Two Norwegian mercenaries sentenced to death in DR Congo for murder and espionage had set up base in Kampala City for four months without the knowledge of security agencies, Sunday Monitor can reveal.
The mercenaries had been conducting military training activities at Sissa on Entebbe Road, according to media reports in Norway. They also tried to open up a private security firm in Kampala.
Sunday Monitor has also learnt that Tjostolv Moland and Joshua French while in Kampala lived in the posh residential suburb of Buziga at a tourist camp called Back Packers.
After their arrest in DR Congo where they reportedly killed their driver, the Australian owner of Back Parkers reportedly checked into their room and found an assortment of military gear. He then reportedly rang Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura informing him that he had security information to share.
"It's true the owner of Back Packers rang me one evening that he had got some security information he wanted to share with me," Maj. Gen. Kayihura told Sunday Monitor.
"I went there and he informed me that he had heard about two Norwegians arrested in DR Congo. He said the two had been his clients and after he got the news of their arrest, he checked in their room," Gen. Kayihura narrated.
"He led me to the room and we found an assortment of military fatigues and one sophisticated rifle. They had different types of military uniform including the Monuc (UN peacekeeping outfit in DR Congo) uniform.
"I wondered how they managed to smuggle in military things into the country and even how they smuggled them to Back Packers yet the place is guarded by security," Maj. Gen. Kayihura told Sunday Monitor at his office, adding that "since the matter had issues to deal with military hardware, I handed the matter to CMI for further investigations.
"Definitely it's an issue that also puzzles us but we are investigating. They did commit any crime while in Kampala but definitely if they came back, we would have arrested them and interrogated them."
Maj. Gen. Kayihura said that the two are said to have planned to start a security firm here but that he did not, as the authoriser of private firms, receive their application.
But reports in Norwegian media indicate that the two mercenaries had tried to get in touch with the Congolese leader of CNDP rebel forces, Gen. Laurent Nkunda.
In a letter published in a Norwegian newspaper signed by Tjostolv Moland the two mercenaries make an offer to the Congolese warlord.
"I have been following the situation in Eastern Congo and come to believe that you are the one to lead this massive country into the future it deserves," reads the letter.
"My partner Sergeant Joshua French [formerly British 1st Parachute battalion] and I have discussed and followed with great interest the developments in the East.
"We wish to offer our services and support to you General. We are a small and very secretive company which has a fleet company in Uganda from where we operate.
"I can guarantee that our services will generate a positive effect on your armed forces ability to undertake commando operations. We can train, lead and motivate your troops to perform specialised operations at a high military level.
"We can also provide you with field intelligence and intelligence gathering behind your enemy's lines... Therefore, I know you will understand the value of Europeans working as information gatherers; who would ever suspect," reads the letter.
Sources said the letter was recovered from the computer of the two mercenaries by Ugandan military intelligence. Sunday Monitor has also learnt from sources in Britain that the CNDP has been contacted to ascertain whether the letter reached Gen. Nkunda but the rebel leader has denied ever receiving it.
Attempts to reach the chief of military intelligence, Brig. James Mugira by press time yesterday failed. His escort answered the phone and said his boss was engaged.
The recent revelations form part of a special report by a Norwegian Television investigation crew that travelled to Kampala upon the trial of Moland and French. A sentence is expected by the military tribunal trying the duo mid this month after a lower court found them guilty and sentenced them to death.
The two mercenaries, both below 30 years, were arrested after their Congolese driver was found shot dead in May. They have pleaded not guilty to murder charges. They also denied the charges of smuggling and espionage.
Moland and French, according to various security sources operated largely outside formal and legal channels in Uganda. The photographs published by Norway's TV 2 show the uniformed men in the accompany of the head of a Norwegian private security firm (Special Intervention Group) Mr. Torgeir Friksen.
Mr Friksen who was interviewed for the piece initially distanced himself from the two men only offering new information after he was confronted with pictures of himself, with Moland and French at the Sissa shooting range performing military type drills and armed with field radios, pistols, bayonets and other gear.
One worker at Sissa interviewed by the TV station said he thought the two men, including Friksen, worked for the United Nations. It's not unusual to see on the streets of Uganda's towns soldiers from other countries especially those working for Monuc.
Congo and Uganda have long been the bee-hive of activity for private military operators including fabled soldiers of fortune like Anthony Buckingham, a former mercenary turned oil explorer who founded Heritage Oil and Gas, one of the two main firms exploring for oil in Uganda.
Minister of State International Affairs, Henry Oryem Okello said the foreign ministry has been approached by Congolese authorities over this matter.
"It's now being handled by Isaac Musumba (minister for Regional Cooperation)," he said yesterday.