The Chronicles

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Category: News

  • Kagame to receive two medals

    President Paul Kagame will officially be recognized on Thursday, January 26th this week as a hero who contributed to the liberation of Uganda. In this light, The Chronicles has learnt that Kagame is scheduled

    to receive two medals from the National Resistance Movement (NRM) Government led by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

    Highly placed sources at Village Urugwiro who preferred anonymity because the information had not yet been made public confirmed the development. When The Chronicles contacted Uganda’s Ambassador to Rwanda, Richard Kabonero also confirmed the development but could not reveal the name of the two medals and instead referred our reporter to the Permanent Secretary in Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador James Mugume.
    Ambassador Mugume confirmed that President Kagame will be honoured with two medals. The first is the Luwero Triangle Medal and the second is the Order of the Pearl of Africa. The former is awarded to military officials who participated in NRM/A’s five year bush war that brought President Museveni to power and the latter is given to heads of state and governments.

    When asked whether there are other heads of state being honoured, Ambassador Mugume said “The medals are for President Kagame alone; other heads of state can attend, but the medals are for him alone”. President Paul Kagame is among 27 original individuals along President Museveni who launched a five year bush war in 1981 that ended former Ugandan president Milton Obote’s brutal rule and brought President Yoweri Museveni to power on January 26th 1986.

    The development comes at a time when the two countries have been trying to mend strained relations due to suspicion and claims of each supporting each other’s dissidents. President Kagame spent last year’s Christmas holidays at Museveni’s country home in Rwakitura, Western Uganda while Museveni visited Rwanda in August last year and spent four days in the country. He also spent two of the four days with President Kagame at his private home at Muhazi, Eastern Province.

    The celebrations to mark the 26th NRM anniversary will take place on Thursday, January 26th at Sebei College Sports Grounds in Kapchorwa district, according to the Ugandan Minister of Information, Mary Karooro.

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  • DR Congo Government – FDLR agreement draws Kigali ire

    A deal being negotiated between the FDLR rebels and the DR Congo government risks unravelling gains painfully made over the years as the international community attempts to put a lid on conflicts within the Great Lakes region.

    The Chronicles can exclusively reveal that the DR Congo government has, since early last year, been holding secret talks with the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) – some of whose members are wanted in Rwanda for genocide related charges. Its leaders also face different international courts over war crimes.
    Leading the DR Congo delegation is Major General Dieudonné Amuli — the ex-coordinator of Operation Amani Leo, which aimed at flashing out the rebels, and FDLR deputy executive secretary “Lieutenant Colonel” Wilson Irategera for the FDLR delegation.

    The talks have been ongoing since February last year, and a “preliminary ceasefire agreement” was concluded on March 17. The dilemma however, is that neither the Government of Rwanda nor senior FDLR officers want anything to do with discussion. And the two sides have what could only be described as impossible demands by the other.

    Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Ministry (MINAFFET), essentially, the country’s window to the outside world, tells The Chronicles that it is not aware of any agreement but actually termed the FDLR a “genocidaire militia”.

    Details of the talks are contained in the latest UN report submitted Friday, December 30, 2011, to the Security Council by the UN Group of Experts on DRC. The talks have a facilitator but the name and signature of the individual have deliberately been erased from the agreement – probably by the UN team itself.

    The “preliminary agreement” includes a commitment by FDLR to disarm and regroup all its combatants and dependants in a secure zone between 150 and 300 km from the Rwandan border, where they would settle and transform into a political movement.

    The DRC Government would guarantee the safety of FDLR combatants and grant asylum to those seeking refugee status. The preliminary agreement also underlined the necessity of involvement on the part of the international community.

    The UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO) estimates that FDLR combatants do not exceed 3,000 in number, while Rwandan intelligence services presented the UN Group of investigators with a figure of 4,355 – including more than 2,000 in South Kivu alone. In its estimates, the UNHCR says there are probably about 10,000 Rwanda refugees living in the areas controlled by the rebels.

    Rwanda indifferent
    In Kigali, however, any mention of talks with the FDLR has been received with outright hostility. According to the UN report, DRC did take “steps to reassure” the Rwandan Government about this process, but Kigali has “remained remarkably silent on the issue”.

    Foreign Affairs Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo told The Chronicles on Thursday last week that she was “not aware of such an Agreement”. In rejoinder to our request for comment, the Minister demonstrated a strong show of dislike for the whole idea of talks.

    “…you can be sure that any move to rehabilitate members of FDLR from a genocidaire militia to anything else, including signing anything other than their arrest warrants, will be strongly opposed by my Government,” said Mushikiwabo, in a brief response from her BlackBerry phone.

    By press time, we had not been able to speak to the DRC envoy in Kigali as his known cell phone was off.

    “Spoilers”
    Despite muted objections to some of the 11 articles in the preliminary agreement by some quarters, the FDLR current executive secretary Ndagijimana has remained the most actively involved in the negotiations with the Kinshasa Government, according to MONUSCO sources. The official call record obtained by the UN investigators shows that between March and August 2011, Ndagijimana exchanged 202 text messages with the principal facilitator Maj Gen Amuli by satellite telephone alone.

    To the FDLR negotiators, this could be a godsend to regain the completely lost international credibility, which has left them vilified from all corners of the global due to the alleged crimes they have committed in the DRC. But to FDLR’s top two most senior commanders, any talks without Kigali’s involvement is meaningless.

    The two men whom the UN describes as “spoilers” are “Lieutenant General” Sylvestre
    Mudacumura – the current FDLR supreme leader and his deputy “General” Gaston “Rumuli” Iyamuremye. These men, whose photos have never been published in the media, nor held any interviews, limit defections from the militia group by coercive means. The world only largely knows of the two men through defectors.

    According to UN investigators, the talks with DRC seem to have lost momentum, mainly because of objections from Iyamuremye and Mudacumura regarding the process, as it requires commencement of disarmament. During a vote on 29 June, the FDLR senior officers are said to have opposed this DRC Government’s proposal.

    Congo Government

    UN investigators say while Mudacumura fears international justice, other “spoilers” have emerged following information leaks regarding the process. The political leader of FDLR’ splinter group Ralliement pour l’unité et la démocratie (RUD)-Urunana, Dr. Félicien Kanyamibwa, also rejected the negotiations, suggesting that Rwanda had to be involved. Details about Kanyamibwa, who lives in the United States, are published in our previous issue No 12.

    Talks…? You must be joking!
    It is not the first time something like a negotiated end to FDLR’s rebel activities have come to light. Court documents presented in Germany at the ongoing trial of its leaders Dr. Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni show that the militia group has deliberately targeted civilians to cause the humanitarian catastrophe. The thinking is that eventually, the international community will force Rwanda to negotiate with the rebels, say prosecutors.

    The current claimed DRC plan, which has been rejected before by Rwanda, is such that the rebels who choose to return home would be facilitated to do so, whereas those who turn down repatriation would be relocated to a Congolese area far away from the two countries’ common border.

    Kigali insists that relocating the rebels within Congo cannot deter them from destabilising Rwanda. At some point, government termed the suggestion that FDLR would disarm voluntarily as a fantasy. Rwanda wants them simply rounded up and deported to Kigali.

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  • Rwandan airspace abuzz with activity as airlines flock

    AIRLINES Operating commercial and cargo flights to and out of Kigali are set to increase sharply after South African Airways (SAA), Turkish Airlines and Emirates showed interest in adding Kigali on their growing list of destinations.

    The airlines join the existing carriers —Rwanda’s flag carrier Rwandair, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, KLM, and Air Uganda. This is set to increase competition mainly on commercial flights where industry analysts predict a reduction in the cost of air transport.

    The South African carrier, which has previously operated flights to the Rwandan capital, recently announced it would re-launch commercial flights to Kigali and include Burundian capital Bujumbura on the same route. Kigali city is Rwanda’s economic, political and tourist transit hub while Bujumbura is Burundi’s largest city and is close to the main port, shipping coffee as the country’s primary export.

    In a statement seen by The Chronicles, SAA, one of the largest airlines on the African continent, said effective January 17, 2012, it would commence operations from Johannesburg, South Africa’s capital to Kigali and onwards to Bujumbura, Burundi. “These flights are now available for reservations in the Global Distribution System (GDS), through your travel agent, and via flysaa.com, the airline’s online website,” the carrier said in a statement to the press.

    The airline said the new Kigali and Bujumbura flights have been conveniently timed to provide global connections via its Johannesburg hub and to SAA’s international network, including Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, North America and Australia.

    “SAA is focused on strengthening its intra-Africa network in line with its Africa Expansion programme. Adding even more destinations to our already extensive Africa route network gives our customers more travel options to thriving destinations that were previously difficult to reach by air,” Theunis Potgieter, SAA General Manager Commercial was quoted as saying in the statement.

    According to SAA, the Johannesburg-Kigali route and onwards to Bujumbura will be serviced three times a week by the airline’s state-of-the-art Airbus A319 aircraft that accommodates 120 passengers in a two class (business and economy) configuration. The re-launch of SAA flights to and out of Kigali followed a similar announcement by the Turkish Airlines, one of Europe’s largest carriers.

    The announcement was made by the Turkish Airlines President and CEO Mr. Temel Kotil during his meeting with the Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali on July 25. Mr. Temel told the President that the airline was hoping to open flights from Turkish Capital Istanbul to Kigali in April next year. It will also open an operations office in Kigali.

    The two airlines will join Emirates, the Dubai based airline that opened weekly cargo flights to and out of Kigali about three months ago. It is also believed that it might follow with commercial flights according to sources in the aviation Industry. Emirates is operating one of the biggest cargo planes Boeing 777 that gives it a competitive advantage over other players in the cargo business.

    According to Wikipedia, Emirates is the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates. Based at Dubai International Airport, it is the largest airline in the Middle East, operating over 2,400 passenger flights per week to 111 cities in 62 countries across six continents. The company also operates three of the world’s ten longest non-stop commercial flights from Dubai to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston. Emirates is a subsidiary of The Emirates Group, which has over 50,000 employees, and is wholly owned by the government of Dubai directly under the Investment Corporation of Dubai. Cargo activities are undertaken by the Emirates Group’s Emirates SkyCargo division.

    Rwanda, however, is also embarking on bilateral air service agreements with many countries, which could see more airlines fly to Kigali. These agreements could also see Rwandair, which is expanding its fleet size launch flights to these countries in its expansion strategy. Some of the countries that have recently signed air service bilateral agreements with Rwanda include India and other five Asian countries which add to over ten countries that signed last year. The country also updated its air service bilateral agreement with Uganda.

    The Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) Director General Mr. Richard Masozera said in an interview that his office has held talks with several other airlines, which have in turn expressed an interest in flying to Kigali. He declined to mention their names but he said they consider Kigali a growing aviation centre.

    Passenger boom
    Rwanda is increasingly registering a passengers’ boom. Statistics from the RCAA indicate that in 2009, Rwanda registered about 300,000 passengers and in 2010, they increased by 30,000 while this year, they are expected to increase by more than 70,000. This is attributed to the country’s resolve to attract foreign investments by reforming the business environment as well as offering peace and security to the visitors. Rwanda also has natural tourist attractions such as the mountain gorillas and other wildlife, which increasingly attract foreign visitors. The country also serves as a transit route for passengers to and from Eastern DR Congo and this boosts the number of passengers using the national airports.

    Way forward
    The Government is in the final stages of selecting a firm to construct the first phase of the New Bugesera International Airport. The new airport is expected to cost between US$400 -600 million. Information from the Rwanda Development Board says that some international companies have already expressed an interest in investing in the new airport but the final decision to select the suitable ones will be made after all bids have been reviewed. The Kigali International Airport is also being renovated to accommodate the increasing passenger traffic.

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  • Another Burundian Govt official named in FDLR racket

    The husband of Burundi’s police chief, Brig Gen Générose Ngendanganya, is the latest Burundian official to be named as facilitating the activities of the Rwandan FDLR rebels, The Chronicles can reveal. Mr. Nepomuscene Masirika, a senior official with the Burundian disarmament commission, is the contact person of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in Burundi. Through Burundi, the rebels are able to transit their minerals to the international markets. The Burundi route is also used for provision of supplies including arms.

    Details about Masirika’s collaboration with the FDLR rebels are published in the latest UN investigation on armed groups in the region which was submitted to the Security Council December 30. But it was difficult for the UN panel to find hard incriminating evidence.
    “While, according to diplomatic and political sources, Masirika continues to be in contact with FDLR, the Group has not been able to verify any concrete material support between him and the Rwandan rebels,” says the report.

    Masirika is apparently a former senior officer in the Rwandan ex-President Juvenal Habyarimana’s government. It is not clear if he is Rwandan or Burundian, and no details are available on the history of his marriage to Burundi’s top police officer. Masirika uses the false name of François Niyibitanga in Burundi, according to the report.

    When contacted about the new revelations, Burundi’s envoy in Kigali, Amb. Remy Sinkazi said he was even unaware about the UN report. “I need to read the report first, consult with my government and then get back to you,” said Sinkazi in a phone interview with The Chronicles on Friday. What is clear is that his wife Brig Gen Générose Ngendanganya was a senior commander in the CNDD-FDD rebel group of current Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza. Since Nkurunziza came to power in 2005, she has held senior security-related positions.

    Masirika is the second official in President Nkurunziza’s government to be linked to the Rwandan rebels. In 2009, the same UN panel named General Adolphe Nshimirimana, Burundi’s intelligence chief as providing logistical support to the FDLR. Nshimirimana and the Burundian government vehemently denied the allegations. As indication that relations have never been better, several Rwandan dissidents have been rounded up in Burundi and handed to Kigali without any due process of the law. Notable among them is jailed opposition politician Deogratias Mushyayidi.

    President Kagame and his Burundian counterpart remain very close, at least from the regular visits each pays the other.

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