December 5, 2021

FDLR Spokesman’s Journey From Congo, Uganda, To Rwandan Jail

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From the UN Group of Experts report, the two FDLR men also met with the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs/Regional Cooperation of Uganda, Philémon Mateke. He is no longer in cabinet, but his daughter is.

The next moment La Forge opens up to speak freely, is that after those meetings, the “Guide” took them back to the Kisoro buses station in Kisenyi in the evening of that same day they had arrived in Kampala. There, they bought tickets for the 11pm journey. It was about two hours before travel. La Forge says they went to a bar across the bus station. They ordered for beers plus Pork and potatoes, a very common delicacy in this region.

He narrates: “I drunk a Senator beer because even in the Congolese bushes we used to order for them. Abega took different Ugandan beer brand. We just had general conversations, while enjoying the good things going on around. You know, at night Ugandan pavements and roads turn to drinking joints. There were many people all around. I doubt anyone bothered about who we were.”

They boarded the bus, but it set off later than scheduled. The two sat on the front seats. He said: “We sat on the nearest seats as precaution. These buses are used by Congolese from Rutshuru and Masisi. The likelihood of bumping into someone who knew us was very high. So, we made sure our Cap-covered faces were down.”

There was no incident up until Kisoro, arriving there next morning at 11am on Saturday December 15. In Kisoro, they went to a small restaurant where they ordered for Pork and potatoes. La Forge took a Senator beer. They spent about an hour in that Kisoro spot. They jumped on motorcycles for Bunagana Border. 

Gen Delphin Kahimbi asks for $100,000

At the Uganda side, all went as usual; stamp in ‘LaissezPasser’. Then they crossed to DRC side. Here, they left ‘LaissezPasser’ with the Congolese immigration office. They moved to the customs office for routine checking on what they carried in their small bags.

But as the FDLR officers picked their bags, a Congolese official approached them, asking they follow him to a nearby office. There was another official. Both wore civilian clothing with military Caps. The man who brought them moved out to speak on phone.

La Forge narrates: “The one who was inside the office with us asked for a bribe. I don’t remember how much Congolese Francs I gave him, but it was worth 5 to 6 beers. He said ‘Is this all you have?’. I began feeling uneasy. Something was not right. Then the one who was speaking on phone outside, came back.”

The officials asked both FDLR men to relinquish their phones. La Forge handed over two small old-model phones and remained with a “Smartphone” which he had hidden in his jacket, explaining, “because I didn’t want them to see the information in it”. Abega also handed over his two phones.

The Chronicles asked him why they were travelling with all those phones. La Forge tells us that he, for his part, owned six Congolese SIM cards “used for work”. He added; “Of course we had our phones throughout the Uganda mission. Don’t you know that there is roaming? We had to keep in touch.”

Within a few minutes in that office at Bunagana border, another third official came into the office, retorting: “Aren’t you La Forge?”.

At that point, La Forge tells The Chronicles: “My heart sunk. I said to myself; ‘It is over’. It was strange that he actually used names which are not in my Congolese ID. He knew who I was. My mind seemed to stop working. They took us to another office and handcuffed us.”

The two FDLR men were taken to a waiting white small car and driven at high speed to the Congolese military headquarters in Bunagana. They were transferred to back of military Toyota Pickup, surrounded by heavily armed soldiers which drove off at high speed. “We couldn’t see anything as the soldiers deliberately blocked our view. They hit you whenever you lifted your head,” said La Forge.

The vehicle drove south heading to Goma. After some distance, they were transferred to another waiting Pickup manned by heavily armed soldiers. After nearly 2-hours, they arrived at a heavily fortified military barracks in Goma where they found Gen Delphin Kahimbi waiting in a Tent with 3 prepared seats. He was at the time, DR Congo’s all-powerful chief of military intelligence.

La Forge tells The Chronicles: “We knew each other because we had met several times. He was fuming, saying; ‘You La Forge, you have gone overboard with your writings and media interviews. You attack the Government of Congo’. We were quiet, watching him. He demanded to know what we had gone to do in Uganda. We didn’t respond much as he was asking many questions at same time.”

He interrogated them, seated three of them alone, as the escorts were far away. La Forge remembers Gen Kahimbi saying he was giving them 24 hours to avail him with $100,000 if they wanted their freedom.

La Forge remembers: “[Gen Kahimbi] said, ‘We know you sent $100,000 to Ngabo. No later than 24 hours, I want $100,000 and I will let you go back to where to came from’. I responded that it was impossible to raise that kind of money in such a short time. He said, ‘That’s it. I will leave you to take some time to think about it’….”

As Gen Kahimbi had left, he handed the FDLR men to a Colonel. They were taken to a cell. In the morning around 9am on Sunday December 17, the FDLR men were transferred to Goma airport in tinted Landcruiser. They boarded a civilian commercial flight which had many other passengers. They were made to sit on a 3-seat row, and the same Colonel dressed in plain cloth sat on the aisle seat, essentially blocking them off.   

Transfer to Rwanda

This is the route taken by the FDLR men, from point of departure for mission for Uganda, back to DRC border where they were arrested, finally ending up in Rwanda. We traced the route from La Forge’s interview and various other sources

The plane arrived at N’djili Airport in Kinshasa that Sunday afternoon. They were put into a waiting Coaster van with armed soldiers, driven for some time, on to the dreaded headquarters of DR Congo military intelligence. They spent over a week undergoing interrogation. In the cells, La Forge tells us they met many Congolese military officers known to them.

“As FDLR, we had worked or met some of them at different times. Those we didn’t know introduced themselves to us,” said La Forge.  

A one Ngabo whom Gen Kahimbi claimed had got $100,000 from FDLR, was referring to Colonel Ngabo, a notorious Congolese military officer. He has been cited severally of alleged links to FDLR by UN reports. La Forge told us that they also found him jailed at the same facility in Kinshasa.

Gen Kahimbi died under mysterious circumstances on February 28 last year.

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