On October 19, 2019, residents of Kamembe town spent an entire night in panic after a grenade blast injured four people. The grenade blew off at about 7:30 PM.
Police said then that it had immediately launched thorough investigations and almost a week later, four handcuffed men were brought before the public in Rusizi town. Exhibits included four rusty AK 47 rifles and fully loaded magazines. Witnesses were in utter shock.
Berchmans Matakamba,58, a resident from Rusizi district was among the four suspects and is currently being detained as he waits for a verdict on his involvement in subversive activities.
He was arrested following a tip-off from residents that he was the mastermind behind sporadic attacks in the town of Rusizi and also facilitating successful attacks in the Nyungwe forest.
He confessed that he indeed had been the coordinator of terror activities masterminded by the FLN rebel outfit which was then commanded by Gen.Wilson Irategeka who would later be killed by DR Congo Special Forces in the jungles of Eastern Kivu.
While one of Matakamba’s children enjoyed a government scholarship to China, he was busy mobilising deadly attacks in his home town of Mururu in Rusizi district and facilitating attacks in Nyungwe forest.
Matakamba had offered to store ammunition inside a stone quarry and sand mining sites. He produced all the ammunition brought before residents in his home village in October 2019 after his arrest together with three other suspects.
“I was recruited by someone called Justin in MRCD party,” he confessed then.” “He put me in contact with another man called Pacifique, who was the contact person of FLN (military wing of MRCD). I was tasked with facilitating their mission to overthrow the government,” Matakamba confessed.
The scene was devastating. Residents in Rusizi were in shock. Matakamba was considered a man of integrity and supportive of development in the area. As a wealthy man, some residents looked up to him for inspiration, particularly the youth.
“I was recruited by a man known as Justin. He registered me in a party called MRCD (Rusesabagina’s yet to be a registered political party),” Matakamba reveled in front of residents.
“He told me he was the coordinator of recruitment and put me in contact with another man called Paccy, who was in charge of FLN operations, ” he said while pleading guilty and begging for clemency.
A source told Taarifa that the attacks had not only wreaked havoc in the area but also destabilised national security apparatus.
“These attacks were unique and deadly in all dimensions,” the source said. “These are people who socialised with the community, shared everything, assessed the situation, and later attacked the same community.”
Taarifa is reliably told that because of his status and influence, Matakamba used to be invited into RPF (ruling party) meetings as an opinion leader.
“He would listen to everything; even make financial contributions, “the source told Taarifa. “But behind him was a double agent.”
When he was paraded before residents as a suspect, most of them chanted slogans of disgrace. They cursed him and demanded for justice.
“I want my bus back,” one of the businessmen at the gathering demanded. His bus carrying passengers from Rusizi to Huye district was burnt to ashes by rebels in the forest.
On December 12, 2018, Desire Ngirababyeyi was ferrying passengers from Rusizi to Huye through Nyungwe forest in one of the buses from a fleet that belongs to a Rusizi businessman. “I had 26 passengers onboard,” he told Taarifa on Saturday from his home in Nyamasheke District.
“I had just bypassed a bus that was burning along the highway in the middle of the forest. We were all terrified. Passengers began screaming. I was confused and scared. I did not know what to do,” the 32-year-old Ngirababyeyi testified.
Apparently, he had seen a child helplessly burn in the bus as other passengers dispersed into the forest. “Suddenly, gunshots were fired on us. I lost control. I swung the bus off the road. I told passengers to calm down,” he recalled. “A few minutes later an explosive device was fired directly at the bus. It blasted into fragments,” Ngirababyeyi testified.
“At this time, all passengers were crying, scared, and traumatized before the rebels surrounded everyone on gunpoint and looted everything they carried,” he said. Later, all passengers were rescued by RDF Special Forces but lost all their properties. Ngirababyeyi is still nursing wounds on his leg caused by a fragment.
A day before this attack, on December 14, another attack had been carried out and one college student died in the violent incident. Fabrice Rugamba, lost his classmate in the attack and told Taarifa that the memory of the incident still haunts him till today.
“They picked six boys from the bus and walked us a long distance into the bush. They later abandoned me because I was wounded. The rest were taken to forcefully join the rebel group,” the 22year-old Rugamba testified. “I am still traumatized. It will take long for me to take a bus through Nyungwe forest,” he says. “I hope we get justice too.”
Meanwhile, as Matakamba and his colleagues await sentencing, their financier, Paul Rusesabagina is also soon going to be assembled before the court to answer several charges including terrorism, arson, kidnapping, and murder.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) told Taarifa on Monday that the file would be submitted to prosecution on Tuesday morning. “Tomorrow [Tuesday] we will forward the case file to the prosecution, ” RIB Secretary-General (Rtd) Col Jeannot Ruhunga confirmed.