Despite a firm denial from exiled Col Samson Mande that the shadowy rebel Peoples’ Redemption Army (PRA) exists, a Ugandan who claims to be a former operative insists the rebel outfit indeed existed.
Jamil Tumwesigye, who lives in the United Kingdom, says he has been forced to speak out publicly following a denial by Col Mande, a former senior UPDF soldier exiled in Sweden, that PRA exists.
Mande’s denial this month was a response to earlier assertions made by Lt Col Anthony Kyakabale, a former exile who returned home last month. He told Daily Monitor in an April 4 interview that it was Kyakabale who “declared war” against the government of Uganda.”
Mande added: “His new revelations leave me wondering whether he has told us the truth…or he is making false confessions against himself and us under economic duress. Could it be in exchange for 30 pieces of silver since he admits he is under economic duress or in exchange for freedom to go home?”
Kyakabale told the same paper on March 23 that PRA existed but only failed to capture power because of poor organization.
“…there was something. But it was not well organised. It failed because it was not well organised. But it was there,” Kyakabale said.
Asked whether Dr Kizza Besigye, the former president of FDC was part of the group, he said he did not see him. In an email to The Observer, Tumwesigye said this week that Mande and Kyakabale were the leaders of the group.
He wrote: “From the start, both of them were very active but eventually midway 2002 Col Kyakabale went quiet and no orders were coming from him and Col Mande took charge of all operations perhaps this could be the cause of the blame game. The grand and very ambitious plan was to attack the government forces from all corners of the country and they decided to train some of the intelligent and youthful young men from all regions who had already joined the rebel group,” he wrote.
Tumwesigye said the conflicting operational orders issued by the two sowed confusion in the group.
“So when they are bargaining and bragging they should always remember those who were and still traumatized by their bad organizational skills,” he wrote.
ORIGIN OF ‘PRA’
He wrote that after the 2001 presidential elections, the two army officers (Mande and Kyakabale) and others fled to a neighboring country (Rwanda) and immediately set up a call centre and began establishing contacts in Uganda.
Tumwesigye claims he was recruited into PRA by a one Alex Magezi, a former employee of the British American Tobacco who currently lives in exile in South Africa.
In Rwanda, Tumwesigye writes, there were a total of about 120 rebels.
“Some of these were former UPDF officers who were deserting the army including Capt. Kabali and James Katabazi and others, plus newly recruited university graduate,” he writes.
Some of them, he writes, were deployed in eastern DRCongo including the likes of Deus Mande, Alex Zedriga with the help of late Col Edison Muzoora. The eastern DRCongo was supposed to be the main power house under the command of Colonels Mande and Muzoora and several camps were to be set up here, Tumwesigye wrote.
He claims that the group got moral support from Rwanda and Patrick Karegyeya, the then external security boss was much involved in receiving and relocating recruits from Uganda.
He writes: “Whether he [Karegyeya] was doing [it] with the knowledge of Rwanda, I don’t know and there was a strong belief from the high command that once the attack was launched, the East D R Congo axis would be backed by Rwandan forces who were in the area at that time.”
Most of the financial resources were mobilized from within Uganda, Tumwesigye claimed. Later the group established contact in various parts of Uganda for purposes of coordinating the war.
“From the north we had the likes of James Opoka and Komakech, Peter Ojur from East, Deus Mande, Deus Bainomugisha from the west and ofcourse the likes of Capt Kabali Masembe from central [region]. Indeed In November 2002, James Opoka was sent to the north and South Sudan to make contact with the Joseph Kony LRA forces, Deus Mande and others were sent to the eastern DRCongo to set up camps from where they would receive recruits from inside Uganda as well as re-organizing rebel remnants in the area.”
In 2003, Tumwesigye writes, Rwandan security operatives arrested them, including members of the PRA “high command”, and put them under house arrest. Later they were relocated to Sweden. The sudden arrest, he writes, disrupted their war plans.
He writes that around the time of their arrest in Rwanda, the group’s DRCongo axis was uprooted by the Uganda government. Government has always asserted that PRA existed and was a brain child of Besigye.
Despite the fact that the group has never carried out any attack on Ugandan soil, government said its bases were in eastern DR Congo.
In 2003 some “members of the group were arrested and charged with treason. Many sought amnesty while Besigye was arrested upon his return to Uganda and charged with treason. The case was eventually dismissed in 2007.