By Timothy Kalyegira
The Uganda Record
February 04, 2010
The Uganda Record
February 04, 2010
RPA commander, Paul Kagame tours RPF-controlled areas, Feb. 11, 1993.
The shooting down of Falcon 50 jet carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda, President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, and French flight crew. April 6, 1994.
An eye witness account. By code name "Water Melon". Narrated on January 17, 25, and 28, 2007. Narrated to Timothy Kalyegira.
1. At the time of the August 1993 ceasefire between the government of Rwanda and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in Arusha, Tanzania, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) had set up its military intelligence headquarters at Mulindi, in the Byumba district of Rwanda.
2. The Commanding Officer of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) in the RPA was Colonel Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa. The vice Commanding Officer was Lieutenant Colonel Jackson Mutabazi Rwahama. Water Melon was an escort to Rwahama.
3. At the time of the invasion of Rwanda in October 1990, Rwahama was a Captain. He was later to become the Commanding Officer of the RPA Military Police after 1994. Up to 1993, Rwahama was the administrative officer of the RPA's Directorate of Military Intelligence.
4. Under the terms of the Arusha accords, the RPA's DMI was to provide security to the RPF Members of Parliament in Kigali who had been selected to represent the RPF in the National Assembly. 600 RPA soldiers were to be based at the parliament in Kigali to provide this security to the RPF members of parliament. The RPA unit at the Kigali parliament buildings was called the Republican Guard.
5. The DMI agents used to transport firewood to the RPA soldiers at the parliament buildings which was used for cooking. The firewood was ferried in a Mercedes Benz trailer lorry.
6. Hidden on the floor of the Mercedes trailer were RPA soldiers whom the RPA was secretly taking to Kigali to reinforce the 600 soldiers agreed upon under the terms of the Arusha accords. A few RPA soldiers at a time were ferried to Kigali until their total reached 1,400 men. This brought the total number of RPA soldiers in Kigali to 2,000. At that point, the RPA stopped taking any more men to Kigali and the mission was brought to an end.
7. Around February 1994, the RPF went on a secret mission. The Rwandese refugees in Uganda had created an association which they called "Banyamulyango", to coordinate their political and social activities.
8. Secretly, a large consignment of machetes (known in East Africa as pangas) was purchased and sent to the NRA detach at a place called Kamwezi in the Kabale district of southwest Uganda. The machetes were wrapped in polythene paper and packed in wooden crates.
9. They were loaded onto a yellowish-green Tata lorry with Ugandan registered number plates. The RPA intelligence officer, Lt. Colonel Jackson Rwahama, came to the RPA detach in a red Toyota single cabin pick up and received the machete consignment.
10. Rwahama then drove across the border into Rwanda and with the Tata lorry behind him, the consignment was taken to the PRA headquarters at Mulindi. High security was observed around the lorry. Soldiers who saw the machetes as they were unpacking them were told that they had been brought to clear the jungle and bush area around the Mulindi camp.
11. In March 1994, the RPA turned to another mission: to try and locate the best vantage point to position themselves as close as possible to the flight paths over the Kanombe airport. "Water Melon" was able to establish this new mission based on the conversations that he picked up as an escort to the DMI's vice commanding officer, Lt. Col. Rwahama.
12. To carry out this reconnaissance, the DMI operatives had to evade roadblocks set up in Kigali by the FAR government army. To do this, they got help from a Tutsi employee of the United Nations based in Kigali.
13. This Tutsi who worked for the UN, was in his 50s or late 40s, he lived in a suburb of Kigali called Kikukiro, and most of his family lived in Burundi.
14. This Tutsi man drove a blue Toyota Hilux single cabin pickup and his role was to guide the RPA's DMI agents around Kigali and he helped them locate the best vantage point below the aerial flight paths leading to Kanombe airport.
15. The UN guide took the RPA DMI personnel on three trips to study the Kigali area. The first trip took them along the Bugesera, while the second reconnaissance trip took the group long the Mulindi road. They came back through the Masaka road and returned to the Parliament buildings.
16. A third trip was made and it would be the final one. On this third trip, the DMI crew left the Parliament buildings on foot to the home of the UN man in the Kikukiro suburb. They returned to Parliament in his Toyota pickup.
17. The RPA had an armory at their camp at the Parliament buildings. In that armory the RPA kept three missiles. These missiles and a missile launcher were wrapped in an olive green polythene material.
18. After the DMI personnel returned from the Kikukiro suburb on the Toyota pickup, they headed for the armory. They got out three missiles and took them outside. The missiles were put onto a four-inch foam mattress. The launcher was also put alongside the missiles. The mattress was then rolled and tied up.
19. Supervising the whole exercise was Lieutenant Bosco Rumenera who was the Intelligence Officer of the RPA Republican Guard. Also supervising this mission of packing the missile was Major Stephen Munyandinda, the Operations Intelligence Officer of the 600-man Republican Guard.
20. Another man on that missile team was Sergeant James Rwaka of the DMI staff. He was in charge of logistics and finances. It was his job to pay the DMI staff and pay them on their missions. He had studied for a Law degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.
21. Also on the DMI team was a man called Joseph Nyamitale. He was a Ugandan of the Bakonjo tribe from Kasese in western Uganda. He was a private in the RPA and was an artillery specialist. He had received his artillery training at the RPA's training wing in Gikoba, in Rwanda.
22. The missiles and launcher were put onto the Toyota pickup. Then around or just after five O'Clock in the afternoon of April 6, 1994, the DMI team and their escort "Water Melon" left the Parliament buildings. The UN man was driving the pickup.
23. Bosco Rumenera was dressed in a tan suit, white shirt, and striped necktie. He was a tall man and had a missing front left tooth.
24. The UN man wore a brown shirt and ash-grey trousers. Nyamitale wore a black T-shirt and black jeans.
25. During that day, the RPA commander Major-General Paul Kagame sent a radio message to the RPA units in Kigali giving some instructions.
26. They drove along Masaka road via Mulindi and then turned onto a dirt road off the Masaka road. They drove about five kilometres along that road until they reached a house belonging to a friend of the UN man.
27. It was an old house with an iron sheet roof. Outside the house were four cows grazing. The DMI team stayed inside the house until after sunset and then set off again.
28. The DMI team walked to a nearby hillock and settled at the top of it. The hillock was about 50 metres away from the old house.
29. This hillock was about three kilometres away from Kanombe airport and the DMI team could see the lights of the airport in the distance from where they stood.
30. The Tutsi UN man remained in his pickup a short distance away from the old house as the DMI team settled on top of the hill.
31. On top of that small hill was a large white tent with the initials "UNHCR" printed on it. The DMI team took the missiles and launcher with them into the tent where they were unwrapped.
32. The missile launcher was an olive green military colour. It was in two parts that the DMI team fitted together into one tube. The point where the two tubes were joined together was black. The DMI team then waited for a while. It was now around half past seven or coming toward eight O'Clock in the evening.
33. About 30 minutes after they arrived at the hillock, a male voice came on Lt. Bosco Rumenera's Motorola two-way radio. Lt. Bosco Rumenera's radio code name was "Sixteen-Charlie".
34. The voice called out, in English: "Sungu-Sungu, Four-Nine-Romeo."
Sungu-Sungu replied, in English, "Go ahead."
Four-nine-Romeo then said, in English, "Connect me Double Five."
Sungu-Sungu called out three times: "Double Five?" but there was no reply from Double Five.
Sung-Sungu then told Four-Nine-Romeo, in Kiswahili and English: "Enda direct kwa Two-Zero-Nine." ("Go direct to Two-Zero-Nine").
Four-Nine-Romeo then called out three times, in English: "Two-Zero-Nine, Four-Nine-Romeo?"
Four-Nine-Romeo then came back, in English: "Two-Zero-Nine connect me Sixteen-Charlie."
Two-Zero-Nine then called twice, in English: "Sixteen-Charlie, Two-Zero-Nine?"
Two-Zero-Nine then replied, in English: "Four-Nine-Romeo, go ahead."
Four-Nine-Romeo then called out, in English: "Sixteen-Charlie, Four-Nine-Romeo?"
Sixteen-Charlie then replied, in Kiswahili: "Sukuma ujumbe." ("Send your message").
Four-Nine-Romeo then gave the order, in Kiswahili: ""Okiwone kitu yote, piga!" ("If you see anything, hit!")
After that order, Sixteen-Charlie replied, in English: "Over, out."
35. The artillery specialist, Private Joseph Nyamitale, then got the launcher, now with a missile inside it, and placed it on his shoulder. He pointed the launcher into the dark night sky.
36. The missile launcher then started giving off a wailing, siren-like noise. Nyamitale then told his colleagues in Kiswahili: "Missile ena liya. Kwisha pata target." ("The missile is crying. It has located its target.")
37. After Nyamitale said this, the escort "Water Melon" of the DMI was ordered to leave the location and return to the old house. A teenage boy at the old house who had followed the team out of curiosity was also sent back to the house.
38. The escorts had barely left the location when they heard a single explosion at the location where the DMI officers stood. It was the sound of the missile being fired.
39. The escorts stayed at the house while the team led by Bosco Rumenera remained at the location where they had fired the missile. During the aftermath of the firing of the missile, Bosco Rumenera and his team got into steady radio communication with unknown people in another part of town.
40. The lights at the airport remained on for a while in the immediate aftermath of the shooting down of the presidential jet.
41. Three hours later, at about 11:00 p.m., on April 6, 1994, the escorts were finally called back and told to pack the remaining two missiles onto the back of the Toyota pickup. The team then drove off.
42. The team, driven by the UN Tutsi official, encountered a roadblock at Mulindi manned by the government soldiers. The UN man suggested that they avoid the roadblock and instead walk through the nearby bush back to the Parliament buildings.
43. The DMI team got out of the pickup and started walking in the direction of the airport while the UN official turned back and drove in the opposite direction with the two remaining missiles and other accessories.
44. The DMI team emerged from the bush and onto the road leading from the airport to the Lemera suburb of Kigali. The whole of Kigali city was in upheaval, with chaos everywhere and people on the streets and roads talking about an aircraft accident. But at that time, Bosco Rumenera, Joseph Nyamitale, and the DMI team did not understand what was going on.
45. They walked on, toward a place called Kyemihurura and encountered a serious roadblock, manned by soldiers and men in civilian clothes holding machetes. The DMI team were ordered to stop but pleaded to be allowed to go on their way.
46. The soldiers ordered them to sit down by the roadside. At that point, sensing danger, Bosco Rumenera drew out a pistol and shot two of the civilians in the chest. They fell down dead on the road.
47. Other men at the roadblock, seeing this, pounced onto the DMI team and overpowered them. They cut Bosco Rumenera into pieces with a machete. Joseph Nyamitale, the man who fired the missile that blew up the Falcon 50 jet, was also hacked to death by this group manning the roadblock. Sergeant Rwaka was taken away captive.
48. The escort "Water Melon" had been walking at a distance of about 30 metres behind the DMI team and he stopped in his tracks when he saw what was happening at the roadblock.
49. After he watched his colleagues being hacked to death, he fled the scene and back in the direction from which they had come, toward town until he found the St. Famille Church and took refuge there. Inside the church were ordinary civilians, both Hutu and Tutsi, and some of them were listening to the news over small radios.
50. The news was entirely about the death of the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, blown up by a missile as the plane approached landing at Kanombe airport en route from a summit in Tanzania. That was when "Water Melon" made the connection between their DMI mission that night and the events unfolding in Rwanda.
51. There was no other aircraft that had been shot down by a missile or any other gunfire that night over Kigali or any other part of Rwanda. This made "Water Melon" realise that their mission, which they did not fully understand at the time, had been to shoot down the plane carrying President Habyarimana.
52. Lieutenant Bosco Rumenera and Private Joseph Nyamitale died at the roadblock without knowing the magnitude of the mission that night, April 6, 1994.
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