The military forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have boosted rehearsals and patrols in the eastern part of the country after the wife of an M23 rebel commander was arrested with what officials described as the “DRC war plan.”
Ms Beatrice Safari, a wife of Désiré Rwigema, was recently apprehended by Congolese intelligence services as she crossed from the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi to Goma.
The Congolese army said Safari was carrying the M23 rebels’ war plan in her bag.
It was reportedly found by security personnel during routine physical checks of travelers in the area.
Ms Safari would eventually be airlifted to the Capital Kinshasa for enhanced interrogation.
M23 Chairman Bertrand Bisiimwa confirmed the arrest of Safari but denied she was carrying the movement’s “war plan”.
“Ms Safari is an innocent woman, a simple housewife who has never known any political colour but whose only wrongdoing is being the lawful wife of Mr Desire Rwigema,” Bisiimwa told ChimpReports on Monday morning.
He further said since the end of the M23 rebellion on November 5, 2013, the “organization has never needed to resort to such a document to launch hostilities in DRC, because, we have always used official channels to communicate our agenda.”
He said if such a plan existed, “nothing would compel us to put such a risk to an innocent lady to carry it in her bag at a touching distance of border control agents.”
Bisiimwa argued if Safari was aware of carrying such a document in her bag and realised that all those who were in front of her in the queue were being systematically searched, she would have turned back.
DRC war Plan
However, the Congolese say Safari had a ‘war plan’ which other military and political actors in DRC were meant to read and endorse.
The development raises fears that M23 could be planning a fresh war in DRC, accusations the organisation denies.
The movement’s military commander Maj Gen Sultani Makenga last year escaped from Uganda to join M23 remnants in DRC.
The group is said to have taken down two DRC military choppers hovering over M23-controlled territory.
United Nations reports also indicated that M23 combatants were closely working with Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a terrorist organisation which had previously tried to overthrow President Museveni by force of arms.
M23 recently denied the claims as baseless.
Nevertheless, M23 fighters’ decision to escape from Ugandan barracks where they had found refugee after being defeated in 2013 by a joint force of soldiers from Malawi, DRC and South Africa, also underscores the possibility of planning for a fresh rebellion.
The rebel movement has previously been linked to Rwanda’s armed forces, claims it routinely dismisses as fabricated.
The situation in the eastern Congo remains fragile with the Rwandan government saying militants loyal to dissident General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa are training in the area.
Considering that DRC has for long remained a haven of Rwandan rebels, it’s feared Kigali might not look on idly amid the current security threats.
Fearing possible military action from Rwanda, the Congolese are keen on monitoring the movements of the M23 militants in the region.
Bisiimwa described Safari’s arrest as “barbaric” and “cowardly”, adding, the security forces “publicly humiliated her.”
The DRC government officials say after failing in their military campaign, M23 are now using couriers to build alliances with established political and military organisations to overthrow the reign of President Joseph Kabila.
Bisiimwa said “if there was a need to send this famous document to a purported recipient in Goma, there are many virtual channels for transmitting documents that are more secure and safer.”
He stressed that if Safari was guilty of such a dreadful crime and the security services had strong evidence, she should have been presented to courts of law for prosecution.
Bisiimwa also stated that Safari was denied access to her lawyer in Goma after refusing to sign a statement given to her by the DRC’s military intelligence services.
Rwigema served as M23’s coordinator for monitoring application of the declarations between the rebels and the DRC government in 2016.
This was after President Joseph Kabila agreed to grant concessions to rebel group M23 to pacify the eastern part of the country and win over his opponents.