By Jackson Mutabazi
The DR Congo ambassador to the UN has named the P5 group of anti-Rwandan rebels, led by Kayumba Nyamwasa – and of which Kampala is one of the main sponsors – as a great danger that could plunge DRC into yet another armed conflict.
The country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta has told the UN Security Council in New York City that “P5” – a coalition of anti-Rwanda rebel groups and self-styled “opposition” movements led by the fugitive Nyamwasa – receive weapons and ammunition from “a neighboring country”.
The ambassador said that while also citing the UN’s Group of Experts (GoE) Report on DRC that was released on 31 December last year.
Ambassador wa Lufuta was speaking only a few days after his country’s new leader, Felix Tshisekedi said – while attending the recently concluded CEO Africa Forum in Kigali – that armed groups in the region, “Do not stand for any cause and should be neutralized through demobilization and re-integration programs.”
The UN report that the ambassador cites specifically named Burundi as a conduit of arms – originating from South Africa, New Zealand, China and other countries – destined to rebel groups in the vast DRC, of which anti-Rwanda groups are the main recipients.
Burundi has since 2015, when its president Nkurunziza overthrew the rule of law and violently seized another term of office, allied itself to an anti-Rwanda coalition consisting of “P5” and of which Kampala is one of the main partners, with the not-so-secret goal to destabilize Rwanda.
Said Djinnit, UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region was in agreement with the DRC ambassador when he called the armed groups, “negative forces” whose presence in the country “perpetuates insecurity and mistrust between some countries”.
Analysts say the new leadership in DR Congo seems aligned to the Group of Experts’ thinking; which is that the main threat to peace in the region are rebel groups like RNC, “the ring leader of the P5 coalition”, as well as FDLR – the offshoot group of ex FAR and Interahamwe perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“With the new government in Kinshasa, words are accompanied by action,” said a political analyst who regularly comments on regional issues.
“Nyamwasa’s rebels as well as their overall support network – which includes Ugandan President Museveni, and Nkurunziza of Burundi – received a bad shock when Kinshasa arrested in December 2018, and later deported to Kigali two FDLR bigwigs: La Forge Fils Bazeye its spokesperson and Theophile Abega the intelligence chief.
Regional watchers say that DRC’s new stance on the rebel groups is going to be very alarming, not only to individuals like Nyamwasa and others in the “P5” coalition, but to governments and leaders that are in bed with them. Bazeye and Abega for instance were coming from Kampala, expecting to be back in their base in eastern DRC before sunset, when DRC military authorities apprehended them at the Bunagana Border Post.
They had been in Uganda to attend a meeting, under the auspices of Uganda’s Minister of State for Regional Affairs Philemon Mateke, between 14 and 15 December 2018 at Serena hotel. According to highly reliable sources, the meeting took place at the express instruction of President Yoweri Museveni, and it brought together leaders of FDLR and RNC, with the agenda to “better coordinate their (anti-Rwanda) activities.”
The FDLR leaders seem to have divulged a lot of information to Rwandan authorities, going by what President Kagame has – in only one instance – revealed on multiple occasions including in a recent interview with the widely circulated French-language magazine, Jeune Afrique.
Judging by the President’s words, the UN report (which Ambassador wa Lufuta cited in his appeals to the Security Council against P5) seems to have exposed only a fraction of what the anti-Rwanda groups are up to in DRC.
Asked by the magazine whether there is tangible proof that Uganda harbors ill intentions against Rwanda, President Kagame said: “There is tangible evidence that cannot be denied!” He added that the evidence had been submitted to Ugandan authorities.
The Rwandan head of state was specific that Ugandan authorities provide material and logistical support to individuals in South Africa, Burundi, DR Congo, Canada and Europe, adding that these individuals regularly appear in Kampala under the protection of Museveni’s government.
To one that has read the UN GoE, what the President says collaborates it in many ways. The rebel recruitment activities, and the quantities of the weapons mentioned in the report – not mentioning the sophistication of the logistical planning to get them to P5 command in DRC – can only be accomplished with the help of state actors, and highly influential individuals.
The UN report says in one section: “The Group (GoE) investigated armed group activities in the Hauts Plateux of Fizi and Uvira territories in South Kivu. The Group found that a widespread recruitment network was already established.”
It further indicates that the GoE separately interviewed ex-combatants (that had left the P5 rebels) and that they all said one Shaka Nyamusaraba was the commander of the armed group whose combatants mostly are of Rwandan origin.
The combatants also disclosed that they had regularly received briefings from Kayumba Nyamwasa”. “Several ex-combatants collaborated information that Kayumba Nyamwasa regularly travelled to the region,” said the report.
According to all the interviewed ex-combatants, the main recruiter was a man called “Rashid”, also known as “Sunday/Sunde Charles”, who covered the cost of travel for the recruits from his house in Bujumbura, and liaised with Nyamusaraba in Congo. Once in the P5 camps, the recruits underwent four to six weeks’ basic military training.
The former rebels also told the GoE that in February, April and June 2018, various quantities of weapons and ammunition were delivered to them (P5 Group).
“Ammunition came in both boxes and bags and was well-packed,” they testified, to the UN Group of Experts, further telling them that the weapons were brought from Burundi to DRC through Rumonge.
In Uganda it is no secret how closely Museveni works with Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC. RNC bigwigs like Tribert Ayabatwa Rujugiro run businesses in Uganda that merely front for the group. Moreover, Uganda’s Directorate of Military Intelligence (CMI) is tasked, in direct collusion with RNC agents, with most of the anti-Rwanda activity in Uganda.
They recruit fighters in areas with Banyarwanda populations anywhere in Uganda. They target young men to recruit, and harass, jail, or torture those that refuse to join the RNC. They identify Rwandan nationals in Uganda that have money, such as businessmen, big farmers and others to become “contributors of funds or was materials”.
Anyone that refuses is marked, to be “fixed” later. Either one is arrested on charges of “espionage” (that are never proven, but for which nonetheless a person can be imprisoned for months, even years, while suffering torture). Or CMI operatives may shove a gun at someone, then arrest that person on a charge of “illegal firearms possession”. They also abduct, kidnap and torture Rwandans just because they are Rwandans.
The Museveni regime has always denied complicity in efforts to destabilize Rwanda. The incident that laid Museveni completely bare happened in December 2017 when immigration officials at Kikagati, on the Ugandan border with Tanzania, stopped a group of 46 young Banyarwanda men from passing through.
The officials realized that their Uganda travel papers were forgeries, and alerted the border police, which arrested them. Upon interrogation, they disclosed it was CMI that had facilitated them with the documents. The young men first lied that they were going to Bujumbura for a bible fellowship. Upon closer interrogation they disclosed CMI had recruited them for the RNC, and that they were headed for the rebel group’s training camps in Minembwe, eastern DRC.
Their story became a tangled web, with Uganda Police accusing them of terrorism. But some “powerful” people “passed behind” and had them released from prison before they could be tried for terrorism.
Museveni would shamefacedly confess knowledge of the 46 rebel recruits at a joint press conference with his Rwandan counterpart in March last year. “But he did that only because President Kagame showed him incontrovertible proof, and he was obliged to confess!” commented an observer.
Going by the DRC official’s statement at the United Nations in New York, the Ugandan leader – and others like him – may soon also have to explain to the new president in Kinshasa why they have chosen to turn his country into a den of terrorists.