For eight long years, La Forge Fils Bazeye, 56, was the public face of the FDLR Rwandan militia based in eastern DR Congo. Despite being disguised as he returned back from what had been a TOP SECRET journey to Uganda, he found Congolese intelligence waiting at the Bunagana border on Friday December 14, 2018. The Chronicles sat with him at Kigali’s Magerage Prison for over 3 hours. However, for first 30 minutes, La Forge Fils refused to speak to The Chronicles saying he could only speak to state broadcaster RBA. “I cannot speak to private media. How can I be sure you won’t twist what I said to cause me more charges yet my case has not yet been concluded,” he fumed. We had nearly given up on the interview. It is his first media interview since arrest.
From his base in Rutshuru, eastern DR Congo, La Forge Fils Bazeye was summoned by one he prefers to only call “Our Leader”. It was around December 9, 2018. He arrived at the top Commander’s base a day later. There, the “Leader” holds meeting with La Forge Fils together with Jean-Pierre Nsekanabo, 49, alias “Colonel Theophile Camara Abega”, the deputy intelligence chief of FDLR-FOCA, the military branch of FDLR.
La Forge Fils refused to discuss any further details with us about what was discussed in the meeting, only saying the two men were told to travel to Uganda on a mission. For the next two days, the emissaries prepared for the mission.
They set off from the FDLR headquarters, in a location he refused to reveal, around 5am on December 13. La Forge Fils had the equivalent of $300 cash (Rwf 300,000). Escorted by heavily armed combatants, they walked through jungle for whole day, arriving in the evening on road linking up to different regions of Rutshuru. Here they spent the night at the spot. They moved at 5am from here. Two contacts who ride motorcycles had been planned to take them to Kalengera, a distance of about 6 hours.
“From the spot on the road, whose location I can’t say, the escort team went back. We removed anything that could identify us as soldiers like Gumboots so that we appeared like ordinary Congolese villagers,” said La Forge Fils.
At Kalengera, there is a small trading center and marram road that connects other regions, as well as down to Goma. The two men immediately boarded a Congolese passenger taxi, known in Rwanda as ‘Twegerane’, which drove to Bunagana border with Uganda. Transport fare was the equivalent of $US 5 (Rwf 5,000). Kalengera-Bunagana distance is about 1-hour drive.
On the Congolese side of the Bunagana border, the men paid US$50 for the official temporary travel document ‘Laissez–Passer’, writing reason for travel as ‘Going to Kisoro to visit family’, for a duration of three days.
To obtain this travel document, one has to be Congolese. La Forge Fils tell us he had Congolese official ID, with name “Ignace Nkaka” plus a Congolese name he declined to reveal. Surprisingly, these two names are the real names of the former FDLR spokesman.
He explained how; “From the day I joined rebel forces, I adopted name La Forge Fils Bazeye. Apart from my family, a few other people and of course intelligence services, no one would ever identify me. Even the intelligence services, unless they had a photo of me, they couldn’t recognize me.”
At the Bunagana border, ordinary Congolese and Ugandan traders use a local travel card. The ‘Laissez–Passer’ is for those going long distances. After crossing over to the Ugandan side around 4pm, there was heavy downpour. The FDLR men sought shelter in a small bar where they ordered for a Ugandan beer. With the rain over, they jumped on motorcycles to Kisoro town, a journey that took them about an hour. But usually takes 3 hours by vehicle using the main road.
In Kisoro town, the FDLR emissaries link up with a pre-arranged contact whom La Forge Fils calls “Guide”. He took them to a location where the three held meeting. At around 8pm, the three boarded a bus, which La Forge said could have been Trinity Bus Company. Inside, the two men sat on seat right behind the driver’s cabin. The “Guide” sat elsewhere.
“We entered and sat on the nearest seat by the door. We couldn’t move deep inside the bus for security reasons. Remember we were disguised with Caps. Loitering around the bus was risky. Rwandans use that route. You can have eye contact with someone who may identify you,” said La Forge Fils.
For 484km and 9 hours later, they arrived in the Uganda capital Kampala early morning around 6am on Friday December 14.
Unforgettable Ugandan beer “Senator”
It was only the second time for La Forge Fils to step on Ugandan soil, unlike his intelligence colleague who had been there several times. The first time La Forge Fils was in Uganda, and Kampala, was in 1990. At the time he was a student at Nyakinama college, in current Musanze district, northern Rwanda. He travelled to Uganda as part of an association of Catholic students. They spent 3 days at Makerere University attending a catholic students’ seminar.
Back to the FDLR mission, the “Guide” put them in a taxi car, known in Kampala as ‘Special Hire’. They drove to a location whose details La Forge Fils says doesn’t have because the whole trip was being handled by the “Guide”, who took them to a large posh residential house. The FDLR officers were conversing with “Guide” in Rufumbira language, which is spoken by people in Kisoro and nearly similar to Kinyarwanda.
At this posh house, there was another male person. The “Guide” introduced them as “Contacts we have been waiting for”. The hosts prepared for them breakfast after a good shower “to remove the forest from us”. They were ushered into separate bedrooms to catch some sleep. “Even though the atmosphere was tense because it was a big mission, it felt so good sleeping in a bed, from Congo forests,” said La Forge to The Chronicles.
At around noon, La Forge says they left the house in a vehicle that was in the compound. The FDLR men and their “Guide” went to “move around town and meet the Contacts who we had come to meet and return to Congo.” But then at this point, La Forge again refuses to give us details about who he met and what they discussed.
“All I can tell you is that we met representatives of RNC for preliminary discussion on how we could work together,” said La Forge, referring to the Rwanda National Congress, a grouping of Rwandan dissidents led by exiled ex-army chief Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, based in South Africa.
The Chronicles consulted other sources. The UN Group of Experts on DRC, in their report of June 7, 2019 revealed more details about the Kampala meetings. The report confirms they met with a delegation of RNC.
The FDLR “Leader” who sent them on mission from Rutshuru was the first Vice-President and interim President of FDLR, Victor Byiringiro. In Kampala, La Forge and Abega met a certain Tito and Frank Ntwali (brother-in-law of Gen Nyamwasa) and a certain Rashid.
The FDLR leader’s real names are IYAMUREMYE Gaston, 73, but also known by different aliases; Rumuli; Byiringiro Victor Rumuli; Victor Rumuri; Michel Byiringiro.
Based on various sources, The Chronicles also identified that the place where the FDLR leader issued the Uganda mission was in the forests around Kalonge, to the far north of Rutshuru. However, following the killing of the FOCA military leader Gen Sylvestre Mudacumura, Byiringiro may have since moved his headquarters, keeping mobile to avoid similar fate.
Case in point is that, in April last year, the Congolese army said it had attacked and destroyed FDLR headquarters at Kazaroho, Tongo Groupement, Bwito Chefferrie – that is located to the southwest of Rutshuru Territory, North Kivu. The Congolese army said the FDLR leaders were in disarray fleeing to other locations.
In our interview, we pressed La Forge to at least tell us the location where he met the RNC representatives in Kampala. He said it was a “5-Star Hotel”, which they entered through a backdoor, to a room. “I cannot say the names of the people, but we spoke in Kinyarwanda,” he said. He says the meeting went on for about 2 hours.
How can such an important meeting be for just two hours, we ask; to which he responded: “Note that it was a preliminary meeting. Usually both sides simply exchange messages from either side’s bosses. You don’t have what to say apart from the mission because you are not sure about the people in the room. Nothing outside the mission was discussed. After, we took juice and left. We stepped out of the room first, through the same backdoor where we had entered.”