The military spokesperson of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) based Rwandan rebels accuse the Rwandan government of arming and reinforcing a brutal militia terrorizing civilians.
In a press release, Colonel Jean Michel Africa, the military spokesperson of a coalition of Rwandan rebels, the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana) and Rally of the Rwandan People (RPR - Inkeragutabara), is accusing a militia known as SOKI, of terrorizing innocent civilians in North-Kivu province, Eastern DRC.
The press statement (here, in French), adds that in recent days, armed elements of SOKI have been committing large scale abuses, kidnapping and terrorizing innocent civilians on Kiwanja-Kanyabayonga-Goma and Kiwanja-Shasha roads.
SOKI is a militia based in the territories of Binza (Mizinga-Busesa-Buganza) and Kirama, near Kibilizi (Bwito). It is led by an individual known as Col Dan, with Lt Col Gasiga as his deputy and Capt Mayanga, as his spokesperson.
However, it appears SOKI is rather a front of Rwandan special forces being deployed into Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. These special forces are known by local people as "Via Rwanda".
Col Jean Michel accuses the Rwandan Government of using Via Rwanda through SOKI, to create a humanitarian crisis in the region, to hunt down and eliminate Rwandan refugees, and to silence anyone opposed to the Rwandan occupation of Eastern DRC.
Colonel Dan took over SOKI, after the previous commander, Colonel Kasongo, was killed in April 2014 in Rutshuru, North-Kivu, by his bodyguard, who was an agent of the Rwandan Defense Forces(RDF) Special Forces. Colonel Kasongo had, himself, taken over SOKI after its commander Soki Sangano Musuhuke was assassinated in July 2013 (see our article: New Commander of FDLR Splinter Group SOKI Killed by His Body Guard and Alleged Rwandan Intelligence Operative). Before the assassination of Soki Sangano, the group was operating on the shores of Lake Edward and in northern Rutshuru. SOKI has been engaged in regular and often large-scale looting activities and has no specific political agenda. SOKI has shifted alliances with several Mai-Mai groups. In some instances, it has fought groups supported by the Rwandan government and military leaders and on other occasions it has allied itself such groups, including CNDP and M23 rebels. Col Dan, SOKI leader, appears to have become the man the Rwandan Government military leaders may have been looking for to serve as the commander of the group.
Rwandan Operatives Have Been Courting RUD and RPR leaders based in Uganda, Europe and America.
The Rwandan rebels of RUD and RPR, through their military spokesperson, deny any connection with SOKI and ask the authorities of the DRC and the UN Peacekeeping Forces, MONUSCO, to launch immediate investigations and apprehend and prosecute the criminals.
According to sources close to RPR and based in Kampala, Uganda, it appears that Via Rwanda is formed by Rwandan special forces, who cross the border region of Rwanda and Uganda into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The sources add that in recent days, the Rwandan operatives, claiming to be opposed to the Rwandan Government, have been contacting RUD and RPR leaders based in Uganda and in Western countries and proposing to form a military coalition, aimed at fighting the Rwandan government.
The Rwandan operatives offered to reinforce RUD/RPR military with additional troops recruited from Rwanda and Uganda. RUD/RPR commanders were then going to help train these troops from Rwanda and Uganda in guerrilla warfare tactics and secure a base in Rutshuru area, under the cover of RUD/RPR. RUD/RPR leaders apparently rejected the offer, politely arguing that they prefer negotiations.
However, the sources said the real reasons why RUD/RDR leaders turned down the offer for collaboration may have been the lack of trust in the Rwandan operatives claiming to be in the opposition. After the attempts failed, the operatives approached SOKI and formed "Via Rwanda" front.
The mainly Tutsi ethnic RPR-Inkeragutabara is mostly formed by disaffected former members of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front. RUD-Urunana is composed mostly by Hutu ethnics, recruited from Rwandan refugees and reinforced by recruits from inside Rwanda.
Their political wings formed, in 2006, a coalition known as National Democratic Congress (NDC) (see here). In the past, National Democratic Congress engaged in a demobilization of the troops of RUD and RPR after negotiations with the DRC government. The demobilization process collapsed after the Rwandan military attacked the camps housing the disarmed troops and their dependents.