It’s recently been a court ruling in the International Criminal Court where Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced and guilty of crimes against humanity. As this happen there been questions about his sponsors and his actions, was it for his own cause or was it for the greater good? As the violence he spread in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was during the wars in late 90s and beginning 2000s as the Rwandan and Ugandan ignited the wars the neighbor country, even sponsoring guerrillas, while fighting other forces there, as they we’re using different methods even when the world was telling the RPA and UPDF to leave, while the guerrillas would still cover areas of minerals close to the borders, to secure funding for the governments of the neighbor countries. They will by all means repute this as this shadows their reign, but the moneys and sudden export of minerals without sustainable investments and business-growth proves that there was sudden changes by the warfare in the DRC.
In this picture President Museveni did what he could to have allies inside the DRC, so he could have business and projects there to reach his power and make himself even stronger. That has been his game since day one; not only to get rid of the leaders around him who is not loyal towards him, but also to get people who he knows is loyal to him no matter what.
Jean-Pierre Bemba was a useful tool and an allied who even with brokered peace gave more influence of Uganda into the DRC politics, as he was stationed as Vice-President under President Laurent Kabila, while this wouldn’t last, as the Ugandan and Rwandan did not like the idea of being distanced from the State House in Kinshasa. So as the time and dwindling reactions, the neighbors went into attack again, that ousted the transitional government and took down a second president in the DRC! In that picture and time, comes the relationship between Bemba and Museveni, Especially after the human rights violations and victims of war, as the spoils of it cost honor and integrity, also the visible. Even if the relations between the men and their armies lost their value, the open sponsorship and even training at one point proves how Museveni used his power and reach to put his fortune into the leadership of Bemba and his MLC. Take a look at what I have found about this men!
About the MLC:
“Current Leader: Jean-Pierre Bemba
Based in Gbadolite, the MLC has been backed by Uganda since the start of the war in 1998 although there have been occasional differences between the two. The MLC tried twice to establish a foothold in Ituri: in 2001 Bemba had nominal control of the short-lived FPC coalition of Ugandan- backed rebel groups and in 2002 the MLC attacked Mambasa in western Ituri but were forced backed by the APC of Mbusa Nyamwisi. The MLC has occasionally fought alongside the UPC and has been a rival of Mbusa’s RCD-ML” (Human Rights Watch, 2003).
Bemba creating his army:
“In spring 1998, Bemba sought to motivate a group of Congolese exiles to join an armed struggle with support from Kampala. He elaborated a political program with a network of friends and former classmates and discussed financing and training with Museveni. By Bemba’s own account, he met Museveni while exporting fish to Belgium through Uganda in the early 1990s, though it is widely believed that Mobutu used Bemba’s aviation companies to transport goods for Jonas Savimbi, then leader of União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA), through Uganda throughout the 1980s. Another account claims that Bemba met Museveni through Museveni’s half-brother, General Salim Saleh, then chief of staff of the UPDF, while seeking to establish a link between ex-FAZ troops cantoned at the Kitona military base in southern DRC and UNITA forces in Angola. The MLC emphatically denies any involvement with the Angolan insurgency movement. But the firm belief, at least in Luanda, that Bemba, Uganda, and Rwanda had links to UNITA largely accounts for Angola’s switching sides in the Second Congo War to back Laurent Kabila and its strong antipathy toward Bemba to this day” (Carayannis, 2008).
Bemba in 1999:
“The main Goma faction of the rebel RCD on Monday welcomed Bemba’s signing of the accord. Its leader, Emile Ilunga, claimed Bemba was “not to be trusted”, but added: “We are gratified to learn that he has signed the accord as we had hoped he would. We have always wanted to sign the accord together with him”, Radio France Internationale reported” (…) “Ilunga, who was due to travel to Uganda on Monday evening for a meeting with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, earlier that day accused Uganda of not respecting the rebels’ decision-making process. “Wamba has no troops, and there is no point in his signing the ceasefire agreement … We’re astonished by Ugandan support of an individual, rather than working in the interest of the Congolese people,” AP news agency quoted Ilunga as saying”(IRIN, 1999).
“Jean-Pierre Bemba, a millionaire businessman and leader of the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), was accompanied to the signing in Lusaka by a senior aide of the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, and by Tanzania’s foreign minister, Jakaya Kikwete, officials said” (…)”But Mr Bemba warned that he would go back to war if a rival rebel group did not sign a truce within a week” (…)“Referring to the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), which has refused to sign the truce, he told Reuters: “If they do not sign within seven days, I will continue the fight to Kinshasa.” The RCD and Mr Bemba’s forces control 50% of Congo’s territory” (Gough, 1999). “Speaking to IPS by satellite-link, Bemba, who is also backed by Uganda, said it was too early to say whether the peace would hold, “but for the time things are very quiet, with no fighting near us” (Simpson, 1999).
Bemba in 2000:
“A few days ago, Jean-Pierre Bemba, the rebel leader in Equateur Province, issued a challenge to Mr. Kabila and major Western nations that pushed the accord with more vigor than any of those who signed it” (…)”‘We are at a turning point,” Mr. Bemba, a 38-year-old businessman-turned-rebel, said this week in Gbadolite, his headquarters. ”Is Lusaka alive still or not? That is the question.” (…)”It is not certain whether Mr. Bemba is capable militarily of closing the airport. Nor is it clear if his major sponsor, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, would give his approval given that Mr. Museveni’s own friends, the United States and many European nations, would probably hold him responsible for such a departure from the Lusaka accord” (Fisher, 2000).
Bemba in 2001:
“But Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni also reiterated his commitment to pulling his troops from neighboring Congo, saying now that they have defeated Ugandan rebels operating there, it was time for his forces to leave. The force Museveni claims to have defeated is the Allied Democratic Front, a small Ugandan rebel group that has attacked villages throughout western Uganda from bases in Congo” (…)”Some participants appeared unconcerned that Uganda was pulling out of the peace agreement, and were pleased that Museveni would still withdraw his troops. “If the government decides to withdraw its forces from the Congo, it’s always favorable. This is in line with the Lusaka agreement,” said Kamel Morjane, the U.N. special representative for Congo. “If all parties show their goodwill there is no risk.” (…)”Kikaya Bin Karubi, the Congolese information minister, welcomed the promised troop withdrawal and said his country would stick with the Lusaka peace agreement no matter what. The leader of the Ugandan-backed rebels, Congolese Liberation Front Chairman Jean-Pierre Bemba, said the decision would have little impact on the war since, he insisted, Ugandan troops had not been involved in the fighting. Uganda is estimated to have had at least 10,000 troops in Congo at the peak of the war” (Muleme, 2001).
“In 2001, when Bemba took the reins of the unified movement RCD/ML, now called the FLC, he tried in January to broker an agreement between the Hema and Lendu belligerants. He got more than 150 traditional chiefs to participate in this agreement (had the Ugandans acted unilaterally, they would never have managed to achieve this), thus securing a halt to military training and youth recruitment by the UPDF, a measure of security on the roads, food security for the livestock, and the appointment of a governor who was not from the region as a way of providing greater assurance to all the parties. In the end, though, it was Bemba’s dependence on the Ugandans that frustrated the entire peace process” (…)”On more than one occasion, Bemba tried to exert his influence over the Ugandan Government, but Uganda ultimately took the final decisions” (…)”In July 2001, thanks to the efforts of the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, the Mouvement de Libération du Congo and RDC/Bunia joined forces, taking with them Rober Lubala’s RCD/National and thus forming the Front de Libération du Congo (FLC)” (Garreton, 2009).
Bemba in 2002:
“Another former rebel movement backed by Uganda, the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Kisangani-Mouvement de liberation (RCD-K-ML), was pessimistic about prospects for the success of the Kabila-Museveni accord” (…)“The DRC is faced with two Ugandas – that of Yoweri Museveni, who acts from a distance in Kampala, and that of his army officers and soldiers involved in the ongoing pillage of gold and diamonds in Ituri [region, northeastern DRC],” said Honore Kadima, in charge of RCD-K-ML external relations. “I don’t see either of these Ugandas adhering to even one comma of the Luanda accord.” (IRIN, 2002). “The mutiny marked the return to prominence of the commanders who had been behind the earlier CMF mutiny. Following their training in Kyankwanzi (for new recruits) and Jinja (for officers), most of them had been sent to Equateur Province to join the MLC’s armed wing. After some months of fighting for Bemba, the soldiers had grown increasingly frustrated. They knew that fellow Hema were still dying in Ituri’s inter-ethnic clashes, and they felt that the MLC used them ‘like dogs’” (Tamm, 2013).
Some more on the MLC:
“The MLC had been involved in Ituri during the short-lived agreement of the Front for the Liberation of Congo (FLC), a platform of the MLC, RCD-N and the RCD-ML, sponsored by Uganda under the leadership of Jean Pierre Bemba. But Nyamwisi refused to accept Bemba’s leadership in Ituri and his forces pushed Bemba and the MLC troops out of Beni and Bunia. In the last months of 2002, the MLC tried to fight its way back into Ituri with the support of Roger Lumbala’s RCD-N, claiming that Nyamwisi had violated the Lusaka Accord. In doing so, their combatants committed violations of international humanitarian law including the deliberate killing of civilians, numerous cases of rape, looting and some acts of cannibalism. Some of these violations may have been directed at the Nande ethnic group, targeted for their connection with Nyamwisi, himself a Nande” (Human Rights Watch, 2003).
ICJ Court case claims:
“The DRC claims to have seised an abandoned tank used in the Kitona attack. The Reply alleges the tank is Ugandan because it is the same mode1 as a tank used later by Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who allegedly received his tank from Uganda. (DRCR, para. 2.40.)” (…)”Clearly Bemba’s hesitations vis-à-vis the inter-Congolese negotiations and the disengagement are linked to his quick enrichment, the greed of his Ugandan offïcer godfathers and the politics of self-aggrandizement practiced by his opportunistic, wandering ministers who annoy the people.” (ICJ, 2002).
ICJ Ruling document says:
“For its part, Uganda acknowledges that it assisted the MLC during fighting between late September 1998 and July 1999, while insisting that its assistance to Mr. Bemba “was always limited and heavily conditioned”. Uganda has explained that it gave “just enough” military support to the MLC to help Uganda achieve its objectives of driving out the Sudanese and Chadian troops from the DRC, and of taking over the airfields between Gbadolite and the Ugandan border; Uganda asserts that it did not go beyond this” (ICJ, 2005).
Cooperation in DRC during the war claims:
“The cooperation of the allied MLC rebel force was secured by the pre-payment of taxes. A letter from MLC commander Jean-Pierre Bemba informed civil and military authorities that Victoria was authorised to do business in the towns of Isirio, Bunia, Bondo, Buta, Kisangani and Beni (Ugandan Judicial Commission, Final Report, op. cit., 21.3.4, p.119). This letter was counter-signed by Kazini who further instructed his commanders in the same towns to allow Victoria to conduct its business ‘uninterrupted by anybody.’ The exception was Kisangani town itself, administered by an RCD-Goma backed Governor, although the UPDF controlled areas to the north of the town. Kazini issued a veiled threat to the Governor to cooperate with Victoria and later conspired to appoint Adele Lotsove as Governor of the new Province of Ituri in order to take control of the mineral producing areas, including those previously administrated by Kisangani (ibid., 21.3.4, p.122). In his reply to the Panel, Kazini stated: ‘In some cases, as in the case of Madame Adele Lotsove, in Ituri Province, our duty was confined to supporting existing administration (the Panel report concedes that Madame Lotsove had been appointed by Mobutu and was continued in office by Kabila).’ (See Reaction No.47, written statement from Major General James Kazini to the Panel, reproduced in UN Panel, Addendum, 20 June 2003, op. cit.)” (RAID, 2004).
From the WikiLeaks:
“During a May 24 meeting with Vice President Azarias Ruberwa, the Ambassador asked Ruberwa about his trip to Kampala for the inauguration of Ugandan President Museveni, and the reported long meeting between the two. Speaking from memory, Ruberwa provided an extensive read-out, noting by way of preamble that Museveni is a “complicated” person, and often difficult to read” (…)”According to Ruberwa, Museveni flatly denied that there is continuing Kampala support of Congolese militia groups. Ruberwa said that Museveni added that the last support Uganda had provided to armed groups in the Congo was that given to Jean-Pierre Bemba’s MLC, and to combatants associated with Mbusa Nyamwisi. Ruberwa observed that Mbusa was next to him in the same meeting, but did not respond to the Museveni comment” (…)”Ruberwa noted, for example, that if all the detained MRC leaders were found with weapons, all inside Ugandan territory, it seemed logical to assume these weapons would find their way to Ituri, in apparent contradiction to Museveni’s assertions that there are no further arms flows from Uganda to support Congolese armed groups. In any event, Ruberwa asserted it is good periodically to point out to Museveni that the Congolese are aware of what is going on. The Ambassador asked if Museveni did not know that already. Ruberwa said “maybe,” but it seems useful to make it clear. Ruberwa added he believes it important for Kinshasa to send a senior-level person to Kampala to have an exchange with Museveni perhaps every three months to help avoid a major clash between the two governments” (WikiLeaks, 2006).
Hope this was insightful and gives an edge as the reports are steady and many. Not only a one place and one person who thinks that there is a specific connection between President Museveni and Jean-Pierre Bemba of the MLC! That is very clear and the ways it happen and the timing prove the value Bemba had for Museveni and his ambition in the DRC. The excuse was always internal guerrillas who moved to DRC like ADF-NALU and LRA, but we all know that more to bait and more to gain by taking mineral rich areas and create businesses and use ammunition to gain that. That is something that never been an issue for Museveni as his best tool is a weapon, not negotiations and agreements, they can break when he see he has the upper-hand and ability to score over his counterparts.
Something he surely will do again. Bemba might never surface with the MLC and the Party MLC in any election in the DRC. As the ICC gave him a verdict and court ruling which set precedence for his life.
I know that the Yellow Men of NRM, and the NRM-Regime will fight against this and say something else, as even Amama Mbabazi did at his time in the ICC to fight the case between Uganda and the DRC on the reasons for the aggression from them. The same might happen again and the viciousness and ruthlessness of the President is visible, as those who studies his history(not the one he has rewritten) but more the remarks and voices around him, you’ll see the temperament and attitude of bush-warfare that is instilled in him, and not the political person or even a statesman of a like which he seems to be. Peace.
Carayannis, Tatiana – ‘Elections in the DRC – The Bemba Surprise’ (February 2008).
Fisher, Ian – ‘Congo’s War Triumphs Over Peace Accord’ (13.09.2000) link: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/18/world/congo-s-war-triumphs-over-peace-accord.html?pagewanted=all
Garreton, Roberto – ‘REPORT FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT DOCUMENT ICC 01/04-01/06’ – MANDATE OF THE SPECIAL REPORT ON HUMAN RIGHTS IN ZAIRE (20.02.2009)
Gough, David – ‘Peace of the dead in Congo forests’ (02.08.1999) link: http://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/aug/02/6
Muleme, Geoffrey – ‘Uganda Withdraws From Congo Accord’ (30.03.2001) link: https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/181/33411.html
Human Rights Watch – ‘Democratic Republic of Congo – Volume 15. Number 11. (A)’ – “ITURI: “COVERED IN BLOOD” Ethnically Targeted Violence In Northeastern DR Congo” (July 2003)
IRIN – ‘Bemba signs Lusaka accord for MLC’ (03.08.1999) link: http://www.irinnews.org/news/1999/08/03/bemba-signs-lusaka-accord-mlc
IRIN – ‘DRC: Kabila and Museveni sign troop withdrawal protocol’ (09.09.2002) link: http://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/drc-kabila-and-museveni-sign-troop-withdrawal-protocol
International Court of Justice – ‘CASE CONCERNING ARMED ACTIVITIES ON THE TERRITORY OF THE CONGO – DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
- UGANDA RE JOINDER SUBMITTED BY THE REPUBLIC OF UGANDA VOLUME 1’ (06.12.2002)
International Court of Justice – ‘CASE CONCERNING ARMED ACTIVITIES ON THE TERRITORY OF THE CONGO (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO v. UGANDA) – 2005 19 December General List No. 116 (19.12.2005)
RAID – ‘Unanswered questions Companies, conflict and the Democratic Republic of Congo’ (May 2004)
Simpson, Chris – ‘POLITICS: Little To Suggest The Congolese Peace Accord Will Hold’ (06.09.1999) link: http://www.ipsnews.net/1999/09/politics-little-to-suggest-the-congolese-peace-accord-will-hold/
Tamm, Henning – ‘UPC in Ituri The external militarization of local politics in north-eastern Congo’ (2013)
WikiLeaks –‘RUBERWA ACCOUNT OF MAY MEETING WITH UGANDA PRESIDENT MUSEVENI’ (02.06.2006) link: https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06KINSHASA876_a.html