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UGANDA: Kisangani ghosts haunting Museveni and Kagame

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NOTE BY EDITOR: This is a long piece that traces some of the current security crackdown in Uganda as it relates to events of DRC in the 1990s and early 2000s.  You will see, if you read, that there is a foundation for the current animosity between Rwanda and Uganda. Information is provided to help one assess what will or will not happen with Gen. Kale Kayihura et al. 


CHANGE OF GUARDS – There is an ongoing low intensity deterioration in relations between Kagame and Museveni. Though both sides are trying to maintain a diplomatic stance, it may blow out into an unstoppable bloody conflict. While Museveni seems to be enjoying an upper hand, Kagame may run out of options and take the bull by the horns. Museveni has immoblized his former Police Chief, Gen. Kalekyezi who manned Kagame’s observation posts in Uganda. It is in this regard that Museveni is stuck with commencing any criminal proceedings against Gen. Kalekyezi. Speculation about charges of espionage if made a reality have the danger of further escalating the already fragile situation. On the other hand, it would be a big embarrassment for Museveni to admit that his police chief had been on Rwanda’s payroll.

At the inception of the fallout in 1999 that led to their two armies into a bloody clash in eastern DRC’s capital of Kisangani, the panicky Museveni addressed Parliament on 30/8/1999. He dwelt on circumstances that led to the first round of clashes where his army was humiliated. Here below is an extractof his address:

“On August 6, 1999, prior to the arrival of the verification mission in his area, Prof Wamba dia Wamba arrived in Kisangani. The other faction, apparently backed by RPA, had laid ambushes on the road from the airport and shot at the UPDF convoys which were clearing the way for Prof Wamba. In all this, we had promised Prof Wamba security in areas where there was some friction.
When Brigadier James Kazini sought explanation from the RPA over the ambushes, the RPA denied responsibility and instead blamed the ambushes on the Congolese rebel groups. With these developments, the verification team, which was due to visit the areas under Wamba’s control, was called off for that day.

In the meantime, the UPDF Army Commander, Maj Gen Jeje Odong, had received information about the ambushes and he sent me a message about the situation in Kisangani. I talked to Brigadier Kazini and instructed him to ensure the safe arrival in town of Prof Wamba. Brigadier Kazini subsequently cleared the ambushes and later moved to secure strategic points within Kisangani city. Prof Wamba was then given UPDF protection under the command of Major Ddiba.

The verification mission, which was composed of the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Zambian Minister for the Presidency, [was] finally able to visit Kisangani on 12th August and they witnessed a huge rally which was held by Prof Wamba. The show of strength and support for Prof Wamba apparently angered the Rwandese who, subsequently, started bringing troop reinforcements into Kisangani.

I received information from Brigadier Kazini, on the need to bring into Kisangani troop reinforcements, in light of what the RPA was doing. I allowed Brigadier Kazini to do so but, in the meantime, I sent Col Kale Kayihura to Rwanda to seek explanations on the activities of the RPA troops in Kisangani, and on the general arrogance of Rwanda in Congo, behaving as if they had power to veto any move they did not like, instead of looking for compromises.

At this point, I got an urgent message from the Assistant Secretary of State of United States Government, Susan Rice, expressing concern that we were sending reinforcements to Kisangani when, in fact, we had not yet done so. It seems somebody must have been misinforming the Americans.

On the basis of my conversation with Ms Rice, I instructed Brigadier Kazini to halt the deployment until he had received a call from me for further guidance. When next I spoke with Brigadier Kazini, he informed me that the situation in Kisangani had worsened and that he had detected that the RPA were planning to attack UPDF positions. He had authorised the airlift of half-a-battalion from Gbadolite to Kisangani.

He informed me that the RPA had fired at the plane as it was landing bringing in UPDF reinforcements. Kisangani has two airports – one is called Bangoka in the east and the other is called Simisimi in the west of the city. Bangoka airport is the bigger one of the two. The UPDF is situated near Bangoka airport, 19 kilometres from the town. The plane went back for more reinforcements and was again shot at when it was landing.

Two of our soldiers were killed inside the plane and seven were injured. It was not easy for me to find out the cause of the problem. Col Kale had not yet returned from Kigali and the fighting in Kisangani was continuing, with Major Ddiba’s companies being attacked. The companies were scattered in the town guarding buildings such as hotels, mosques and office blocks; so, they were not really deployed to fight. They had only been deployed to stop disruption but they were being attacked day after day.

I proposed to Rwanda’s Vice President Kagame that since there was some nervousness, mutual monitoring teams should be placed at each of the airports. He, however, rejected the proposal saying that the problem was not at the airport. He did not like the idea of a monitoring team and I wondered what it was he could have been hiding. He proposed, instead, that the commanders of the UPDF and RPA in Kisangani should be summoned to a joint meeting with him and myself.

A meeting was convened at Mweya Safari Lodge, where I was spending my holiday. Early the following day, Kagame rang me and told me that it seemed the situation in Kisangani was getting out of hand. He proposed that instead of the commanders in Kisangani coming to Uganda, other senior commanders from Uganda and Rwanda should go to Kisangani and control the situation on the ground.

Meanwhile, the fighting was escalating but I had given strict orders for our army not to attack and only to defend themselves when they were attacked. Simultaneous with the senior commanders going to Kisangani, I agreed with Maj Gen Kagame that we should have a meeting at Mweya the following day. Kagame first said he was coming by air; then he said he was coming by road and he finally arrived at about 10pm. Incidentally, I had been hearing some grumblings relating to my meeting with Vice President Kagame, instead of President Bizimungu. It must be understood that the matters to be discussed concerned the armies of Uganda and Rwanda and for historical reasons Major General Kagame has got more links with RPA. In other fora, however, I always meet with President Bizimungu.

In the Mweya meeting, Vice President Paul Kagame did not appear to treat the crisis in Kisangani with the urgency that it deserved. We spent the first night just working out the agenda for our meeting which was approved.

When Kagame went to his room, I wondered whether these people [the Rwandese]were not playing me some tricks. I had told them for four days that their army was blockading our army but they were not taking it seriously. A few days earlier I had sent the following message to Col Kale who was in Kigali at that time.

Fm: Mweya
To: Kigali
Infor: Army Commander
151230c Aug.99
Fm: President for MA/HE Ref. Yrs DTG 150850c and 151020c received. The info I have is the opposite. RPA, since last Saturday has initiated four arms fire attacks on UPDF. The one of last Saturday was, of course, ascribed to the Congolese. According to COS, all the attacks are from the RPA first. Last night’s incident for instance, was caused by an attack by RPA on our troops who had just disembarked from the aircraft.
Therefore, tell Vice-President of Rwanda, all sides must stop shooting. In particular, tell him that the RPA position under somebody called Ruvusha must stop shooting at UPDF vehicles going to and from the international airport. Surely, Maj Gen Kagame knows how we came to go into Congo. How can his troops blockade us?
Why should UPDF declare war on RPA?
Last night I agreed with him about a joint inquiry. I am still waiting for his call about operationalising it. I need a clear answer from him so that I decide what to do. 
There was another proposal that I gave them twice and they did not accept it.

However, the attacks against Ddiba and Otafiire were continuing. I, therefore, decided that it was high time our Rwandese brothers were either allies or enemies. At 1:00am, I rang Kazini and told him to prepare everything and that I would call him at 7am later that morning to give him the final word. Due to our professional training, and also because of my tribal culture, I can never attack anybody without warning – that is cowardice of the worst kind. I have never attacked anybody without warning him, in broad daylight, so that he has enough time to prepare and can, therefore, give no excuse when I defeat him. I drafted a message for Kagame – he was in the next room but I wanted to put it on record. We had been talking verbally and nothing had happened.

17th August 1999
Mweya Lodge
In order not to unnecessarily offend the combat dignity of the UPDF, not to cause unnecessary losses due to failure of evacuating and treating casualties as well as maintaining the cease-fire we so badly need to end these historical mistakes and rescue our now tarnished reputations, I propose two immediate measures.
a) a cease-fire to take place by 0900 hrs (Uganda time) and
b) uninterrupted movement of troops and supplies by 1000 hrs (Uganda time).
The two steps must be quite close because it is clear to me that, at least in terms of attempts to encircle the other, RPA has been the active one as is evidenced by the two ambushes cleared by Kazini’s company on the way to the town from UPDF headquarters yesterday (16/8/99) and last night.
Kazini has just told me that the company is now fighting at the market in town. Clearly, these blockades would destabilize any cease-fire. Let us act decisively. Incidentally, when you left, I talked to Kazini again. He told me that the company that was taking supplies to Ddiba had just cleared the second ambush and was on the move towards the town.

I told him that he should either halt it or inform Kabareebe that a supply coy was on the way. Although he was reluctant, eventually I persuaded him to ring his counterpart. He has just told me now that when he rang Kabareebe, the other one accused him of attacking his positions and banged the telephone in his ear.
We need to diffuse this situation at once.
Yoweri K Museveni

When Kagame was receiving the message, I spoke with Kazini at 0700 hours (Uganda time) and I gave him two orders. First, H-Hour (the hour of attack) should be 1000 hours Uganda time. I said that cease-fire must take place by 0900 hours and if it did not, he should attack by 1000 hours. I wanted Kagame to respond clearly to this message.
The second order (was that if the attacks on Otafiire and Ddiba’s positions continued, he should not wait for 1000 hours. Since the attacks were continuing, Kazini did not [wait] for 1000 hours. As soon as morning mist cleared, he started attacking the Rwandese positions between himself and Bangoka airport. I was supposed to meet Kagame at 0900 hours but because of the telephone calls I was making, I delayed and we met at 1000 hours.

For the first time, I saw that Kagame was treating the situation with the requisite urgency. He said that we should forget about the agenda of the previous night, hence, we drafted another document and agreed upon it there and then, as follows:
1)Cease-fire on all positions at exactly 1200hrs (Uganda time). Any officer who violates this, will be court-martialled.
2)At 1300 hrs (Uganda time), two designated liaison officers from each side to meet at an agreed place. All ambushes-on the way to the meeting place to be lifted immediately.
3)At 1500 hrs (Uganda time) free, uninterrupted movement of logistics i.e. food, ammunition, fuel, drugs as well as evacuation of casualties. This does not include combat troops. Liaison officers and their seniors to ensure full implementation of this.
4)At 1800 hrs (Uganda time) Brigadier Kazini to report to president Museveni and Colonel Kabareebe to Vice President Kagame regarding full compliance;
5)Tomorrow, 18 August, Major General Jeje Odongo and Brigadier Kayumba, travelling in the same plane, to take control of the situation in Kisangani;
6)No more verbal battles in the media by officials of either side.
DISCUSSED and AGREED at 1015hrs Uganda time between President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Vice President Kagame.
Dated 17 August 1999.

However, the Rwandese continued their attacks against Ddiba and Otafiire for three-and-a-half hours beyond that time the cease-fire was supposed to be in place. Therefore, the only offensive action by UPDF, which lasted only two hours, was the attack by the 3rd Battalion against the Rwandese that had attacked our forces for three days while we maintained restraint.
After the violation of the cease-fire in the town, calm was established. In spite of what had happened in Kisangani, I decided that Uganda should continue to support the legitimate interests of Rwanda but that it would not allow Rwanda to dominate the DRC.

On 22nd August, Vice President Kagame came to my home at Rwakitura. After thorough discussions, we signed another agreement which provided for the following measures:
(i) the partitioning of the city of Kisangani and the joint control of the two airports between the UPDF and the RPA;
(ii) the withdrawal of all troops from the centre of Kisangani city, but that each side would maintain one battalion in town;
(iii) the election of a mayor of Kisangani, by the people of Kisangani themselves. The mayor will be in charge of the police and will be responsible for the maintenance of law and order in Kisangani.

What is interesting is that from the beginning, when our forces went to Kisangani, we had made all these suggestions to our Rwandese brothers but they had not agreed to them. In the whole of Congo, it was only in Kisangani that our forces were together. In the Rwandese sectors, we attached our small, but crucial, units to their forces – such as the tanks and anti-aircraft systems we had in Goma. Whenever we wanted to contact those forces, we would do so through the Rwandese.
However, when I told them to attach their forces to our army in Kisangani, they were reluctant. All these points which we have now agreed upon should have been agreed upon a year ago when we went into Congo. With such an arrangement, it would not have been easy to cause confusion.

There are, therefore, some unexplained reasons why the Rwandese were behaving in the manner that they were. In fact, earlier on when I saw the reluctance on how to handle Kisangani, in December 1998, I had met President Bizimungu in Kabale.
I said to him: “Mr President, you seem to have some problems on how to manage Kisangani, so, I propose that I withdraw all our forces in Congo and you handle the situation yourselves, if you are able to do so.” He said: “No, you cannot withdraw because that will cause many other problems.

For our part, we are interested in empowering the Congolese and it seems the Rwandese do not like it. However, even if we were obstructing whatever plans they had on Congo, how did they think that they could attack us and get away with it? It is very short-sighted, indeed.”

Short sighted indeed! Museveni who thought he had been taken unaware during the first round of August 1999, had time to prepare for the second round that took place in March 2000. Unfortunarely, the outcome was worse than it had been during the first round. He had another two months of preparation and in May 2000 he entered the ring for the third round. Unfortunately, it was the most devastating defeat in the history of his army. His army left Kisangani “like a wet chicken” according to former Minister Aggrey Awori. Kaziini who was hiding at Kalapata, across the Thopo Bridge survived capture before he was evacuated by a helicopter.

It was the Congolese civilians and Museveni’s army that suffered most. Heavy losses on the UPDF side set Museveni seething, blaming Rwanda for the clashes. He sacked his army chief, Jeje Odong and elevated Gen. Kaziini as army chief in the hope that the matter would be sorted out at the common border of their two countries. In Rwanda, Kagame assumed the full Presidency to the annoyance of Museveni who preferred dealing with the ousted figurehead President Pasteur Bizimungu.

But the problem became personal when in the 2001 Presidential election in Uganda, Rwanda allegedly funded President Museveni’s rival Kiiza Besigye. Then, individuals opposed to both regimes started fleeing across the borders. Rwandan speaker of Parliament Joseph Sebarenzi Kabuye and Maj. Alphonse Furuma fled to Kampala where the latter issued a statement very critical of Kagame. In June 2001, UPDF renegade officers Samson Mande, Anthony Kyakabale fled to Rwanda later followed by Col. Edison Muzoora.

From Kigali, Mande also issued a letter accusing Museveni of having departed from the bush war ideals. Since then, both leaders publicly accused each other of backing and training armed groups. President Museveni endorsed that Rwanda be listed as a hostile country. Museveni then wrote his now infamous letter to British Overseas Development Minister Clare Short, seeking to raise defence expenditure to thwart a threat from President Kagame who was using dissident Uganda army officers to recruit and train rebels in three camps in Rwanda. To Kagame’s outrage, Museveni referred to Rwandan leadership as ideologically bankrupt.

Rt. Hon. Claire Short, Salutations from your friends in Uganda. I hope your trip around the Great Likes region was pleasant and fruitful.
I am embarrassed to have to communicate with you about the deteriorating situation in the bilateral relations between Uganda and the government of Rwanda, led by President Kagame.

We have no doubt that Rwanda is planning aggression against us either using proxies or, even, directly. There are some Ugandan army officers who ran from here, jumping bail or fleeing potential prosecution for a number of crimes, to Rwanda.

Since some months, these officers who we hear were given amnesty in Rwanda, have been frantically telephoning many serving army officers in Uganda asking them to betray their country by spying for Rwanda and fighting our government and people.

Furthermore, they have been recruiting Ugandan youth and taking them to Kigali for military training. We are now sure that they have opened three training centres around Kigali with the full support of the Rwanda government. We hear that they have also opened another centre for the same purpose in Rutshuru, a part of Eastern Congo they control.

Meanwhile, their intelligence is very aggressively inquiring about the strength of various army units of ours and so on.

You remember, just before you came, I went to Rwanda and met Mr Kagame at the border, on the Rwanda side. In that meeting we agreed that the dissidents of the two countries entering either country should not only not be supported by the host government, but they should also not be allowed to carry out any hostile activities against their home country.

The prohibited activities included propaganda, and not to mention military training and spying. Unfortunately, the Rwanda government is doing the exact opposite.
I had hoped to talk to Mr Kagame in Arusha and in the recently concluded SMART Partnership meeting that took place here. As Mr Kagame did not come to either, I managed to talk to him only on telephone. I am soon sending our foreign minister to raise these matters again.
Right honourable minister, we have just defeated the protracted terrorism organised against us by Sudan, both in the West of Uganda and in the North.

We cannot countenance nor tolerate another round of terrorism this time organised by Mr Kagame whom we sacrificed so much to stand with when the whole world was either against their cause or indifferent to it.

I am, therefore, writing to you for two reasons:
1. First of all, to inform you about the sad and childish developments here which, nevertheless, are very grave for this region.
2. Secondly, to request you to show understanding to our Intention to raise our defence spending beyond the 1.9% of GDP we had agreed with the donors.

You remember, I have always held the view that given the instability of this region, it is naive and inviting trouble to underspend perennially on defence. 1.9% of GDP has, recently, been translating into about US$110 million per annum.
This figure could be alright if we had finished the capital development of our army involving training of officers, NCOs and technical staff (pilots, rank crews, artillery crews, etc.); buying or making arrangements to receive requisite equipment in case of conflict given this unstable region with all sorts of adventurers with distorted concepts about society; and building barracks for our army to have decent accommodation. …

The British hastily convened a meeting in London between the two leaders. The two presidents emerged from six hours of talks sounding calm and reasonable. Both promised to extradite each other’s rebels instead of sheltering and encouraging them, as each had accused the other of doing but naturally denied doing themselves. Both said they were anxious for peace. “The people of Uganda do not want trouble,” said Mr Museveni (on the right in the photograph). “There is no reason for war.”

“Anybody can judge from the content of the letter who is the cause of the problem.
Neither Ugandan nor Rwandan peoples want war.” Kagame told the BBC after the meeting.

Following the mediation by the British government, the two leaders adopted a number of measures to harness relations. In an October 2002 with Africa Confidential magazine, President Kagame said;

Question: How did talks with the
Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, go yesterday?

Kagame : The discussions went well. We were primarily doing relations and what has happened over past years, both here and in Rwanda and in Uganda so that we can continue to advance activities to improve our relations. I think the discussion largely went very well.

Q: These allegations that both sides have been arming opposition groups, have they been laid to rest now?

A : They are still going on but on a lower scale than before. I think we were helped by the verification committees which have made 20-plus visits to different spots that were talked about to verify the allegations and nothing has been found true. The findings that there is nothing on the ground there are scaling down the tension and the situation keeps improving.

Q: Is there any objection from President Museveni to Rwanda hosting political allies of Dr.
Kizza Besigye [who ran against Museveni in last year’s presidential elections?

A : From the beginning, that was an issue we had to discuss but it wasn’t just an issue about Dr. Besigye’s allies in Rwanda, it was about Rwandan citizens living in Uganda being used by the Ugandans to destabilise Uganda. All along, the discussion has been aimed at solving these problems. And what we had agreed much earlier on is that these people should be relocated to other countries and we think that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has been involved in this exercise to look for places to remove these people so they are removed from Rwanda. 

Indeed respective countries relocated each others dissidents to the USA and Sweden.

While Uganda’s political opposition and dissidents lost touch with Kigali, years later, a new wave of Tutsi dissidents from Kigali in the names of Gen. Kayumba, Col. Karegyeya and others sought to link with Kampala. Among other key players in the Museveni regime circles, Gen. Saleh was very close to Col. Karegyeya. The assassination of Col. Karegyeya who had been the most outstanding threat against Kigali, put a lull in the Uganda linked anti-Kagame campaign. While Museveni went into slumber, on his part Kagame instead embarked on building strategic allies within Museveni’s political and security apparatus. This gave rise to the robust Rwanda controlled intelligence network inside Uganda under the patronage of the police chief, Gen. Kalekyezi. That is how the Uganda police was able to have those fleeing Rwanda to Uganda killed, kidnapped and forcefully returned to Rwanda.

Any attempts by the dissident RNC to link with Kampala is closely monitored by Kigali courtesy of the Gen. Kalekyezi led spy network.

In their (Hima/Tutsi) power struggle between the security Minister, Gen. Tumukunde and Gen. Kalekyezi, Museveni had initially opted to ignore but the alleged Rwanda backed political ambitions by Kalekyezi woke him up. Mindful of the delicate and complex network that has already been put in place, Museveni is cautiously moving to neutralize Gen. Kalekyezi’s Rwanda sponsored spy network. Initially Museveni had also feared that a more direct and prompt action against Gen. Kalekyezi wound send a bad message to the wider community of regime cohorts.

Gen. Kalekyezi played a leading role in creating a regime police force whose sole mandate is to suppress political dissent, neutralize opposition, ensure a Museveni “win” during general elections. Also, such a network if not cautiously dismantled can lead to more collateral damage. Much as the alleged links of dissident RNC activities with Museveni may seem speculative, the facts on the ground could be different. The much publicised interception by police of truckloads of dissident RNC Banyarwanda headed for Congo via Tanzania and Burundi is one such live example. The alleged theft of sensitive files from ISO by the head of ICT, a one Kanzira (which is a Kinyarwanda version of Kamuhanda) further demonstrates the complexity of the issue.

Every move to distablize Kagame by Museveni is closely monitored. Other than the Gen. Kalekyezi led robust spy network, Museveni seems to be enjoying a political upper hand. Unlike the initial post Kisangani conflict of the early 2000s where both countries harboured each others’ dissidents, this time round there is no Ugandan opposition political entity that is linked to Kigali. The resurgence of the Museveni/Kagame conflict comes at a time when there is a more widespread general animosity by Ugandans towards Banyarwanda because of their perceived close association with the parasitic and oppressive Museveni regime. Therefore, any opportunistic Ugandan political opposition that may seek to exploit the ongoing bickering by seeking the backing of Kigali risks losing out on the wider Ugandan population.

Kigali may be looking forward to backing the much anticipated Third Force under Gen. Mugisha Muntu but he also knows more than anybody else how suicidal such a move would prove. By shunning Kigali’s sponsorship to any credible opposition political force in Uganda and more so given the fact that the choice of Gen. Kalekyezi is not acceptable in Uganda’s polarized political environment, the desperate Kigali may have assassination as the only remedy. Thats why Museveni is taking no chances and the crackdown will continue for long.

By taking custody of the defeated Tutsi Banyamulenge M23 rebels, Museveni had scored highly in as far as security influence in Congo’s South Kivu is concerned. The ongoing infiltration of former M23 fighters into South Kivu by way of alleged escapes from Uganda coupled by the alleged scheme to set up proxy RNC bases in the Banyamulenge strongholds of Minembwe is not a coincidence. The Banyamulenge through their M23 are motivated by preservation of identity in the Congo and to them what matters is anyone who is willing to offer backing; Museveni is currently in the driver’s seat. However, owing to economic considerations, both Rwanda and the Banyarwanda in Uganda and elsewhere don’t wish to see political events that will lead to Banyarwanda being forcefully returned to Rwanda. Already Rwanda’s strong man, Gen. Kabarebe recently asked them why they continued to scavenge in Uganda amidst alleged mistreatment.

In as much as the Banyarwanda of Uganda cherish Museveni’s patronage and so much prefer to stay in Uganda, they owe their allegiance to Rwanda. Whatever course of action that Kigali chooses to counter Museveni’s links with RNC, the stakes of Banyarwanda in Uganda matter. The initial bickering of the early 2000s saw Kigali backing a semblance of a structured Uganda political opposition with a ragtag armed wing in the form of the shadowy PRA while Uganda only had a handful of Rwandese dissidents holed up in urban Safe Houses. This time its is the opposite and owing to the factors outlined above it may not be easy for Kigali to host dissident Ugandans. For the way forward, watch the space!


—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: July 03, 2018 at 07:05PM

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