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Retracing Che Guevara's Congo footsteps

Virunga Mountains


Mark Doyle follows in the footsteps of revolutionary Che Guevara in Uvira, in the south-east of the country.
Almost 40 years ago, the mountains towering above this lakeside town in South Kivu province were the scene of some of the opening shots in DR Congo's post-colonial wars.

In 1965, with the world on a tense Cold War footing, the Latin American revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara came here to try to spark a left-wing revolution.
Che aimed to pit himself against what he called the "Yankee Imperialists" whom he saw as backing compliant pro-western candidates for power in DR Congo.

Kabila encounter

Among Che's would-be Congolese allies was the then 26-year-old Laurent Kabila, who he met in the Fizi Baraka mountains, now soaring up above me from the Ruzizi River Plain which empties into Lake Tanganyika at the town of Uvira.

Laurent Kabila did eventually come to power, in 1997. But the revolution he headed was far from left-wing.
He ousted the ailing President Mobutu Sese Seko after forming a tactical alliance with neighbouring Rwanda.

Rwanda wanted Mobutu deposed because he had hosted the defeated Hutu army which had orchestrated the genocide of Tutsis and other government opponents in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Che diaries

But Rwanda lived to regret its choice of Kabila as an ally in the 1996 invasion of DR Congo.

He turned against them after coming to power in 1997, a switch which rekindled the war in DR Congo as Rwanda attacked again - not with Kabila this time, but against him.

Che's recently published personal diaries make it clear that he was unimpressed by Kabila.

Perhaps if the Rwandans and their American advisers had had better intelligence from the Cold War period, they would not have made such a costly mistake.

Unmitigated disaster

Che Guevara's seven-month stay in the Fizi Baraka mountains was, as he admits himself, an "unmitigated disaster".

The mercenary Colonel "Mad Mike" Hoare, who had been contracted by the American-influenced government in Kinshasa, squeezed Che's small Cuban force into an ever smaller area until he had to escape back across Lake Tanganyika into the then-friendly territory of revolutionary Tanzania.
Today, this region is no less pivotal to the war, and potentially the peace process, in the DR Congo.

I drove, with a military escort of UN soldiers from Uruguay, up the Ruzizi River plain from the town of Uvira to the village of Kamanyola which is on the border with Rwanda.

Rebel complaints

Along just 50km of road I encountered such a variety of armed groups that I began to think of the Ruzizi Plains as the theatre of a wider Congolese war, but in miniature.

The first roadblock (ostensibly to denote territory but also to levy illegal taxes) was near the village of Kiliba.

The armed men there were polite to their surprise BBC guest, but uninformative.

They belonged to the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD).

Originally backed by Rwanda, the rebel RCD controlled Uvira until June when they were ousted by forces loyal to the government.

A young RCD major in uniform broke off from a meeting of officers to complain to me about his conditions in the bush.

Protected warriors

The RCD is now a major component of the coalition transitional government in Kinshasa - although it is regularly accused of still taking orders from Rwanda.

A few more kilometres up the road, past the village of Sange, was another checkpoint.

This was ostensibly manned by the pro-Congolese government militia known as the Mai Mai after the water they douse themselves with to create a magical, bullet-proof shield.

A young man - who said he was 25 but looked no more than 17 - said he was the commander of the post.

A well-informed source in the area told me that this checkpoint was in fact shared between the Mai Mai and anti-Rwandan government rebels that have a base in DR Congo in the hills above the Ruzizi Plain.

"They share the loot", said the source, who asked not to be named.

There were numerous other checkpoints - at least a dozen in total - but many of these were quickly dismantled as the men with guns saw the small Uruguayan army convoy approach.

It would have been very different if we had been ordinary Congolese civilians.

Sane comment

Along the road, I came across a village which had been attacked by one of the groups because they were perceived to support another.

The villagers were clearly terrified, hungry and desperate.
My last stop was the village of Kamanyola, on the border with Rwanda.

Tired now of men with guns, I was relieved to do something ordinary.

I bought some tomatoes and pineapples for a snack and visited a school.

A teacher there said one of the sanest things I had heard all day: "The situation here is very bad", he explained, "because we fear war at any moment."

Free Uganda


    25 April 2005
    It has been noted that Uganda risks on security matter as the most important guns that are considered of importance are actually useless and cannot match serious combat. The issue is that the government is so corrupt that most of the money is embezzled and this leaves the country at risk.

    Alice Lakwena has been sending some information in the latest communication to Uganda that she intends to launch the serious attacks on western Uganda and kill every one there. She communicated this to the president of Uganda after having failed to get money for her programs. She says that the government should pay her about 500,000 so that she can come back home and then disarm Kony of his spiritual powers.

    Some guns that Uganda government had were taken away by Rwanda in mutual distrust and Uganda cannot match the strength of Rwanda thereof.

    Uganda intends to maintain there need not be any good relation between the north of Uganda and the Sudan government. All diplomatic efforts are exploited to ensure that the relationship between the regions are disrupted.

    Uganda is and continuously manipulating the situation in Northern Uganda and the problems of Southern Sudan to its advantage. The SPLA are directed to have aggression against Northern Uganda and not the Khartoum Government. This would help the government of Uganda to get rid of LRA and by doing so will then provide the best spring board for the concentration on military force on the Sudan Government. Sudan must be beaten no matter how long it takes and all efforts should be done to disrupt the Sudanese peace process.

    To Control Uganda the members of the under ground move emphasized the need to disorganize Makerere University and this would make it difficult for the faculties of Political Science to make credible criticism on the government functionaries. This is done to neutralise the loud mouthed so that the policy of democracy and the good foreign relations are disrupted to serve the interest of the few elites.

    Another counter strategy for internal sabotage is that the government delay the presidential election and make the parliamentary terms to run to July 2006. MPs terms end 12th May 2006 and Parliament 2/7/2006. this would cause crisis in the country and there for as part of the underground move the issue is that to retain the movement government in power then the periods of the MPs would be shorten and parliamentary and the District leaders poll on the same day. Lift the term limits and grant special status to Kampala. This would disorganise the opposition and the president would be in position ot buy off the opposition.

    The group agreed to use the banks to control the population and extort money and make the people poor as the only way of controlling them. This would make it difficult for them to question the governance of the country. Just get the top ranking critics and kill them and leave the known ones to participate in the wars in the north and southern Sudan or any part of the world as peace keepers without giving them the opportunity to come back home. Once the mission is competed them kill them or create a situation that would not allow them to come back to the country.

    As for the conflict areas in the north and western Uganda deny the existence of the challenge of the rebels in the areas as a threat to the government. Down play it but provoke the rebels to go back to Sudan and cause may hem and this would spark off distrust from the people of Sudan.

    Once the people of the Sudan are removed from the north of the country and turned against Acholi region, then allow them to enjoy the good will of the government of Uganda. This will create the impression that the state of war still exists in Sudan but with the aim of keeping the suspicion between the two groups burning. This will give us ( Uganda ) the opportunity to exploit the timber and the minerals before sanity returns and we go out of the country should there be any political change.

    Keep western Uganda in a state of fear that there is going to be something wrong in the offing and they will support our government without any question since the must protect their property against the northern force that would come here any time should they be given chance.

    It is important that some soldiers are carefully selected to go especially to the IDPs and carry out systematic rape of the mothers and their daughters before their men. This will destroy the moral of the men and they will not risk wake up to challenge our authority. Should they cause any resistance they send the former LRAs back on them since they have bad relations. This would give us the excuse to check their population completely and thoroughly, check them economically and deny them opportunities, then we shall control Uganda for ever and keep our children clear.

    One other thing that we must not forget to do is to disarm the population especially in the north. The war in the north is over and then makes sure that the guns are not left with them. They can rise up ad particularly during the election time and fight us after the humiliation of the 18 years, Aids and poverty combined. If the guns are removed from them then let our contacts ensure that they are not allowed to join the forces again. They should not be allowed to go back to their homes even though the donors are having increasing pressure that the people should be back to their homes. This will stop us from making use of their land and the desperate population to work for us.

    Those who seem to understand our ways should be bought off and for those who are resistant then just kill them. This will keep the rest of the population docile and just plead with our men for mercy and this is the point that they will bargain their life with their loyalty and we use their women to turn against them as the men are poor and give development funds to the women and make them available to our soldiers to cause maximum damage on them.

    They should never be allowed to wake again and it the mistake is committed then we must be prepared for the worst, and the turn will be ours to face the wrath of the enemies thereof. All our men should be at the ready. Lets use money to buy them but not allow them to have the opportunity to plough the money in business of development activities.

    We have to tear the region into pieces. Let the bad memories in the region be provoked. Make maximum use of the differences between the Acholi and the langi so that they don’t come together as that would be the worst mistake that we shall have made.

    Exhume the dead bodies the enrage the population especially at the time that we need the support of Teso region. Lets give them the fair treatment while watching them carefully. We can only give them enough to keep them alive and minimise the spread of Aids as they will be the future partners in the development once we have defeated and checked the Acholi that is the backbone and the trouble in the region.

    Since the Acholi have been known for being the most backward people in the world , I must say that is has been a lot of effort to bring this to materialise. We have to demonise them more and more, and send more scare crow to the population to keep them too busy to think about getting out of their problem.

    Lets give conflicting support to their leaders at this time that we need to form party, this will keep the political martial weak and they settle to accuse and undermine one another other than engaging us in meaningful talks that may challenge our future.

    We should encourage the Indians to acquire more business in the north to knock out the local business men. This will debase them from the economic hideouts which will make their desperate women vulnerable which we shall take into as a long term weapon for our strategy.

    I have to warn you that this is politics it is not about going to church, and this is no tea party. We either destroy them or they will destroy us. The Acholi are the greatest enemies that we have and if we leave them free and should Sudan take hold of them properly then we are finished.

    I encourage every man and woman to be on look out and monitor every move of these people and deny the opportunities for going out of the country while at the same time every one of us should be at the ready for the works any time, I thanks you.

    NOTE: This must be kept away from circulation, and delete this information as soon as you are done with it.

  • What is your evidence for all of this?

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