Kayumba Nyamwasa, a Rwandan fugitive who lives in South Africa, is the leader of a new rebel group known as “P5”, which operates in DR Congo’s South Kivu province, a new report by the UN Group of Experts on Democratic Republic of Congo indicates.
P5 is active in Fizi and Uvira territories in South Kivu and benefited from local and external support for the recruitment of its combatants, with Burundi being a major source and transit for the rebel group’s new recruits, arms and ammunition and other supplies, such as food, medicines, boots and uniforms, the UN Group said in its midterm report to the UN Security Council dated December 31, 2018.
Kayumba Nyamwasa is a former head of the Rwandan military who was in 2011 sentenced in absentia to 24 years in prison after he was convicted of multiple charges including terrorism, genocide denial and crimes against humanity.
His presence in South Africa has been at the heart of troubled relations between Pretoria and Kigali with the latter keen on his extradition to Rwanda.
P5, the UN Group of Experts report says, is a coalition of Rwandan “opposition political organisations”, including the Amahoro People’s Congress (AMAHORO-PC), the Forces démocratiques unifées-Inkingi (FDU INKINGI), the People’s Defence Pact-Imanzi (PDP-IMANZI), the Social Party-Imberakuri (PS IMBERAKURI) and the Rwanda National Congress (RNC).
Kayumba is one of the founders of RNC, while FDU-Inkingi was established by Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire, who last year benefited from presidential clemency and released from prison in Kigali.
In 2013, Ingabire had been found guilty of inciting the masses to revolt against the Government, forming armed groups to destabilise the country, and minimising the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
PDP-Imanzi was established by Deogratias Mushayidi, who was in 2010 sentenced by the High Court in Kigali to life imprisonment for causing state insecurity, among other crimes, while the Social Party-Imberakuri (PS Imberakuri) mentioned in the report in a faction led by Bernard Ntaganda, who in 2014 completed a four-year jail term for organising an illegal gathering, threatening state security, and inciting ethnic divisionism.
The UN Group of Experts report indicates that P5 mostly received its arms and ammunition from Burundi and recruits fighters from across the region.
The findings were based on separate interviews conducted by the Group with different ex-combatants, all of whom told the Group that another person called Shaka Nyamusaraba was the commander of the armed group, which included both foreign combatants, most of Rwandan origin, and Congolese Banyamulenge. Nyamusaraba was previously known as the leader of the local armed group Ngomino.
The trainers told the recruits that the leader of their movement was Kayumba Nyamwasa and that the aim of P5 was to liberate Rwanda, the reports says.
The defectors also told the Group that Kayumba Nyamwasa frequently traveled to the region and that many recruits are enlisted by people who promise them jobs in Burundi, only to arrive in Bujumbura and dispossessed of all their belongings before they are taken across the border to the Congo.
The report adds that several ex-combatants told the UN Group of Experts that “a recruitment network is directed from Burundi’s capital of Bujumbura, and that the network enabled recruiting from several African countries, often through facilitators based in East, Central and Southern Africa as well as Western Europe, to Bijabo in Fizi territory”.
Recruitment strategies varied from phone calls and face-to-face meetings to social media, it says, adding that some of the recruits come from Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique and Malawi.
“The interviewees affirmed the main recruiter was a man called Rashid, also known as Sunday or Sunde Charles. He was reported to be the leading communication link between field recruiters, recruits and commanders based in Bijabo. Rashid covered the cost of travel for the foreign recruits who traveled from other countries to his house in Bujumbura,” reads the report reads in part.
The report indicates that Rashid smuggled parties of 25 to 30 new recruits from Bujumbura to DR Congo on motorised pirogues crossing Lake Tanganyika, or on rafts crossing the Ruzizi River.
Upon reaching DR Congo, it says, “the recruits were taken to the heights of the Hauts Plateaux to the movement’s base in Bijabo, inside the Bijombo forest. Most of them were originally from Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.”
Based on interviews with 10 recent defectors, the Group assessed that by September 2018, the rebel group numbered around 400 mostly armed and trained members.
“New recruits were subjected to military training, lasting from four to six weeks that included weapon assembly and assault tactics,” the 58-page report, whose copy was seen by The New Times, reads in part.
Ex-combatants told the Group that the P5 leaders levied taxes on residents and that the combatants received food from the local Banyamulenge population.
The transfer of arms and ammunitions into DR Congo and formation of armed groups on the territory of Rwanda’s neighbour to the west are in violation of an existing UN arms embargo on the Congo, and it’s due to such violations that the Group of Experts was partly created.
MP Christine Mukabunane, the leader of the officially recognised PS-Imberakuri, told this reporter last evening that her political party was not involved with P5 rebel group, blaming instead former party members, including Bernard Ntaganda, and other elements, for using the party’s name in the formation of the alliance behind the rebel group.
“Our party is not linked to those rebel activities, it’s the former members who were dismissed by the party using our name,” she said,
Sezibera weighs in
Rwandan leaders have in the recent past cited Kayumba’s RNC in activities designed to destabilise the country’s security and indicated that the group had since joined hands with FDLR, another DR Congo-based Rwandan armed group linked to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed the lives of over a million people.
Kigali has also said that these groups and others opposed to the Rwandan government were receiving support from two neighbouring countries.
Speaking to The New Times last evening, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister Dr Richard Sezibera said the Government had since seen the report and said it contains what Kigali already knew.
“It talks about what we already know and what we have already said – that there're (negative) groups operating in the region and supported by some neighbouring countries, specifically Burundi, whose intention is to destabilise Rwanda,” he said.
Asked about the implications of the UN report on Rwandan politicians linked to the rebel group, he said, “Those acts are punishable under our laws. A number of the leaders of those groups, including Kayumba, have had cases in courts of law due to acts of terrorism carried out previously.”
The Government has requested countries that harbor (some of) them to facilitate their answering for the crimes they committed, he added.
For the politicians who are in the country and have been linked to rebel activities by the UN report, Sezibera said, the country’s justice team will examine the issue and decide on the way forward.
In his End-of-Year Address, President Paul Kagame also made reference to anti-Rwanda rebel activities facilitated by particularly two neighbouring countries, which he did not mention.
He said his government had evidence to that effect “despite their public denials” by the countries in question.
“Some neighbours have tried to revive the threat posed by FDLR, RNC and other negative forces. This jeopardizes the otherwise good progress in East African integration, as well as regional security,” he said on New Year Eve, underlining however that the country remained secure.
“For one neighbour, we expect it. However, we are surprised by another neighbour, where the evidence we have, and which they must also have, shows clear complicity, despite public denials,” he added.
Uganda is the other neighbouring country with which Rwanda has had complaints in recent past, particularly in the wake of arrests and torture of Rwandan citizens by security elements in Uganda allegedly with the involvement of some RNC operatives.