Jean Paul Harerimana, one of the 32 Rwandans deported from Uganda Thursday night, has given an account of how he was tricked and forcefully recruited into RUD-Urunana, a splinter group of FDLR, based in the DR Congo.
The FDLR are remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.
They are now part of the larger P5 network led by dissident Kayumba Nyamwasa.
It all starts when Harerimana, 31, a senior four school dropout who hails from Nyamasheke District, went to Uganda in January, this year, to visit relatives in Mubende District.
Later when it was time to return home he heard that he could not because stories were making rounds that the Rwandan border was closed.
In March, Rwanda issued an advisory against travel to Uganda saying it could no longer guarantee the safety of its citizens there.
This is when a neighbour he only refers to as Bosco and is “a Rwandan from Gitarama” who lives in Mubende hooked him up with another Rwandan there who could get him a job in DR Congo.
“Bosco was a regular visitor at the home of my relatives in Mubende and one day he told me that he knew someone who needs workers at a gold mine in Congo. I told him that it is okay and if they need more workers I too can go.”
“He told me I would earn UgShs200, 000 every week. And then he said there were two other young men I would travel with.”
On March 14, he said, another man – who was only referred to as ‘chairman’ – sent the trio off to the DR Congo. They were given a total sum of UgShs800, 000 for their journey after being linked up through phone calls to the man called ‘chairman’. Somehow, Harerimana said, instinct told him that something was amiss but being jobless, he decided to take the risk.
Harerimana said: “When I got there, I realised that what he had brought me to do is not what was awaiting me there. Suddenly, I was doing military training in Congo. I was stranded; I found that I had no way of coming back and therefore carried on with the military training for about two months.”
“It is after those two months that we were then deployed to defence positions and I got a chance to escape.”
The training camp, he recalls, is in a place called Kabindi. Saturday Times could not verify if the place actually exists or it is a codename of a location in DR Congo.
Harerimana claimed it is in the Rutshuru region of North Kivu Province.
The training camp, Harerimana, said, had about 75 fresh recruits from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and DR Congo when he was there.
They had been told that their mission was to topple the government of Rwanda.
His first posting, after training, was a location near the Ugandan border. This is where he interacted with locals and sought information on what chances he had to escape.
Most fresh recruits, he said, carried no weapons. In a group of 15, only five had guns.
“Then I made a decision and even told two of my Rwandan colleagues that what I was doing was not what initially brought me there, so I was planning to run away.”
When he eventually made it, he was soon after arrested by Ugandan soldiers along the border who he said first took him to Kisoro, in south-western Uganda, pending investigation.
Later, he was taken to a military camp in Bwindi. From there again, after a few days, he was relocated to Kanungu and afterwards to Mbarara where he spent two weeks under interrogation and constant torture.
All this time, he said, Ugandan security agents were suspicious and accused him of being a member of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group based in the DR Congo.
From Mbarara, in June, he was taken to a CMI facility in the capital, Kampala, where he spent nearly three months before his deportation Thursday.
When he was deported, he says, he left behind two Rwandan young men in the custody of Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). They had also attended the same training in DR Congo.
The latest deportations come just days ahead of a scheduled bilateral meeting in Kigali in which the two countries are expected to discuss the implementation of the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding that seeks to normalise relations between the two neighbouring countries.