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Special Report

Was Museveni’s France-Trained Mountain Army Ready For War Against ADF?




Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in 2016 developed an idea of creating an army specialized in mountain warfare because the UPDF had on various occasions suffered humiliation at the hands of Allied Democratic Front Rebels based in Rwenzori Mountain stretching along the DRC border.

The ADF rebels who had since 1995 mastered the mountain terrain would descend from Rewenzori mountain jungles and easily strike at any target within towns of Fort portal and Kasese including overrunning army posts, police stations and kidnapping people.

Such maneuvers by rebels gave Museveni countless sleepless nights and for many years couldn’t find a fitting solution. The rebels were based inside Uganda and Museveni feared a repeat of what his rebel group did to previous governments.

The ADF had gained monstrous support from people in the Rwenzori sub region stretching the entire western frontier.

The Rwenzuru kingdom had also been sucked in as it was evident that Uganda Peoples Defence Force had lost control in this region.

Rwenzururu King Charles Wesley Mumbere used this opportunity to revive the 1960’s secessionist plan of his forefathers.

The Kingdom has always held intentions to secede from the rest of Uganda and create its own Yiira Republic.

Mumbere himself, a trained soldier, clandestinely coordinated the transition of the royal guard force into a fully-fledged army as he thought to curve-out and declare an independent territory known as  Yiira Republic.

Tribal fighters under their so-called Kilhumira Mutima (the Strong-Hearted) group had bolstered support from the other side of the border in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which is populated by people who are ethnically related to the people of the Rwenzori region.

Kilhumira Mutima secession movement had established hundreds of bases and sleeper cells across the Rwenzori region both in Uganda and in the DRC.

These fighters trained from up the mountains and enjoyed collaboration from the ADF group that also is camped within the mountains.

Kilhumira Mutima and ADF operating in the same region with the common enemy became a very big security threat to the Kampala establishment as several attacks weakened the police and military in the Rwenzori region.

On November 26, 2016 Museveni ordered heavily armed police to raid the Rwenzururu kingdom resulting in the killing of eight Rwenzururian royal guards and arrest of two others.

According to government, the raid was in response to militant attacks on police posts in the region two weeks earlier, allegedly perpetrated by the royal guards.

Government issued an ultimatum demanding the surrender of royal guards, the king and all Kilhumira Mutima fighters.

On the next day, after expiration of the ultimatum, Uganda armed forces and police raided the Rwenzururu royal palace resulting in the deaths of 87 royal guards and 16 policemen and more than 180 people.

Following the raids, the Omusinga (king) of Rwenzururu, Charles Mumbere, was arrested and charged with murder.

The attack on Rwenzururu kingdom was globally criticized as gross abuse and tantamount to war crimes and violation of human rights.

Lieutenant General Peter Elwelu who commanded the attack on Rwenzururu kingdom was later slapped with US sanctions.

UPDF soldier in an unidentified forest. Uganda government in November deployed its Mountain brigade into the DRC jungles to hunt for Allied Democratic Front Rebels linked to ISIS. Experts Argue that the choice of mountain army for jungle warfare was a tactical mistake that may hinder operations

Museveni Orders Creation of Mountain Army

After suffering much humiliation from ADF and an insurrection from Rwenzururu kingdom, Museveni attributed the whole mess to intelligence failure, “How did these people weave such a scheme without being pre-empted?”

With admission of failure on handling a minor tribal domestic issue, Museveni decided to create a UPDF mountain brigade and looked to France to offer specialized training of the new unit.

French Alpine troops flew to Uganda to embark on this training mission of a new Ugandan army unit to help combat violence in the mountainous Rwenzori sub- region.

Chasseurs alpins are the elite mountain infantry force of the French Army. They are trained to operate in mountainous terrain and in urban warfare.

“This training of the UPDF in mountain warfare is necessitated to secure the Ugandan mountains for the security of those living nearby and for tourism,” Museveni said in 2016.

The French established Karugutu Training school which specializes in Mountain War Fare Technical Courses.

For the French military industry, Museveni’s mountain army project offers business- already Marck & Balsan a  French defence equipment manufacturer won a major equipment and materials supply tender under military cooperation arrangements.

“As ADF spreads across Eastern Congo, we need more capabilities to monitor and deter them from using our mountain ranges by deploying specialized forces. The Albertine Region needs serious protection for the young oil industry to thrive,” said a former CDF Gen David Muhoozi.

However, the real test for Museveni’s mountain army came to a test last month when President Felix Tshisekedi invited Uganda to hunt for the ADF inside Congo.

For Museveni, the Mountain army headed by Maj.Gen. Kayanja Muhanga was the choice to deploy for this mission in an operation named Shujja.

In less than a week into the operation, Maj.Gen. Kayanja announced a halt in the operation against the rebels citing impassable roads, thick forests and bad weather that made it impossible for any advance onto the rebel bases.

This mountain army was a bad choice for the operations against ADF require a unit with special jungle warefare skills.

It should be remembered that for more than 7 years, the Congolese army and Monusco had been pursuing these rebels in the dense jungles with no success.

On realization of lack of skills in jungle warfare, Monusco decided to invite Brazil troops to train Congolese army in jungle combat skills.

Beni and Ituri are extremely forested with a tormenting equatorial climate all year round.

The rebels and other armed groups set up bases in the middle of these forests and have remained untouched. They easily walkout and terrorise neighbouring areas and return to base scot-free.

It was therefore a tactical mistake in choosing a mountain unit to conduct operations in a flat densely forested terrain with equatorial weather.

Uganda had one last choice- to use their air force and artillery to seemingly bombard rebel bases in the forests but their accuracy in targeting these bases is still a matter of debate because of high margin of error in obtaining accurate coordinates to facilitate pilots and artillery gunners.

Like as always predicted, military experts argue that on the part of UPDF there was minimal pre-operations intelligence collected and this could have forced the UPDF into a halt mode as its Intel teams collect real-time data on the ADF.

Thus as UPDF reorgansises itself and allowing the Congolese to take lead of this operation,  the Ugandans will spend more time constructing the roads as part of fulfilling payment of a colossal U$10billion in fines to losses it inflicted onto DRC during the UPDF occupation 20 years ago.


Uganda Suffocates With $10Bn Compensation To DRC

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    December 24, 2021 at 6:18 pm


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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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