By Asuman Bisiika
Daniel Simon Carter was a PhD student at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in 1999. I had never of heard of this institute; yet Dan insisted that it was better than Harvard and Yale. In fact he said Yale and Harvard took overflow intake from MIT.
Well, did I say I had never heard of any University in the name of Massachusetts Institute of Technology?
Dan was in Rwanda to investigate the alleged complicity of some UN agencies in supporting the Interahamwe Militia men who were masquerading as bona fide refugees in DR Congo. He needed someone knowledgeable about DR Congo to be his guide.
The Government of Rwanda was interested in Dan’s investigations because his findings were to be used as evidence in a case ‘his sponsors’ wanted to file against the UN. The UN could pay reparations to Rwanda.
I was introduced to Dan by Mr. Henry Lubega, a Ugandan who was teaching English at some school in Kigali. For the sake of corroboration, the said Mr. Henry Lubega is still alive and now works at Monitor Publications Limited in Kampala.
Dan told me that a certain Col. Patrick Karegeya had promised to introduce him to a Congolese national who would be of much help in the DR Congo. “But I am becoming impatient. I have three months to get this job done but I have already spent three weeks. I am afraid I will have to do this without Col. Patrick’s support. I just need a guide. Would you be my guide?”
We agreed on the terms but I needed three days to give a definitive ‘yes-or-no’ answer.
Two days later, Col. Patrick Karegeya, Director General of External Security, called me to his office at Kimihurura. In his office, Karegeya introduced me to a one Daniel Simon Carter from one of the best universities in the world. “The best, not just one of the best,” Dan, who had been quiet interjected.
Carter and I shook hands. And Col. Patrick Karegeya introduced me as the Congolese fellow he had told him about. Phew!
Of course Carter was surprised. I was also surprised by how Karegeya had created a new identity for me (complete with a new Congolese name, National ID and a Congolese passport). And my new name: Ahmad Majaliwa wa Kibomba. So smooth.
Mr. Henry Lubega had told Dan that I was a Ugandan journalist knowledgeable about DR Congo. It helped that the said Dan had heard me being interviewed live by Mary Harper for a BBC World Service programme. It was my first appearance on international media as a newsmaker.
And I had explained to Carter the circumstances under which I, a bona fide Ugandan (as Mr. Henry Lubega had introduced me), held a Rwandan Passport and National ID.
“Oh yes, I can understand. I am also pursuing American citizenship (which I guess will come with an American passport). You see, foreigners are always disadvantaged. So, if you are going to live in a country for a long time, it is advisable that you seek citizenship of the country of your residence,” Dan had said when I told him about my Rwandan citizenship.
But now the Director of External Intelligence of Rwanda had told Dan that I was a Congolese citizen familiar with the shenanigans of Interahamwe Militia in the DR Congo. Phew!
Of course I am not stupid. I couldn’t use documents of my newly-acquired Congolese citizenship (and needless to say, I made sure Dan saw that I didn’t carry them as we set off from Kigali to Goma). For God’s sake, I had my magic wand: the Monitor Press Card.
After crossing La Corniche at Gisenyi, I picked a random taxi voiture (special hire taxi) and Dan followed me. The taximan drove straight to the Office of the Ugandan Consulate in Goma. It felt eerie, and even funny, that none of us, the taximan, Dan and I, never uttered a word during the short drive from the Rwanda-DR Congo border to the Ugandan Consulate in Goma.
The taximan dropped us and left without uttering a word; not even a “thank” for the US$20 note I gave him.
At the Consulate, a Mercedes Benz with matriculation diplomatique was laid out for us. The Congolese driver, immaculately dressed in what looked like a staff uniform, dropped us at Hotel Village Palma without uttering even a word. Neither did we. Mr. Carter seemed to be seething with anger; and he was later to say he was overwhelmed with what he called ‘my shenanigans’.
Monsieur Manu Wapataleya, the proprietor of Hotel Village Palma, personally welcomed us with a paraplui (umbrella) to shield us from a slight a drizzle.
After being shown our rooms, Carter called me to his room where he literary read me the riot act. “My supervisor would not approve of this investigation being taken over by a foreign spy agency. Look, I am not stupid. I am aware that Rwanda and Uganda are not very friendly over the spoils of war in this country. But you just move seamlessly from one security agency to the other? Who exactly are you? Who do you work for?” he asked.
“Does it really matter who I am anymore? What matters now is that I believe in your cause. What matters now is that you are supposed to pay me pay me $US150 each day of the week we are going to spend in the DRC. And we had better start planning for tomorrow,” I fired back and left for my room.
The next morning Manu Wapataleya drove us to Hotel Kivu where we had a meeting with a former Interahamwe Leader with lots of documents on UNHCR Relief Supplies Systems to the Rwandan refugees from 1994 to 1999.
The Interahamwe guy organised us another meeting in Kindu (Maniema Province) with an ex-FAZ (Force Armee Zairoise) senior officer, a former Military Liaison Officer with the UNHCR in Goma.
The next day we headed for Kindu where we met this Ex-FAZ officer. After the meeting, the Ex-FAZ officer told us the Patrice Lumumba’s family were originally from Maniema and that he could take us to the grave of Lumumba’s great grandfather.
Poor Dan was excited. He only buckled when I told him he would have to take care of his own security.
Three days later, we left Kindu and flew in a small aeroplane heading for Bukavu where we held other meetings. Two days in Bukavu and we headed for Goma by water on an old boat (quite another story on its own).
On reaching the port at Goma. Some Congolese soldiers were waiting for us. T’ozuluka Mondele na Mugandais. T’ozuluka Mondele na Mugandais (we are looking for a European and a Ugandan).
I picked all the bags from Dan and morphed into a Congolese citizen; The Monitor ID would not work in the circumstances. I whipped out my Carte d’Identite pour Citoiyen (Congolese National ID) and flashed it at the soldiers. Not the Congolese National ID Col. Karegeya had given me; this was an old one that had kept me in good stead before.
The Mondele was arrested and I took a taxi moto (bodaboda) to Hotel Village Palma. I told Wapataleya about Dan’s arrest and he immediately made some calls. After about two hours, we (Manu and I) went to collect Dan from La Musee (the Museum, which had been Monutu’s Goma State Lodge). It was now the Tactical Headquarters of the rebels holding Goma City.
The soldier who had commanded the operation to arrest the mondele and the Mugandais was Wapataleya’s close relative. And it had been easy to secure the release of Dan. From La Musee, Wapataleya drove us to the hotel where we picked our belongings and headed for the border. We spent the night in Ruhengeri.
On September 2 1999 or thereabouts, Dan and I published an article in The Monitor. The story, most of it was actually Dan’s input, was about how telephony technology had been the base for new communication technology platforms like a fax, telex etc. The latest platform to use telephony technology was the internet.
Dan was so excited to see his name in the papers as an author that he bought four copies: one for his dad, one for his mother and one for his girl friend Sarah (a Jewish MIT PhD student who had forced him to circumcise or no deal). He retained the fourth copy and framed.
Three months later, I received a call from Mr. Philip Wafula Oguttu, the Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director of Monitor Publications Ltd. I was having lunch at Club Torti (Club Tortoise) in Kigali with a Ugandan young lady (of Rwandan origin) who was later to be a big TV personality.
Wafula Ogutu told me that a certain Manu Wapataleya was in his office. And that the said Manu Wapataleya had told him I owed him a hotel bill of US$1,700. I told Wafula that I knew the guy and the said hotel bill. I asked Waf to let me talk to Manu.
Poor Waf didn’t hear what Manu and I were talking because we were short waving in Lingala.
The US$1,700 I owed Manu was the balance of the US$2,000 I promised to pay so his soldier brother could ‘take the risk’ to release a British national (and aspiring American citizen) called Daniel Simon Carter from the custodial detention of the rebel army.
Village Palma was decimated by the last recorded eruption of Nyiragongo Volcano. With his boutique hotel gone, Manu left DR Congo and now lives in Paris with his family.
On hearing the fate of Village Palma (and the story of US$1,700, Dan Simon Carter sent me US$3,000) to convey to Manu. The money reached its destination safely.
I left Rwanda in May 2002 because some fellow thought I was too stupid to live in his country (but not before I served prison time after being convicted of stupidity). And Manu’s brother soldier, with whom I had since been in touch, died in Kinshasa Saturday November 4, 2017.
Col. Patrick Karegeya was found dead in a the hotel in South Africa January 2015 (or some such year); murdered by one of the intelligence agencies in the Great Lakes region. ENDS