KIGALI – State Minister for Regional Cooperation Philemon Mateke has described as despicable claims by Rwanda officials that he was in contact with an armed group that launched an attack inside Rwanda on October 3, 2019.
Minister Mateke was accused of financing a rebel group, the Democratic Forces for Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), to overthrow the government of Rwanda by Rwanda Minister of E. African Community affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe during the recent failed talks with Uganda in Kampala. Minister Nduhungirehe told the highly charged meeting that after the November attacks, they captured some rebels who revealed that they trained in Uganda under the support of Philemon Mateke. He further alleged that they recovered documents containing telephone numbers of Mateke and other communications.
But Mr Mateke told journalists in Kampala on Wednesday that the allegations are intended to malign his character.
“I have been silent for so long, not because I was unaware of these people’s campaign, but because I did not wish to dignify these accusations, in their sheer absurdity, with a response. Recently however, these people’s antics have crossed a redline whereby their strategy now is not just to impugn my character as a person but to build a critical mass of hate against me and in the end lay ground for even more sinister, violent schemes towards me and my family,” he said.
The attack referred to by Rwanda happened in Kinigi sector, Musanze district, near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Up to 14 people lost their lives and 16 others sustained injuries during the attack.
But Mateke denied any knowledge of the said rebels and further said at his advanced age of 76, he has no energy or interest to be involved in rebel activities.
Nduhungirehe, in another interview published in the New Times Rwanda on Wednesday, December 18, 2019, repeated the accusations, stating that the attackers had left phones at the scene showing contact with Mateke.
But Mateke described Nduhungirehe as a social media troll who is continuing to escalate tensions with Uganda.
“Throughout this whole saga between the two countries, only one of the parties has been the adult in the room; carefully, painstakingly following diplomatic ethos in handling some of the outlandish accusations and behaviour from the other side. The other side on the hand has a social media troll as its chief negotiator, a propaganda wannabe whose ambition seems to be to topple Joseph Goebbels as history’s most infamous liar,” he said.
“The accusations from this individual and his government’s army of social media tolls and tabloid trash are so absurd that were they not potentially dangerous to my person right now, would easily be laughed off and cast in the trashcan of history’s greatest absurdities. I am issuing this statement on my own behalf and not as an official of the government of Uganda. The government, to it credit has continued to handle this situation maturely, in a measured, diplomatic manner and I do not wish them to digress from that and to start defending me. I however retain the right as an individual to defend my character, a character that I have worked for decades to build. For God and My Country,” he added.