A new report by UN Group of Experts has linked a prominent Rwandan opposition figure who last year received a presidential pardon after serving over eight years in jail, to a new rebel outfit operating in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza whose early release, President Paul Kagame approved along other 2,000 prisoners in September, 2018, is the founder of the unregistered FDU-Inkingi, a political party that Kigali doesn’t recongise.
The reports lists FDU-Inkingi as one of the groups that form, a new rebel group P5. Ingabire had in 2013 had her conviction upheld on appeal by Supreme Court, which saw her lower court eight-year sentence increased to 15 years in prison.
Arrested in 2010, Ingabire was convicted for inciting the masses to revolt against the government, forming armed groups to destabilise the country, and minimising the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Ingabire was convicted on evidence, including some furnished to Rwandan judicial authorities by the Dutch government, attesting to the fact that she was fundraising for FDLR, a terror group linked to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. She had for many years lived in The Netherlands, where she had been naturalized a citizen.
P5, the UN Group of Experts report says, is a coalition of Rwandan opposition groups; 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). RNC is the most prominent owing to its founders, who are headed by exiled former Rwanda’s Military chief, General Kayumba Nyamwasa.
According to the report, Nyamwasa is recruiting fighters and getting ammunition from Burundi, Uganda and DRC.
Speaking to a regional media outlet, Rwanda’s State Minister for East African Community Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe said, “The report confirms what Rwanda only knows. As you heard in the president’s New Year’s message, he called out RNC, the FDLR and countries in the region that have been offering them help. We have engaged South Africa on the illegal travels of Kayumba, which are aimed at destabilising the peace of Rwanda and ultimately the region. But we have not yet got a response.”
He added; “We have good relations with South Africa and the leaders agreed to solve the diplomatic issues that have existed in the past. This P5 group is a rogue militia that is set up by people who have committed atrocities, and plans to conduct military attacks on Rwanda.”
Relations between Rwanda and South Africa got even more strained in 2014, after the killing of RNC’s co-founder and Rwanda’s former intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya in a Johannesburg hotel.
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 caused jitters in Kigali, which has called for his extradition to Rwanda.
According to the report, defectors also told the Group that 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. 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.
Ex-combatants told the Group that the P5 leaders levied taxes on residents and that the combatants received food from the local Banyamulenge population.
In his New Year’s speech President Paul Kagame accused neighboring countries of supporting and facilitating rebellion against Rwanda. Kagame said Rwanda’s relationship with its ‘African brothers’ is stronger today, Africa is more united and Rwanda has contributed to this process.
“Some neighbours have tried to revive the danger posed by the FDLR, the RNC, and other negative forces. This jeopardises the otherwise good progress in East African integration, as well as regional security,” Kagame said.