Revisiting Museveni’s plunder of DRCongo and the oil curse
CHANGE OF GUARDS – During his preparation for the journey to the presidency, Uganda’s military dictator Gen. Museveni is said to have visited Eastern Congo’s Tutsi stronghold with the view of “buying guns” but in actual sense he was exploring the possibility of establishing guerrilla war bases. One and a half decades later, in 1986 his childhood dream of becoming President of Uganda came true and he has held onto power by hook or crook for the last 32 years.
Historically, Eastern Congo has always had informal cross border trade with and through Uganda. Commodities like coffee, diamond, gold and timber characterized this informal trade. Uganda’s western border towns like Arua, Kasese and Kabale flourished owing to this informal trade that was dubbed “smuggling”. Immediately after he was sworn in on 26th January 1986, that very evening Museveni flew to eastern Congo where he met with Congo’s Mobutu and Rwanda’s Habyarimana. A few years later, the two heads of state were to fall victim to his military aggression.
Museveni’s 49th Battalion based at the border town of Kihihi was the earliest NRA unit that turned into a menace over theft of Congo’s minerals being smuggled to and through Uganda. It took the intervention of Gen. Ssejusa who was at the time the 163rd Brigade Commander who harshly reprimanded the entire battalion. Interception and theft of Congolese gold transiting through Uganda was the target of mixed border based both military and civil intelligence officers. In eastern Uganda, military intelligence officers of the 157 Brigade even killed for theft of Congolese gold in transit to Kenya. Around the early 1990s when Gen. Otafiire was the head of Museveni’s External Intelligence Organisation (ESO), its senior officer, Hamphrey Babukiika murdered Congolese and disposed of their bodies at Kibimba after Robbing them of their gold.
The matter was swept under the carpet and years later, both Gen. Otafiire and Babukiika were to be key players in the plunder of Congo’s natural resources. In the early 1990s, a racket of robbing Congolese coffee transiting through Uganda by army officers was busted. Junior army officers including then Capt. Segamwenge and Capt. Memory Bariyo would use military police Land Rovers to intercept trucks carrying Congolese coffee along the Mbarara-Masaka stretch. The truck driver would be blind folded and driven to rural Luwero and abandoned there while tied on a tree.
The coffee truckloads would be driven to the coffee stores of Gen. Saleh in Luzira and offloaded before abandoning the trucks anywhere in the city. The then Intelligence Officer of Military Police, Lt. Denis Bataringaya unearthed the racket and under the supervision of the then Deputy Director of Military intelligence, Gen. Aronda, the implicated junior officers and the civilian workers of the coffee stores were arrested. As usual the matter was swept under the carpet. Lt. Bataringaya drowned in Lake Victoria and the implicated junior offices are now Colonels. Years later, both Gen. Saleh and Col. Freddy Segamwenge ware part of the top commanders who plundered in Congo.
In 1990, Museveni invaded Rwanda and four years later the Hutu establishment was overthrown; culminating into the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. In 1996, he accompanied the new Tutsi establishment of Rwanda in invading Congo and overthrew Mobutu and replaced him with Laurent Kabila. Delegations of Uganda government officials and private businessmen flocked Kinshasa to finalize a number of commercial bilateral agreements including a railway line linking Uganda and eastern Congo. A security protocol between Congo and Uganda that gave way to Museveni’s deployment of his troops along the common border was the smoke screen for a fully blown military occupation of eastern Congo.
Museveni’s army took to smuggling of natural resources and consequently, in 1997 gold became Uganda’s second largest export commodity. Uganda’s so-called security concerns had been manipulated by Museveni for financial and economic stakes. The then Congolese Minister of the Economy, Pierre Victor Mpoyo publicly accused Uganda of warlord practices and involvement in smuggling of gold, timber and diamond. In July 1998, President Kabila (Sr) ordered both Museveni and Kagame’s troops out of Congo within six weeks.
Within two weeks of exit, Museveni’s army re-entered Congo. Gen. Kazini took charge of the expeditionary troops in an operation dubbed “Operation Safe Heaven” (OSF). His young brother, Col. Jet Mwebaze took charge of recruitment of conscripts. He set up an office dubbed Renaissance 2000 located along Butikiro Road in Mengo, Kampala. Army Veterans, urban rogues and street kids were mobilized and ferried to a training camp at Nabingola in Mubende district under Capt. Kasumba. Once inside Congo, Museveni’s army took over control of levying of taxes, border custom points, bridges and manned road tolls for revenue collection from local miners and traders. It took over control of trade and in all territories under its control targeting gold, diamond, timber, coffee, ivory and other mineral resources.
A systematic exploitation of natural resources linking local trading networks with international traders was put in place. Lebanese, Ukrainians and South Africans partnered with top military elites in illicit trade. The military controlled import and export trade through the Old Airport at Entebbe which had been gazetted as the sole entry and exit point for Eastern Congo. Ugandan traders with links to the top political and military elites and the First Family took advantage of the duty-free opportunity to sell essential goods and fuel to Congo in exchange for natural resources. A military controlled network of air transport between Uganda and Congo’s interior eased exchange of goods with Congolese.
Trading posts of Kisangani, Bunia, Isiro, Gemena, Basankusu, Buta, Businga and Gbadolite were well linked by private commercial and cargo planes owned by Gen. Saleh in partnership with his Congolese Warlords and international illicit mineral dealers. A network of Rwandese, Congolese and Ugandan political leaders, military commanders, businessmen, Warlords, local administrators, and international commercial players were determined to maximize profits through the military control of mineral resources by way of partnership. The two armies of Museveni and Kagame fought three rounds of bloody battles in the city of Kisangani over control of natural resources.
In August 1998 Gen. Kazini looted all the stockpiles of timber from Amex-bois and La Forestere. It is around the same month that his young brother Col. Jet Mwebaze died in a plane crash over the Rwenzori mountains while carrying millions of US Dollars to buy mineral resources in Ituri under Gen. Saleh’s Efforte Corporation. In January 1999, together with warlord Jean Pierre Bemba, Gen. Kazini looted hundreds of tons of coffee from Bumba, Lisala, Basonzo, Binga, and Mindembo in Equateur and Oriental provinces.
In April 1999 one of the Congolese rebel factions, RCD vehemently protested the exploitation of natural resources and dubious trade deals by Museveni army officers. Around the same time in Uganda, CAA and URA (the Aviation and Revenue bodies respectively) drew government’s attention to the illicit trade and rampant smuggling perpetrated by the army officers under cover of classified military cargo. Away from air transport, truckloads of plundered natural resources would enter Uganda through Ariwara and Aru in Arua, Paidha in Pakwachi, and Kasindi.
Soldiers set camps deep in the forests to oversee the logging while duty free petroleum products would be cleared into Congo but only re-enter the Ugandan market a short while later. In April 1999 residents of Kisangani vehemently protested the presence of Mobutu’s former Chief of Staff, Gen. Philemon Barimoto. He had been flown to Kisangani by Gen. Kazini with view of selling him to the Congolese as another rebel group leader. He had earlier flown into Uganda from exile and paid US$ 200,000 to Gen. Saleh’s wife and ESO’s Humphrey Babukika for fixing an appointment before he met Museveni.
In order to consolidate his political and economic control of Eastern Congo, Museveni had created, recruited for, trained, armed and militarily backed different militia groups. RCD Kisangani under Prof Samba Dia Wamba was later split to form RCD-ML of Mbusa Nyamwisi based in Beni. MLC of Jean Pierre Bemba (indicted by ICC) was based in Equatorie. UPC of Tom Lubanga (inducted by ICC) based in Bunia. FAPC of Jerome Kakwavu based in Mahagi. RCD-Nationale of Rogers Lumbala based in Bafasende was the brainchild of the current Army chief, Gen. David Muhoozi who was at the time commanding the 53rd Battalion. FRPI of Katanga and FNI of Matheus Ngudojolo were based in Ituri.
All the above groups were supported by Museveni and accorded preferential treatment by different field commanders of the Museveni army. Notable among the different commanders were Gen. Saleh (Museveni’s brother), Gen. Kazini, Gen. Otafiire, Gen. Katumba Wamala, Gen. Kalekyezi, Gen. Charles Angina, Brig. Noble Mayombo. Col. Sula Semakula, Col. Phenekas Mugyenyi, Col. Burundi, Col. Arocha, Col. Kerim, to mention but a few. An economy of extortion and protection flourished. Political elites, private businessmen and militia groups paid tribute to Museveni’s army in return for provision of security arrangements and business deals.
In Ituri, Museveni’s predominantly Hima/Tutsi top command allied with their cousins, the Pastoralist Hema against the Agriculturalist Lendu over their long-standing land conflicts. Gen. Kaziini worsened the fragile situation by splitting Orientale Province to create Ituri and appointment of a Hema, Latsov Mugisha as the governor. A bloodbath ensued between the Hema and the Lendu and it almost drew in a clash between the different groups of the Museveni army that supported opposing sides. Consequently, some of these militias shifted allegiance to Rwanda which had around 2003 extended its influence to Ituri province.
Owing to international pressure, in March 2003 Museveni’s army withdrew from the Congo but retained its presence and control of trade through proxies. Throughout the expedition the Museveni army had not made a single contact with the so-called Ugandan rebel group of ADF-NALU but instead it is the group that had at one time captured and taken hostage one of Kazini’s close aides during private errands. The majority rank and file did not know why they had been in the Congo and were shocked to learn later that their seniors had been making money. The welfare of ordinary soldiers was neglected as fake US dollars used in the purchase of minerals were also part of their salaries.
The army Paymaster, Capt. Dan Byakutaaga was reported to have disappeared with 1.6b shillings meant for soldiers pay in 2000. It is now 17 years and no one has taken the trouble to establish where the wife and children of the renegade Captain are!!!! Museveni’s 19th Battalion had entered CAR during the coup attempt and committed the atrocities that were attributed to Jean Pierre Bemba before the ICC. The ICJ ordered Uganda to pay reparations to the tune of US$ 10b to Congo for the destruction of human life and plunder of resources. The debt is still outstanding as it is only a stable Congo that can pursue the court order which is contrary to Museveni’s wishes.
The latest proxy militia group is the Tutsi M23 which was chased by MONUSCO in 2013 and they took refugee in Uganda. It had been trading in conflict minerals through Uganda. Recent reports indicate that Museveni has been stealthily dispatching them back to Congo as an advance party for a fresh proxy conflict. In 2009 the UN Security Council reported the existence of Uganda’s private networks for smuggling minerals and other commodities in eastern Congo.
Uganda has no known large gold reserves but records indicate that during Artisan and small scale private miners are the only largest gold miners in Uganda. They produce in grams and cannot produce more than 10kgs a month. However, records indicate that during 2015/2016 Uganda exported 51,316kgs of gold worth 700b shillings but only 360m shillings was collected. During the 2016/2017 financial year reveals that the mining department issued gold export permits worth 16.281kgs compares to URA (customs) records of 8,691kgs worth USD 339.09m. Export Permits are irregularly issued by both the Ministry of Trade and the Mining department. The Auditor General has raised concern about the conflicting figures and the irregularities.
In February 2017 Museveni commissioned a USD 20m gold refinery that is the second largest south of the Sahara. The plant is owned by Africa Gold refinery (AGR) whose CEO is a one Alain Goetz, a Belgian national. Goetz has been under investigations by the UN Experts on trade in conflict minerals in DRC and South Sudan. In December 2017 Museveni directed the Mining Department to issue AGR with all the licences it requires. During the launch, Museveni warned that any government official who would not support AGR would be death with “harshly”.
Records have confirmed that sometimes AGR exports 100kgs in a single day yet experts say that Uganda’s artisan miners can not produce 10kgs a week. AGR claims that it is facing stiff rivalry from powerful smuggling cartels of gold from Congo and Southern Sudan. In December 2016 CMI’s Capt. Godfrey Barigye robbed 24kgs of gold worth 3b Ug schillings from Congolese illicit dealers in Kampala. In November 2017, 500kgs of gold was stolen from warehouses in Goma, Congo and is suspected to have ended up in Uganda. For anyone trying to understand the background to the resurgence of conflicts in Ituri, the recent deadly attack on UN peace keepers in Beni and Museveni’s bombardment of some border areas of Congo, there you are. The USD 20m refinery investment is demanding for raw materials.
THE OIL CURSE
The first recording of oil reserves in the Albertine basin was in the 1920s. The first deep oil well exploration was by Shell in 1938 but the industry was halted by the 2nd World War. The political instability of the 1950s, 1960s and the Iddi Amin era did not favor further exploration. It was the early 1980s and 1990s surveys that confirmed the presence of huge deposits. Museveni embarked on the extraction process by engaging foreign companies. However, Museveni chose to keep the agreements a top secret from Ugandans and has repeatedly stated that it is his oil.
In 2010, it emerged that Museveni and his allied Ministers (Kuteesa, Mbabazi and Onek) had accepted huge bribes from one of the oil companies. Parliament resolved that all the oil contracts be halted pending a satisfactory mechanism that would ensure transparency and accountability. A few days later Museveni convened his ruling party caucus that overruled the parliamentary resolution. Museveni accused Otafiire of being behind the leakage of incriminating “fake documents” in the saga. Meanwhile in August 2007 Congolese and Ugandan soldiers and private security guards exchanged fire on Lake Albert leaving one British worker and a Congolese soldier dead. SARACEN that is linked to Museveni’s brother, Gen. Saleh is the private company charged with guarding the facility while the overall security is under his elite SFC. In September 2017, another clash involving an oil company vessel, army marine and Congolese soldiers took place on Lake Albert.
It has now emerged that in 2016 while he was the President of the UN General Assembly in New York, Museveni’s in-law and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sam Kuteesa solicited for and received bribes to the tune of USD 500,000 from a Chinese company in order to obtain advantage in Uganda’s energy sector. The said money was said to have been an undeclared contribution towards Museveni’s campaigns during the February 2016 presidential elections. The US Justice Department is investigating the matter. Minister Kuteesa has accepted receiving the money but insists that it was a donation to his private foundation. The allegation is corroborated by the attendance of Museveni’s swearing in ceremony and a private dinner by the CEO of the said Chinese company.
Once Uganda’s oil starts flowing it will be doom for Uganda and the region. Museveni will use the proceeds to fuel conflicts thus taking over the role of former Libya’s military dictator, Col. Gaddafi.
Therefore, with strategic control of all the regional illicit trade in minerals coupled by the oil revenues, Museveni will seek to attack the USA and purportedly ‘liberate the Black Americans’. Watch the space.
INFORMATION IS POWER AND DEFIANTLY “HITTING ON THE HEAD” IS THE WAY TO GO.