Rwanda: Two ex-FDLR militants arraigned in Gasabo court, admit complicity with Victoire Ingabire
Kigali – TWO suspects accused for planning activities aimed at causing state insecurity, were arraigned before a judge at Gasabo Intermediate Court on Thursday.
Lt. Col Tharcisse Nditurende and Lt. Col Noel Habiyambere, who were senior commanders of the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), admitted having worked with Ingabire and Paul Rusesabagina to form rebel groups to launch offensives in the country.
Victoire Ingabire is one of the founders of the opposition party FDU-Inkingi and is fighting to make of a constitutional state where international democratic standards are respected. She is ready to challenge the General Kagame during the August presidential elections but the Kagame regime stubbornly bars her from exercising her political rights. This court trial is part of the process used by the Rwanda government to break her and neutralize her since her return to Rwanda early this year.
Paul Rusesabagina is the real life hero of the acclaimed film “Hotel Rwanda”. Rusesabagina, portrayed by Don Cheadle in the film, saved the lives of more than 1200 people during the Rwandan genocide and has been honored internationally for his heroism. He later founded the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation (HRRF) which works to prevent future genocides and raise awareness of the need for a new truth and reconciliation process in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa.
Appearing before Judge Maurice Mbishibishi and flanked by their lawyers, the two Ex-FAR soldiers who were members of ALIR and later FOCA, the armed section of FDLR, did not waste the court’s time and admitted the charges prosecution brought against them.
“My Lord, save for a few facts, most of what the Prosecutor has said here is true, I don’t deny anything and I will readily cooperate in this case,” Nditurende, dressed in a black T-shirt and stripped trousers, told the court after the Prosecutor Richard Muhumuza had presented his case.
In a twist of events, the duo not only admitted having met Ingabire , on several occasions, but also stayed in touch with Rusesabagina before they were arrested by Burundian authorities and effectively extradited to Rwanda.
Nditurende and Habiyambere revealed how prior to their arrest, they were mobilising FDLR fighters to quit and join Ingabire’s FDU-Inkingi/CDF and Rusesabagina’s PDR-Ihumure.
Nditurende in particular admitted having travelled to Kinshasa from Goma in September 2008 with a person named Dieudonne Muhindo-Muhima to meet Ingabire and again met her in Congo Brazzaville to carry on with the plans to start the armed group.
According to prosecution, the Kinshasa meeting came after exchanging a number of emails and phone calls with Ingabire and receiving money to facilitate their trips between Goma and Kinshasa as well as money to sustain them during the course of the meetings.
They also revealed that Ingabire and the Secretary General of FDU Inkingi, Jean Baptiste Mberabahizi, had met Nditurende’s representative Lt. Jean Marie Karuta in Kinshasa where they discussed and drew a list of what was needed to start the armed group.
Habiyambere, who had since quit FDLR and was working with Rusesabagina, informed the latter of Ingabire and Nditurende’s plans, and Rusesabagina recommended that the two former FDLR colonels join hands to form a much bigger group.
“I was working with Rusesabagina, but at the time, I did not know that they were planning terrorist activities. The difficult conditions I was living in in the jungles of DRC led me to work with them, I therefore beg for mercy,” Habiyambere told the court.
Ingabire and Rusesabagina continued to send money to DRC through Western Union to help them in their activities and also sustain them in the jungles of North Kivu as well as help them to acquire guns and ammunition.
Using Congolese documents, Nditurende passed though Goma Airport to Nairobi then Dar-es-Salaam where he connected with Habiyambere and then to Kigoma, from where travelled by road to Bujumbura.
The duo met a senior Burundi military officer, General Adolph Nshimiyimana, seeking his help, but he turned them down, telling them that they had no chance.
While in Bujumbura, the duo received money from Ingabire and Rusesabagina through a Burundian Bank. However, Burundian authorities swung into action and arrested them and handed them over to Rwanda.
The representatives of the duo applied for bail since they had willingly admitting to the charges and were ready to cooperate with the court, but the prosecution objected, arguing that the charges were serious and that they should remain in detention in the course of the trial.
Court will rule on Friday as to whether the accused should be granted a 30-day bail.