aspects of RNC activities, both political and those of the military wing. Higiro and Mudathir then later on met in Kampala with one Rasta – a prominent Rwandan based in Uganda – who would facilitate him with paperwork.
Mudathir and Sibo were registered as refugees and taken to Rhino refugee camp in Arua, run by UNHCR. But then Mudathir and Sibo escaped the camp to take up their activities in RNC full time. They were in charge of mobilization, recruitment and training, whereby the youth in refugee camps in Uganda was their main target.
It has long been revealed that there is an intensive recruitment campaign for RNC run with the full facilitation and assistance of CMI throughout Uganda territory. The recruitment activities were most intensive in refugee camps like Nakivale and others that are known to host big numbers of Rwandan refugees.
Newspaper reports in December 2017 disclosed that 46 recruits were intercepted on a bus by Ugandan Border Police at Kikagati. That was after immigration officials grew suspicious as the 46 had Ugandan travel papers but didn’t speak a Ugandan language, and their papers didn’t look authentic. Upon interrogation they confessed they were RNC recruits.
The fake travel documents had been issued by CMI, they confessed. These travel documents were to help them cross from Tanzania to Burundi from where they would proceed to RNC training camps in Minembwe. But even after a Ugandan court charged them with terrorism and remanded them, someone “from high up” ordered their release barely three months in prison.
They would simply proceed to their original destination, Minembwe.
During the trial at the Nyarugenge Military Tribunal, all the suspects testified to being recruited from different parts of Uganda and Burundi, mentioning a few officials in both countries who played part in their transportation, training and arming under the P5 umbrella.
To the astonishment of the audience, among the 25 RNC rebels were four Burundians, three Ugandans and one Malawian.
In their first and last attack in Fizi, Minembwe, they faced a serious confrontation with Congo’s National Defense Force (FARDC) where they encountered the worst defeat. The attack claimed several of the terror group’s fighters including Capt. (Rtd) Charles “Sibo” Sibomana. It also resulted in the capture of Habib.
The survivors were all arrested and later handed over to Rwanda through bilateral cooperation.
RNC crossed the Rubicon into full-fledged terror activity in Rwanda between 2010 and 14. During those attacks in public places like markets and bus stops 17 innocent Rwandans lost their lives and over 400 live with injuries.
These people will be looking for a measure of justice in the trial and sentencing of the 25 terrorist, a resident of Kigali remarked.