By Amos Mujuni
Museveni likes to pose as a friend of refugees. He has tried to bolster this pseudo humanitarian image most especially by drawing attention to the presence of Rwandan refugees in Uganda, and how he has been a generous host for them. But is Museveni in fact as benevolent a humanitarian as he tries to present himself?
It didn’t surprise many that thousands of Banyarwanda joined Museveni when he launched his guerilla war against the Milton Obote regime. By 1986 when he captured power, a large portion of his fighters, perhaps even the majority, were Banyarwanda.
Museveni’s decision to heavily recruit from the Banyarwanda was not out of any altruistic desire to protect them from Obote. On the contrary, Museveni had seen them in instrumental terms: they were a tool for his ambition of removing Obote from power and placing himself in that seat.
Significantly, having used the Banyarwanda to achieve that goal, Museveni thereafter discarded them in the most callous display of ingratitude.
In 1994 after the Rwandan refugees – including many of those who had participated in the war that brought Museveni to power – took control of the state in Kigali, they quickly learnt that any support that Museveni had given them had never been out of friendship or any form of gratitude for the blood they had shed for his armed struggle.
Instead, it became clear to them that Museveni’s support had been predicated on his belief that he would be able to impose his tutelage on the new Rwandan leadership.
In reaction to their determined refusal to accept subordinating their country to his will, Museveni branded them stubborn and arrogant ingrates. From that moment, he began a campaign to sabotage and destabilise their country in the hope of replacing its leadership with a more subservient crop. From then on, anyone seeking to destabilise Rwanda became Museveni’s friend, and was assured of sanctuary in Uganda.
Moreover, Museveni launched wide-ranging efforts to actively sow dissent among different Rwandan segments in the hope of weakening the government, eventually bringing it down and replacing it with leaders who would be more amenable to his direction.
Uganda increasingly became a safe-haven for such forces and Museveni did everything possible to conceal his destabilisation agenda in a feigned humanitarian cloak of refugee-friendliness, a pretext falling in three different categories, and each exploited into serving this agenda in different ways.
The first category consisted of genuine refugees most of whom are from the war of the early 1990s and now qualify to return home under the UNHCR secession clause but are encouraged to stay in Uganda for Museveni’s political benefit.
Their presence in Uganda provided crucial cover for Museveni’s anti-Kigali agenda in the view of the international community and allowed him to use the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, to launder – the same way money laundering uses legitimate business entities – the latter two categories of “refugees.”
The second category includes persons, mainly retired Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) soldiers, who were (and continue to be) targeted for recruitment into Museveni’s destabilization agenda. These are usually contacted while still inside Rwanda and lured into this agenda by, first, providing military-related information. They are eventually enticed to relocate to Kampala, with such relocation often a pre-emptive move to avoid arrest in the event their treasonous activities are discovered or if there are indications that Rwanda’s security organs may have started to suspected them.
This is, for instance, how Lieutenant Joel Mutabazi, Captain (rtd) Sibomana “Sibo” Charles and Major (rtd) Habib Mudhathiru, among others, were recruited and facilitated to go to Kampala to join Museveni’s campaign that operates under the umbrella of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) of the South Africa-based former Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa.
On August 9, 2017 Kayumba Nyamwasa, with the assistance of Brig Abel Kandiho of the Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), coordinated the transfer into active duty of these two former Rwandan soldiers from Arua to the RNC training centre in Minembwe, South Kivu, in the DRC.
On their way from Arua to the Kikagati border post, they travelled in a vehicle and escorted by a soldier provided by the CMI whose task was to ensure the recruits were not stopped at any of the police roadblocks on the way.
Patrick Karegeya and Kayumba Nyamwasa are part of a third category. It consists of persons who, having committed crimes in Rwanda, had then fled from justice. They understood Uganda to be a safe-haven ready to receive them and that they could count on Museveni’s protection once they were able to cross the border.
Most importantly, they were convinced that with Museveni’s patronage they could reinvent themselves from fugitives to political dissidents.
In November 2007 Karegeya fled Rwanda through the porous Rwempasha border. Waiting for him across the border in Uganda was Colonel (now Brigadier) Leopold Kyanda, at the time CMI head. Kyanda transported Karegeya to Rubare and then on to Mbarara, where he kept him under cover for a few days fearing the public relations nightmare that could ensue were it discovered that such a high-profile fugitive was in Kampala during the CHOGM General Assembly of Heads of State and Government. Soon after, with Museveni’s support, Karegeya was relocated to South Africa.
On February 25, 2010 Kayumba Nyamwasa (who was for long in constant contact with Saleh while in service in Rwanda and abroad) followed in Karegyeya’s steps, fleeing to Uganda via a porous border point and proceeding towards Kampala. Two Land Cruiser jeeps with red Uganda Government number plates met him in Masaka from the direction of Kampala. Inside one of those vehicles was Gen Salim Saleh, Museveni’s younger brother, who had come to rescue Kayumba; the two drove off together towards Kampala.
After meeting with Museveni’s senior security officials, including Saleh, Kayumba was driven to the Busia border with Kenya from where he later connected to South Africa.
While researching for this article this journalist was granted access to some of the evidence that has been compiled from court records and testimonies from those, like former Lt. Joel Mutabazi, former Cpl Joseph Nshimiyimana, and former Cpl Innocent Kalisa who were arrested and prosecuted; moreover, deserters from the RNC and the FDLR continue to return home to Rwanda with overwhelming details of how Museveni uses Uganda’s intelligence (particularly CMI) and other senior officials in his agenda to destabilize Rwanda.
The businessman Tribert Rujugiro, the chief RNC financier, has also established businesses in Uganda to generate income for the anti-Rwanda activities.
In the end, rather than simply using dissidents and terrorists, Museveni is actively encouraging dissidence and facilitating “investors” for the scheme – all in the name of refugees who can’t be sent back to Rwanda for fear that their safety may be in danger and therefore need Museveni’s “protection.”
Thus in Uganda, dissidents and terrorists have found a safe-haven; and in Museveni, an enthusiastic benefactor who is now in the business of refugee laundering.