Rwandan Defense Minister General James Kabarebe, front row, second from right, General Paul Kagame in the middle with the Congolese Minister of Defense and the Army Chief of Staff, in Kigali in May 2014. 1998, General Kabarebe launched a failed attack on Kinshasa, through Kitona, more than 2000 miles from Kigali, Rwanda.
Rwandan special forces and M23 troops have been deployed in Kitona, three weeks after the troops of troops landed at Ndolo Airport in Kinshasa. The troops were moved to Kitona after opposition members, reacting to the article published by AfroAmerica Network on June 8, 2014, asked the Congolese President Joseph Kabila to explain how and why the Rwandan troops were flown from Kigali to Kinshasa.
Kitona is an important military airbase in South Western elongation of DRC, 190 miles from the capital Kinshasa. The troops are now under the command of General Mustafa. According to General Mustafa's aides, who contacted AfroAmerica Network, there is now more than 600 troops, including close to 310 M23 former rebels. The 310 M23 rebels are part of 650 defeated M23 rebels that fled to Rwanda late last year (see our article here) who were awaiting amnesty from the DRC president. Only 24 M23 combatants were on the list of troops to receive amnesty, which the Rwandan government rejected, arguing that all the rebels must be integrated into the FARDC without conditions. A Congolese delegation travelled to Kigali in May 2014 to get the M23 rebels sign the amnesty forms but were refused access to the M23 rebels and returned to DRC, without getting the forms signed.
According to sources, Paul Kagame and Joseph Kabila decided to bypass the amnesty process, that had to be submitted to the reluctant DRC parliament for approval. They decided to airlift the M23 rebels along the with the Rwandan special forces (see here). The operation also was aimed at propping Joseph Kabila's republican guards, in preparation of repressing the growing discontent of the DRC opposition and the ensuing potential armed rebellion.
Mustafa's aides have confided to AfroAmerica Network that dozens of the M23 rebels who recently arrived to Kitona have defected and escaped. The sources added that a manhunt has been launched and led by General Mustafa himself to capture the defectors. However, it is believed that the defectors may already have crossed to neighboring countries, most likely to Angola.
Kitona has played a major role in the wars between Rwanda and the DRC, with the Rwandan troops using it to launch a stealth invasion to topple DRC government led by the late Laurent Desire Kabila, the father of the current DRC president. In 1998, Rwandan special forces, commanded by the current Rwandan Minister of Defense, General James Kabarebe, were airlifted from Kigali to Kitona military airbase. From there, they launched a ground attack on the capital Kinshasa. They were defeated after reaching the capital, when the Angolan Government sent in reinforcement in troops and tanks and Laurent Desire Kabila quickly recruited Rwandan Hutu combatants to reinforce his army in disarray.