December 23, 2021

Habibu Mudathiru’s Tears, Regrets and Message To His Children


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A few days later, Col Ignace Sibomana from Burundi military intelligence came to the Hotel. They discussed some details of their travel mission, as going to South Kivu, to back up forces fighting “our enemies”. Mudathiru tells The Chronicles that Col Sibomana repeatedly mentioned Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa as having been granted safe passage for his rebel troops and ammunition to DR Congo. They also received calls from singer Ben Rutabana and Kayumba Rugema.

Col Ignace Sibomana was a member of the closed circle of deceased Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza. He is also said to have been in control of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party.

Major Bertin Gahungu, has been cited in various international reports as part of the Burundian government’s clandestine enforcement since the 2014-15 crackdown on the opposition.

After spending two weeks at the Bujumbura hotel, already given briefings by Col Sibomana, the two men, Mudathiru and Sibo, were taken in a small car by a driver, escorted by a white Toyota pickup carrying armed Burundian soldiers in full military attire. They boarded a waiting engine boat on Lake Tanganyika, on to DRC side. They found two “Guides” waiting.

They walked for a day, eventually reaching a P5 rebel training camp located in a heavily forested area. Here, there were about 70 combatants. Later, Mudathiru says he found out those combatants were mixed with Banyamulege GUMINO rebel group.

At that camp, located in Bijabo, north of Minembwe region of South Kivu, they found GUMINO commander Colonel Shyaka Nyamusaraba. For the next months, trained combatants expanded the camp, and other recruits were arriving. Each month, Mudathiru tell us between 20 and 30 recruits were being brought including Rwandans and Congolese. No single woman was in the camp, or among the recruits.

To his children: “I’m alive and looking forward to hugging you”

In late 2018, Mudathiru, who had by then taken on alias “Colonel Musa” got seriously ill and was moved to Bujumbura, Burundi for treatment. He spent more than three weeks there.

However, as he was undergoing treatment, there was what Mudathiru calls a “misunderstanding” that led to P5 rebel force of about 200 men leaving the camp they shared with GUMINO. P5 moved northwards. When Mudathiru returned, he went straight to the new location, located about two days walk to the north of previous base camp. They set up camp in here for more than two months.

In that period, Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa called via satellite phone ordering Mudathiru and other commanders who included Richard Hitimana in charge of supply and logistics, Richard Ntare in charge of administration and Jean-Paul Nyirinkindi a political officer, to relocate from that new position to North Kivu Province.

In the call, Gen Nyamwasa said the Burundian government had cut off ties, a situation caused by Mudathiru. Apparently, while on treatment in Bujumbura, Mudathiru was asked by the Burundians to plan assassination of General Aloys Nzabampema, who at the time, till now, heads the National Forces of Liberation (FNL) which has for years been battling the Burundian government from South Kivu. Mudathiru told The Chronicles that he didn’t commit to the mission, which angered the Burundians.

“Actually, immediately, they ordered me to leave their country. It was as though they were chasing me out,” said Mudathiru.

Gen Nyamwasa’s order was that Mudathiru and the relatively small P5 force move up to the border with Uganda. It means they had to find a way of going past Rwanda, on to areas directly neighbouring Uganda. “Kayumba said ‘We will talk more when you get there. Since Burundi route is off, we will have the Uganda passage route.’…” narrated Mudathiru, as the pain from his leg became worse.  

Richard Hitimana, the logistics chief knew exact area where they would set up camp once they arrived. But they also used local Congolese villagers for directions. At some point they landed in a Congolese military ambush, killing several of them.

They continued travelling north for about two months. One night during the trek, they landed in a major ambush. Mudathiru tells us that all he remembers was that a group of people trampled on him in that dead of night as battle raged, he was shot and went unconscious. “I regained my consciousness next morning and there were soldiers in Congolese military uniforms all over the place,” said Mudathiru.

Going by the social media narrations from the period, it appears that final ambush on the P5 rebel force took place on one of the nights between June 23-26, 2019. The photos show dead body of Sibo, injured Mudathiru along with 31 other combatants. The rest had been killed in the attack.

Mudathiru says he was driven from there and handed to Rwanda. He spent all the next months at the Rwanda Military Hospital. Eventually he and 24 others were presented at a Military Court in Kanombe on Wednesday October 2, 2019. Prosecutors said some of the suspects were Burundians and Ugandans. They were charged with treason and a host of other charges.

In the March 25, 2020 ruling, Mudathiru was sentenced to 25 years in jail. Others also got lengthy sentences. During the trial, covered extensively in the local media, the remorseful Mudathiru pleaded for mercy to no avail. He told The Chronicles during our interview that he had filed appeal and was yet to hear from the court.

Looking back, do you have any regrets? We ask Mudathiru. He stayed silent for several minutes, and then burst into tears. “I’m very sorry for this [emotional breakdown],” he said, adding, “I worked tirelessly for this country. It gave me so much in return. Yet, in return, I paid back with betrayal. I have no words to explain how much that pains me.”

We waited for several more minutes as he composed himself, and changed the subject. Mudathiru said he had lately began getting some sense of feeling in the foot of the severely injured leg. It is perhaps indication that the leg is healing, but still a long way to go. We found out that he was actually waiting for schedule X-ray in the coming days, at which point the doctors may determine next course of action.

Habibu Mudathiru in emotional breakdown during our interview when we asked why he left Rwanda in the first place

Both the two bones, the tibia and the smaller fibula which make up the lower leg from knee to ankle, were completely broken. So, doctors put them back together in hope they could rejoin up.

Mudathiru joined the rebels of current Ugandan President Museveni in December 1984. The rebels took over Kampala on January 26, 1986.

Following victory of the RPA/F rebels and stopping of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Mudathiru got rank of Lieutenant, becoming Captain in 2000. He got Major in 2005. Throughout these years, Mudathiru was attached to training wing of the Army at different training facilities, retiring in 2010.  

As for family, Mudathiru tells us he has a daughter born in 1996, and son a year later. From the time he left the children back in the Arua refugee camp, he doesn’t know if they are alive. At that point, he appears to become emotional again. He said he has asked the authorities to see his family and children, whom he left in Arua, and that he was told it will be worked on when the COVID-19 pandemic has been contained.  

One wonders how he expects to see the children yet he abandoned them in a refugee camp. He didn’t leave them with anyone.

“Of course, I would like to see them. This story should serve to let them know I’m alive, doing well and looking forward to hugging them,” he said.  

Mudathiru Habibu told us he had began experiencing some sense of feeling in injured leg, which is usually indication it is slowly healing

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1 Comment

  1. Man’s nature we make mistakes regardless of wisdom or knowledge we might have. Whenever I see a man crying begging for mercy my heart never resist. Our government have shown for so long the ability to punish, forgive, rehabilitate and maximum security our us. We are grateful for that. I just wish the man to ever see his kids again despite much mistakes he made none else can replace him to them. Thanks much The chronicles for the story.

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