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Special Report

PART II: Why Is Uganda Provocative, Disrespectful?




This is our second article in the series expounding on the historical and current dynamics that are relevant to the frosty relationship between Rwanda and Uganda.

Intimately, we are recollecting moments that help us to expose President Yoweri Museveni’s hostility against Rwanda. In this piece, we focus on what transpired in the early 90s. We pick key and strong instances that shade light on how Museveni’s behavior has been consistent despite the fact that the two countries have shared social-political milieu with varying degrees of interludes.

Shortly after the liberation struggle to stop the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, regional countries had become home to thousands of Rwandan refugees, particularly elements of the Habyarimana regime that had participated in the genocide.

The largest majority had established themselves in the jungles of DR Congo (Zaire). The Kinshasa government had also gradually lost its grip on management of the state, creating a conducive environment for the Interahamwe to mobilise, organise and return to Rwanda and complete their mission of exterminating the Tutsis.

Meanwhile, Congolese Political and armed groups, too, were battling for control.

Kisangani wars

In view of security concerns, Rwanda deployed in DRC to flush out genocidaires who had established themselves in military and refugee camps along the DRC common border with Rwanda, ready to strike and accomplish their mission to exterminate the Tutisi.

This was in late 1996 when they fought alongside Laurent Desire Kabira’s side of Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo to overthrow Mobutu.

The establishment in Kigali wouldn’t sit idly and wait for trouble to spread back home. They had identified the right group to give support.

Meanwhile, the RPA was receiving accolades from the world over for winning battles yet Museveni regarded them as “boys” he trained.

It is said that when Rwandan fighters were advancing towards Kinshasa, Museveni asked Kigali that his brother, Gen Salim Saleh to command the final assault and capture Kinshasa, the capital city of DRC.

This sent a bad taste to the Rwandans. Museveni’s audacity was unbearable. His arrogant and disrespectful demand was decline. He proceeded, nevertheless, up to Kisangani during what is known as Congo II.

During Congo II, Museveni struggled to justify deployment of his troops in DRC, but he proceeded and up Kisangani which had been liberated by Rwandan troops (RPA).

Ironically, Museveni insisted that RPA withdraws from Kisangani and allow Ugandan troops to occupy it, which Rwanda refused. Apparently, Museveni’s plan was to establish a break-away faction from RCD led by Wamba Dia Wamba.

In August 1999, on a Saturday morning, fighting broke out between Ugandan and Rwandan forces.

Ugandan army forces backed the Kisangani-based faction of the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie (RCD-Kisangani) and the Rwandan forces backed mainstream RCD-Goma.

The fighting broke out – with clashes for control of the city centre and one of two airports – after RCD-Goma had disrupted a “tour of explanation” around Kisangani to brief the public on the Lusaka agreement, according to RCD-Kisangani Spokesman, Sessanga Ipongo.

In this gun battle, Uganda was defeated.  For Museveni, the defeat was painful. He kept looking for a chance to vet his anger on Rwandans. He engaged his commanders in Kisangani to secretly create room for another clash against the Rwandans. The two sides clashed three times, including in May and June 2000. Ugandan troops were walloped again almost to a total inhalation.

Notably, on June 5, 2000, heavy gun fire was heard blaring into the skies between the two sides.

Uganda provoked Rwandans by shelling their positions in Kisangani in mid-morning on June 5 and lied that its forces had simply responded to an attack on one of its army vehicles. The shelling was followed by a ground attack.

In response to Ugandan provocation and arrogance, the well-organised and commanded Rwandan troops counterattacked UPDF in a fierce seven-hour battle that ended a week of terrifying, indiscriminate shelling. Uganda suffered heavy losses that Museveni has never forgotten until today.

A few remaining Ugandan fighters almost ran into Congo River before Rwandan commanders voluntarily ceased fire.

Museveni is said to have pleaded for mercy with Rwandan authorities as the fighting ensued. .

According to witnesses at that time, bullet-riddled bodies of over 2000 Ugandan soldiers lay strewn along the gravel road that leads to the bridge where Rwandan troops halted the Ugandan push into the Congo River port city. The stench of death was everywhere, and there was no water, electricity, food or medicine.

Meanwhile, Museveni was humiliated when he learnt that dozens of his fighters were being held by Rwandan fighters as prisoners of war. He openly denied it. When Rwandan repatriated the prisoners of war, Museveni welcomed them as heroes.

It was reported then that the prisoners were being held at a military camp in the central prefecture of Gitarama. “Ugandan authorities should stop to posture by denying that we don’t have their prisoners. It is normal to take prisoners in any war,” Rwandan government Spokesman then, Joseph Bideri said. “The army leadership in Uganda is negotiating their release with the military authorities here,” he was quoted as saying. Read: (

Back in DRC, unarmed UN observers were in place to monitor the cease-fire called by Ugandan forces. The UN raised its flag and declared that any further fighting would be considered an act of aggression against the international community.

At that time, Rwandan soldiers had captured tons of ammunition, guns and an anti-aircraft battery left behind by the Ugandans.

“I am not proud of this,” a Rwandan commander said then. “But we were fired at. We won because our soldiers know what they are fighting for. We are now leaving Kisangani regardless of Ugandan intentions.” The fighting ended.

This was another loss for Museveni which added more salt to injury. Museveni has never forgiven Rwanda for this. Ominous as he is, Museveni has never buried the hatchet.  His hatred and bitterness against Rwanda are alive and kicking.

Our next article will be published on Monday.

PART I: Why Is Uganda Provocative, Disrespectful?

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Special Report

Museveni “Illegally Promoted” New Spy Chief From Major To Colonel in 2013



Uganda’s new head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) is an officer of concern that the region will carefully want to scrutinize since he has been entrusted with a controversial military agency featuring in incubating trouble between Uganda and the southern neighbour.

Taarifa Investigative Desk has reliably learned that Uganda’s new Spy Chief Maj Gen James Birungi, a well trained tank Armour Fighter was in 2013 illegally promoted from Major to Colonel. This could be a trigger for minders to reset their lens on this new officer who has had stints in the Airforce, Special Forces Command and now the dreaded CMI.

Gen Birungi came into the world in 1973 at Ngoma, current day Nakaseke District. Birungi attended Ibanda Secondary School for O level and Nyakasura School for Advanced level. He later joined Makerere Business School Nakawa, MUBS, where he pursued a degree in Business Administration.

In 1996, James Birungi, a very shy but ambitious young man, was among a group of 11 recruits that joined the Uganda army and underwent a one year basic military training course at Kasenyi in Entebbe.

Birungi was later sent to India for a cadet officers course where he spent a year and graduated as a Second Lieutenant.

On return from India, Birungi’s first deployment was under armoured Brigade, a specialized unit of the UPDF Land Forces with its Headquarters at Kasijjagirwa garrison in Masaka District.

He also undertook different tank courses and was deployed in Kitgum District in 2002. Birungi was commanding tanks and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to escort supplies for soldiers in the Forward Operating Bases.

Birungi was later transferred to Karamoja to fight cattle rustling. From Karamoja, Gen Birungi was sent to Karama at the rank of Major as the Commandant of the training school.

He later joined Presidential Guard Brigade, now SFC in 2008, after attending Junior Staff courses at Gaddafi Barracks (Kimaka), Jinja.

In 2013 Birungi was promoted to Colonel and appointed acting Chief of Staff of the Air Force until he was taken back to SFC as the commander.

Birungi’s promotion from rank of Major to Colonel faulted the law and procedures and this propelled protest from members of the Ugandan parliament.

Opposition MPs led by Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda petitioned the East African Court of Justice, accusing President Yoweri Museveni of faulting procedures while promoting and appointing officers. Birungi’s ranks were not stripped as intended by the MPs and remained a senior officer of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces.

Those who Know Birungi

“He is a free man, mature enough, jolly and God fearing officer,” says Godfrey Ssempijja a resident in Bugonga, Entebbe.

“He is trustworthy but decisive, determined and principled cadre soldier, a friend of the young people and a son to the revolution,” Ibrahim Kitatta says.

Left : Maj Gen James Birungi has been appointed Chief of Military Intelligence

Birungi’s views

While speaking at the graduation party of his colleague, Birungi made some tantalizing remarks that most people just go to school to study, acquire degrees and other academic qualifications but never put into practice the skills they obtain.

“Even if you study to the level of a professor and you don’t implement the skills acquired, your education is meaningless. Some people just go to school just to acquire a degree but they cannot explain what they will do after acquiring it.”

He gave an example of those who have degrees in business management yet they cannot even start a small business.

However, Birungi forgot that he holds a degree in Business Administration and instead of pursuing a career in business he is now in the military. This view will mostly help in understanding how Birungi applies reverse phycology in management of information gathering, processing and eventual application in decision making.

Maj. Gen. James Birungi, a well trained tank Armour Fighter was in 2013 illegally Promoted from Major To Colonel.

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Special Report

When Rwanda Was Accused Of Stealing Burundi Drums



Before colonial  interference and eventual drawing of imagined boundaries, Rwanda and Burundi were once one solid nation known as Ruanda-Urundi later Rwanda-Burundi as a colonial territory, once part of German East Africa, which was ruled by Belgium from 1916 to 1962.

The People of Burundi and Rwanda speak a simillar language and practice the same culture and various norms.

Now two independent countries with extremely diverse visions, their recent past relationship  has not been one to boast about. Their militaries repeatedly clash, governments slam doors on each other and trade unending accusations but also surprisingly return to roundtable and mend fences without mediation.

In 2019, Burundi Accused Rwanda Of Stealing Drums Culture And Doing It So Badly.

It all started in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled to Rwanda from brutality of Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime as he was seeking a forced third term in office contrary to constitutional provision leading to a failed coup.

Among those that fled Burundi, included a group of Drummers organised under Himbaza group. In 2019, this group applied to take part in the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi-Kenya.

The group registered as from Rwanda. But when introducing themselves to the audience, they said they were Burundian refugees who had been living in Rwanda since 2015.

Himbaza group Performing at the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi

Willy Nyamitwe, a senior advisor and spokesman of Burundi’s former President Nkurunziza, was not amused at all.

“Not Original and not Authentic at all,” he wrote on Twitter, August 19. “These guys should be ashamed for debasing the quality and the cultural originality of Burundi drums in Rwanda,” Nyamitwe said.

However, “Himbaza Drummers” were so good that the judges voted them to the next round.

Organizers of the show, in response said via a statement that they “deeply regret” if any offence has been done by inclusion of the Himbaza drummers.

“Entry to the show was open to anyone who has the legal right to residence in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania irrespective of their nationality. The contestants are legal residents of Rwanda and therefore are legitimate contestants on the show,” said organisers.

Demonstrations against the Government of Rwanda in the Burundian capital were the order of the day, hundreds of Rwandans and their businesses were targeted but Rwanda refused to be provoked.

In 2014 UNESCO registered the ritual dance of the royal drum a Burundian tradition as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity  with hope to preserve and share with the world.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye (right) drumming sacred drums

Rwanda and Burundi currently maintain a closed border and have clashed several times since 2015 but the two sides have been involved in shuttle diplomacy and have announced that anytime the border may reopen.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye who is currently enjoying his annual leave, chose to traverse the country and visit various touristic destinations. He has been seen with his family enjoying boat ride, walking through a forest and most recently he visited Sanctuaire des tambours sacrés de Gishora (Sanctuary of the sacred drums of Gishora) in Gitega province.

He garbbed drum sticks cheerfully spotting the red, white and green national colors of the famous Burundian drummers. Ndayishimiye did not hesitate to harmoniously sketch a few dance steps. He even sang some patriotic songs.

“You who have devoted your life to the drums, I did not barter the zither for the modest sum of 80 francs, I did not throw away my 90 francs for a razor blade, I did not betray my country for 1,000 francs, I did not become a young man, the kind of spendthrift in well-watered parties”.

And the guardians of the sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora loudly proclaim their approval by responding loudly with their cry: “Eeeeh! ”

The sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora: “It houses the Ruciteme and Murimirwa drums, 119 years, and served as a place of refuge for King Mwezi Gisabo when the resistance against the German invasion was organized.”

Ndayishimiye’s visit at the site hosting sacred drums of Gishora may have been a signal to end the Drum politics that had pitted the two countries against each other in 2019 and could pave way for opening a new chapter with Rwanda once accused of stealing these drums.

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Special Report

Habyarimana Sent Finance Minister’s Wife To Poison Kagame



In February 1992, a very busy Paul Kagame while commanding Rwanda Patriotic Army rebels, set aside some time to have an exclusive conversation with Sam Mukalazi, a Ugandan journalist at one of the rebel bases at Muvumba in Rwanda.

The war had entered its second year since the former refugees united and armed under Rwanda Patriotic Front/army overran Kagitumba border post on October 1, 1990.

The clashes were intense as heavily armed and well trained government forces, with support of air power, inflicted heavy casualties on rebels.

Kagame told Mukalazi that the rebel movement had suffered major losses and the rebels had lost morale especially influenced by successive deaths of their commanders at the start of the war.

Kagame, who was away on the first day of attack, flew back from the US to replace fallen commander Fred Rwigema who had been killed in action.

During this conversation, Kagame told the journalist that he had vowed to reorganise the rebel group and had begun achieving remarkable success, for example, his efforts had paid off in capturing a vast stretch of several kilometres deep from Kgaitumba to Ruhengeri and was considered the rebel operational zone.

“There is a large portion of this stretch on which the enemy cannot dare step,” Kagame told the journalist.

Commander Kagame boasted that the biggest and most successful battle in 1992 was in Butaro, starting January 23 and continuing for 10 days.

“We attacked enemy defences in Nyamucucu,Kitenge and Butaro and we overrun six of their seven defences,” he said.

He told Mukalazi that these RPA victories on the battlefield had provided strength to the rebels.

However, President Juvenal Habyarimana in Kigali was planning something terrible against rebel leader Kagame.

It should be remembered that 1992 was a busy year for both fighting sides.

The government army was fiercely fighting with the rebels while their political representatives were dressed up in suits for roundtable peace talks in neighbouring Arusha, Tanzania.

Habyarimana had carefully identified a non suspecting person to deliver and administer poison to Kagame. The Kigali regime had on several occasions declared Kagame dead.

“We arrested a woman sent by the Kigali government with some poison meant to finish me off,” Kagame disclosed to Mukalazi with a smile. “Even if I died, the struggle would go on,” Kagame added.

The woman was identified as Eugenia Kaitesi and said to be a wife of the former Rwandan Minister of Finance.

Kaitesi had been arrested in mid 1991 and was still being held by the rebels at the time of the conversation with this journalist.

According to Kagame, the woman assassin had claimed that her assignment was being coordinated by a Rwandan diplomat in Uganda and that if she had succeeded with this assassination mission, she was going to acquire a big mansion in Brussels at the expense of the Rwanda government.

Jean Pierre Claver Kanyarushoki was the  Rwandan ambassador to Uganda and led the Rwanda government delegation to Arusha peace talks in the same year.

The intention of the Habyarimana regime announcing the rebel commander’s death might have been to raise the morale of government demoralised troops that had lost subsequent battles.

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