Response to Uganda Minister of Defence’s Statement on Conflict in Ituri

Uganda’s Defence Minister Amama Mbabazi’s response to the March 14th 2003 Rwandan Government statement clearly demonstrates the Ugandan leadership’s determination to mislead international opinion in an attempt to cover up their alliance with Rwandan genocidaires which threatens Rwanda’s security. It is equally an effort to cover up their role as the sole party responsible for the conflict and turmoil in the Ituri region.

Firstly, Mr. Mbabazi chooses to describe the statement as an ultimatum to the Government of Uganda. Like everything else in the entire text, the Ugandan response is a document laced with fabrications and falsehoods. The Government of Rwanda did not issue an ultimatum. The statement was not addressed to the Government of Uganda but rather, it was a petition to the United Nations, pointing out the Ugandan Army (UPDF)’s alliance with Interahamwe and other Ugandan military activities in the Congo, which constituted an immediate threat to the security of Rwanda. The Government of Rwanda made it abundantly clear to the UN, that if the international community had found it acceptable that Uganda should be allowed to remain and reinforce troops in the Congo where her troops (the UPDF) have now teamed up with ex-FAR and Interahamwe with the sole purpose of destabilizing Rwanda, then Rwanda more than anyone else has every legitimate cause to go back into the Congo to deal with this threat.

Mr. Mbabazi’s statement alleges that the problem in Ituri started September last year when Rwanda allegedly started air-lifting arms into the area. Now, the Ugandan Minister chooses to ignore the fact that his own government and army have been at the fore-front of the terror that has reigned in Ituri for the last four years, his fabrications about alleged Rwandan air-lifts to Ituri notwithstanding. When the Ugandan Defence Minister wrote his response to the Rwandan Government statement, he seemed to have forgotten that only four days earlier on March 11th, 2003, he had admitted the role of the UPDF in destabilizing Ituri, to the Ugandan Parliament, when he declared in the house that “mistakes were made by some of our commanders who, acting in ignorance of the history of the problem were used by some groups against others and failed to execute their mission in an impartial manner”.

What Mr. Mbabazi should have told the Uganda Parliament is that from the time the UPDF arrived in Ituri in 1999, they were guided by an ideology of factionalism, creating various rebel groups and fragmenting existing ones. These ranged from Prof. Wamba Dia Wamba’s RCD which Uganda later re-named RCD Kisangani and later RCD-ML to Bemba’s MLC and Mbusa Nyamwisi and Roger Lumbala’s outfits to Thomas Lubanga’s UPC.

The UPC fell out with the Kampala leadership precisely because Lubanga and his organisation were not prepared to go along with Kampala’s scheme to work and carry out operations with Interahamwe. Secondly, the UPC saw through Uganda’s self-centred agenda which meant using the UPC for the Ugandan leadership’s own selfish interests in the DRC. Consequently, the regime in Kampala kidnapped the leader of the UPC, Mr. Thomas Lubanga and later handed him over to the Kinshasa government. He was only released in exchange for Kabila’s Minister of Human Rights who was held by UPC in Bunia.

The Ugandan Defence Minister goes on to allege that during a meeting in London between Presidents Kagame and Museveni, in the presence of Rt. Hon. Clare Short, the Uganda President asked President Kagame if Rwanda was “Providing and airlifting these arms to Ituri”. Here, true to character, Mr. Mbabazi is once again turning facts and events upside down to suit Uganda’s propaganda agenda. During that meeting, President Kagame put it to President Museveni that the Ugandan Government was airdropping weapons to Masunzu and Interahamwe militia in Minembwe, South Kivu at which point no answer was given.

Mr. Mbabazi goes on to say that “Not only was Rwanda bringing these massive arms into Ituri but they were also locating Ugandan deserters such as Muzoora, in that area to launch attacks against Uganda…”. In his enthusiasm to mislead international opinion, the Ugandan Defence minister loses his sense of time. While he is talking about events he alleges took place September last year, Mr. Mbabazi talks of Rwanda locating Muzoora “in that area”, ignoring the fact that Muzoora was reported missing by Ugandan authorities, less than two months ago, and the fact that Rwanda has never had anything to do with Muzoora.

The Uganda government has insisted that it will withdraw from Ituri under the IPC arrangement. The conflict in Ituri is clearly a creation of the UPDF and consequently Uganda can not turn around and act as an honest arbiter. The only way forward is the UPDF’s departure from Ituri and this will mark the beginning 01 the pacification of the region. Curiously, nowhere in the entire text does Mr. Mbabazi invoke the UPDF famous line that they were mandated by the UN to stay in Bunia, precisely because the lie was exposed by MONUC when they declared that no such arrangement exists between them and the UPDF.

In typical fashion, the Ugandan minister claims that “we have not spoken publicly about these schemes against Uganda’s security”. It is common knowledge that Ugandan leaders have been peddling all sorts of falsehoods against Rwanda, via FM stations and newspapers in Kampala. May be Mr. Mbabazi should look a little bit back to recall the storm Mr. Pulkol’s recent anti Rwanda remarks kicked off in Uganda.

The minister goes on to accuse Rwanda of maligning Uganda. The Ugandan leadership is maligned by its own behavior. Hon. Amama Mbabazi himself, along with Col. Mayombo Uganda’s Chief of military intelligence, has been travelling the length and the width of the region spreading all sorts of malicious rumours against Rwanda.

The Ugandan Defence Minister feins outrage at the Rwandan statement that his government is working with Interahamwe and Ex-FAR. He goes on to ask rhetorically: “where are these Interahamwe”? As a matter of fact Amama Mbabazi, more than any other Ugandan, knows exactly where “these Interahamwe” are. Indeed the Minister of Defence’s personal involvement with Interahamwe is known. To cite only a few examples, in January 2002, Honourable Amama Mbabazi met two Ex-FAR/Interahamwe, Lieutenants Simba Edouard and Uwimana Callixte, in his border constituency, of Kihihi, Kanungu District. The two Ex-F AR/Interahamwe officers met Colonel Noble Mayombo, the Chief of Military Intelligence (UPDF) on the 26th of May 2002.

The Ugandan leadership’s involvement with Interahamwe is a matter of record. Recently, the Kampala government has launched an aggressive operation to recruit Ex-FAR and Interahamwe being expelled by the Government of Tanzania. Uganda security agents have been active in the few remaining Rwandan refugee camps in Tanzania recruiting these elements.

As the UPDF took control of Kanyabayonga in North Kivu, the Government of Rwanda requested Uganda access in order to deal with Ex-FAR and Interahamwe who were planning and mobilizing to attack Rwanda from these areas. Uganda did not only turn down this request, but also rejected a proposition for joint operation, as well as refusing to deal with the problem on their own, in violation of the Lusaka Agreement which stipulates that all the authorities operating in the DRC should disarm and dismantle these negative forces. The British Government as facilitator was duly informed. While governments in the region, including Tanzania, Zambia and Gabon, working with Rwanda and the UNHCR have successfully repatriated or worked out arrangements to repatriate Rwandan refugees in their countries, the Government of Uganda has rejected all official requests to resolve the Rwandese problem along the same lines. This is motivated by Uganda’s desire to hold on to the Ex-FAR and Interahamwe elements among the refugees, whom they intend to use to attack Rwanda.

A Congolese rebel politician Mr. Barihima Jean Bosco, who recently defected from Kampala back to the RCD Goma and whose handler in Kampala was Mr. Amama Mbabazi, made revelations which clearly corroborated existing information about Uganda’s hostile intentions against Rwanda. Mr. Barihima in a News Conference told reporters that Uganda was mobilizing, training and arming Interahamwe and Ex-FAR with sole objective of attacking Rwanda, using Ituri region and moving on towards the areas bordering Rwanda. This is what is now happening. Indeed a number of infiltrators in the custody of the National Police attest to having received military training in Uganda.

The Ugandan minister could not resist rubbing in their tired rhetoric of “what we went through to stand by those ladies and gentlemen in charge of Rwanda today”. The NRM leaders should be reminded that a “good turn deserves another”. Whatever support they provided during the RPF’s struggle against dictatorship and repression, was not out of charity. Let us hope the NRM leadership appreciates the critical role played by Rwandans earlier during their own (NRM) struggle, which put them where they are today.

Mr. Mbabazi accuses Rwanda of using proxies to distabilize Uganda. By now it should be clear to the Ugandan leadership that Rwanda fights her own wars when it is necessary, and she has never entertained the policy of proxy wars. Indeed this is a radical shift in Uganda’s view of Rwanda, as the leadership in Kampala has always prided itself in their use of proxies in the DRC as opposed to what they regarded as Rwanda’s policy of direct involvement.

The minister declares that “if attacked Uganda will mobilize all its means to defend herself”. In this case, we would like to remind Mr. Mbabazi that this is not a monopoly of the Ugandan leadership. It is a responsibility of every government worth the name. While the Government of Rwanda has chosen to address its security concerns through the United Nations, we want to make it categorically clear that those who are now arming and supporting the Rwandan genocidaires should be warned because if they and their genocidal allies attack Rwanda, they will not live to regret their reckless acts.”

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