By Patrick Mugasa
On August 26 the Sunday Monitor published a carefully planted story by Uganda’s intelligence services that was supposed to summarise the charges that are being levelled against their country’s former Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura. Out of the three charges that were formally read to the general at the military general court martial, the newspaper only addressed itself to the charge of “aiding and abetting kidnap from Uganda,” that involves Rwanda.
For a paper whose primary audience is supposedly Ugandans, it is rather strange that it ignored the charges that include the mismanagement of the police force and, especially, the “failure to protect war materials,” a charge that presumably directly places the lives of Ugandans in harm’s way and that should, therefore, be of utmost concern to the newspaper’s readership.
The paper did not bother to inform its readers that what has been extensively claimed in the media, including by itself, for months regarding the ‘damning evidence’ implicating Gen Kayihura in the murder of his former AIGP, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, did not even appear on the charge-sheet, which in and of itself speaks volumes about the credibility of rest of the charges.
Neither did it attempt to question why, after 72 days in custody, Gen Kayihura was suddenly and hurriedly produced before court, with the timing just so happening to coincide with the court hearings in Gulu involving Hon Robert Kyagulanyi(aka Bobi Wine), and his colleagues, who had been extremely battered and tortured by soldiers of President Yoweri Museveni’s Special Forces Command (SFC) to the point of being permanently maimed.
Was Gen. Kayihura’s hurried hearing intended to divert attention, and provide relief, for a regime now reeling under domestic and international pressure, one that is in dire need of a shot of nationalistic fervour against an imagined foreign enemy. The Daily Monitor didn’t see anything unusual about any of this.
But here it was, dispensing “justice” on the one charge, just falling short of convicting and committing the General to the gallows.
The substance of the charge
But, what is the substance of this charge of “abetting kidnap,” if indeed justice is what the court martial is about?
It is alleged that between 2012 and 2016 “by omission and commission, the then IGP aided and abetted the actions of subordinate police officers and others on various occasions, without hindrance, to kidnap and illegally repatriate Rwandan exiles and refugees.” The subordinates referred to are the 26 police officers previously taken into military custody, where they continue to languish.
This is the same paper that has been reporting the absurdity of how anyone could claim that 33 people, MP Kyagulanyi and his co-accused, were jointly able to throw a single stone that broke the glass of a car belonging to President Museveni in Arua; but when it comes to this charge it fails to ask how exactly 26 police officers were needed to arrest just one single man, Joel Mutabazi.
Crucially, while The Daily Monitor reports that Lt Joel Mutabazi was apprehended by the Uganda Police after it had been hounding him, it completely glosses over the criminal nature of activities that made the police develop interest in him in the first place.
It avoids to inform the reader that Lt Joel Mutabazi had been operating as the coordinator of operations of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) in Uganda and that it is these activities that got him in trouble with the law in that country and triggered the interest of the Uganda Police Force.
Once Mutabazi deserted the army in Rwanda he relocated to Uganda and linked up with former Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, the head of the RNC that he runs from South Africa.
During his public trial in Rwanda following his extradition, the prosecution revealed damning evidence against Joel Mutabazi that included WhatsApp, Skype, and SMS communication that linking him with Kayumba Nyamwasa and the FDLR, an organisation that is on the American terror watch list and is recognised as such internationally.
In July 2013, coordinators of the RNC and the FDLR met at Mamba Point Bar in Kampala to plan terror operations in Kigali during the parliamentary elections that were schedule to take place a few months later in September and during the Christmas and New Year festive season.
Corporal Joseph Nshimiyimana, aka Camarade, who was present in that meeting in Kampala, testified before court on November 5, 2013 that it was Kayumba Nyamwasa who, using emissaries Esther Kanyire and Sam Lethoko who had come from South Africa, had linked Lt Mutabazi with FDLR commanders, led by Col Jean Marie.
During that meeting, the RNC promised to provide 150 grenades and US$50,000 for “facilitation,” including recruiting grenade throwers; it immediately made available US$14,000. According to skype printouts they had been communicating using code names, Molef-Zedwa-Joe for Mutabazi and Habari03 for Nshimiyimana, and in one them Nshimiyimana writes braggingly that their “plan” was going to “add ingredients” to the parliamentary elections.
On the evening of 13 September 2013, the team, led by Nshimiyimana and coordinated by Lt Mutabazi, who was stationed in Kabale, entered Rwanda. The following day, September 14, two grenades were thrown at in the crowded Kicukiro Market, killing two people, Yadufashishe and Habiyambere, and injuring 46. Immediately after the operation, Nshimiyimana sent a WhatsApp message to “Afande” Mutabazi informing him that “A la Bwenge!” This was followed by another message stating, “If you didn’t get it, I have successfully showed the election observers how to conduct themselves during elections,” meaning that he had driven fear in the people.
Mutabazi responded, “Kicukiro, right?” “Of course,” Nshimiyimana said, “but why aren’t you congratulating me?”
Asked in court why in some communications he had referred to Lt Mutabazi as “Afande,” Nshimiyimana responded, “He was my boss!”
UPF arrested Mutabazi while on an RNC mission
On the day the UPF arrested Lt Mutabazi, he was with Cpl Mulindwa Mukombozi, the CMI liaison agent attached to RNC operations in Uganda and remains actively involved with RNC recruiters in Uganda.
These are the kinds of operations Mutabazi was involved in that attracted UPF interest, getting him arrested and repatriated to Rwanda through a still continuing police-to-police arrangement that has been in existence since May 2010 and has seen the repatriation of 30 criminals between Uganda and Rwanda, with the majority of criminals (20) being repatriated from Rwanda to Uganda to face their national justice. This is an arrangement that Anna Katusiime, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Ugandan embassy in Kigali once referred to as, “a sign of the good relationship between the two countries.”
Since 2013 Uganda has posted in Rwanda a Police Liaison Officer, Assistant Commissioner of Police Patrick Lawot, as part of this Police-Police partnership.
Moreover, Uganda and Rwanda are part of the 13 member East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO) under which the two countries have signed and ratified a number of treaties, including one on the “exchange of fugitives and other wanted persons.”
Indeed, in 2010 Uganda was the beneficiary of Police-Police cooperation in tracking members of the terror network that hit Kampala during the World Cup.
Are there good and bad terrorists?
The contrived furore in some Ugandan circles, especially their intelligence services, over the extradition of Joel Mutabazi back to his country to face trial for his terrorist activities, within transparent bilateral and multilateral security arrangements between police forces, under which Uganda has benefitted the most, begs the questions: What if it had been Rwanda that had arrested Jamil Mukulu, the terrorist mastermind of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)? What interest to Rwanda would be served by protecting such a person to the point that handing him to Uganda would cause the arrest of the IGP of Rwanda?
Are there good and bad terrorists, those worthy of protecting and others who should be held accountable?
The question also needs to be asked of the Ugandan authorities: If they consider extradition of suspects between the two countries under these Police-to-Police bilateral arrangements to be illegal, why then has Uganda sought and accepted, without hesitation, its criminals to be handed over within those frameworks without fear that it was engaging in illegality?
Besides being good mutual security ties, it is good neighbourliness. However, with a “good” neighbour like Museveni, who needs enemies?