By Steven Candia
KAMPALA - A 54-year-old woman has narrated how she was lured to join her husband (now deceased) in the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) bases deep in the jungles of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Fatuma Namugwana, a resident of Irungu village in Iganga district, said her husband, Abdul Hamid Musana, abandoned her and their two children under the guise of going to look for work, but later sent someone to collect them only to end up in the forest in the DRC.
“In 2011, a man called Masereka came and told me that my husband is now wealthy and has sent him to collect me and our two daughters to go and live with him so that he can send the children to school,” she said in an interview at the Amnesty Commission offices in Kampala.
“At first, I hesitated, but later gave in. I was suffering alone with the children so on second thought, I gave in.
“We travelled through Iganga [district] where he picked four other men with whom we ended up in the dense forest of DRC, surrounded by heavily armed men.”
That is the moment she sensed all was not well.
“My two daughters tried to escape, but they were quickly arrested and brought back. We later got to meet my husband after trekking for a long time. I was shocked to learn that he was a fighter with the ADF.”
Musana was later killed mid-this year in the latest clashes with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC).
Namugwana is one of the five Ugandan former combatants – Kennedy Mugisha, Michael Jackson, Aisha Nabwegano and Winny Tulinawe – who have renounced rebellion and are due to benefit from amnesty.
The five Ugandan former combatants who have renounced rebellion at the Amnesty Commission offices. PHOTO/Abou Kisige
Mugisha, 19, who claims he was abducted at the age of nine and has served in rebel ranks for 10 years, says the rebels had stopped abducting fighters into their ranks.
“People now join on their own.”
They were repatriated to Uganda and handed over to the Amnesty Commission last week by the United Nations Mission for the Stabilisation of DRC (MONUSCO).
Tears welled in Namugwana’s eyes at the thought of her daughters, Sumaiya Musana,15, and Swiba Musana,10, who remained in the jungles, having been torn away from her by the rebels.
“When they discovered our plan to escape, they took away my children,” she says with pain in her eyes. “I wonder whether they are alive.”
Unlike the men, all the three women looked frail. Nabwegano, who has a gunshot wound in the leg, was in excruciating pain.
Since the beginning of the year, the ADF have come under immense pressure and bombardment from FARDC, dislodging them from their bases.
One of the ADF camps in the jungles of Eastern DRC that was captured by DR Congo forces earlier this year. (PHOTO/UPDF)
All the combatants who finally escaped to MONUSCO territory claimed to have been in the Medina camp of ADF.
Recently, an employee of Doctors Without Borders, Chantal Kaghoma, who had been held hostage for more than a year in the DRC was freed following clashes between the ADF and FARDC, the medical group said.
Radio Okapi, the UN station in DRC, said Kaghoma and four other people were freed following clashes between their captors, ADF and the Congolese regular army.
The ADF, which is active in the mineral-rich North Kivu province of the country, has been beaten back by recent Congolese army offensives, but is still thought to hold hundreds of hostages.
Here, DRCongo soldiers show to Uganda' Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Katumba Wamala(L) some of the ammunition capture from the ADF rebels. (PHOTO/UPDF)
Some of the rocket propelled grenades captured during operation in the forests in Ituri region. (PHOTO/UPDF)
More arms captured from the rebels in the dense forests earlier this year. (PHOTO/UPDF)
Motorcycles and Public address systems were among the items captured. (PHOTO/UPDF)
These burnt items were in one of the ADF camps in the jungles of eastern DRC. (PHOTO/UPDF)