Rwanda: Trial begins against suspected rebels

KIGALI, Rwanda

A military tribunal in Rwanda’s capital Kigali on Wednesday began hearing a trial on 25 suspected Rwandan rebels recently captured.

The group is accused of belonging to the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an organization formed by Rwandan dissidents.

The suspects were charged on four counts including belonging to an illegal armed outfit, treason, forming an illegal army, and plotting with foreign countries to destabilize Rwanda.

Among the suspects are at least six foreign nationals, including a Malawian and some Burundians and Ugandans.

One prominent suspect is Habib Madhatiru, 53, a former Rwandan army officer who was captured in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) while allegedly preparing to attack Rwanda.

Allegations against him include being in charge of training recruits on behalf of the RNC.

The hearing is likely to take several days, as some suspects have demanded legal counsel.

As it opened, Rwanda’s Minister of State in Charge of East African Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe on Wednesday said on Twitter: “Bad news for the Rwanda National Congress and its sponsors. The terrorist organization, led by Kayumba Nyamwasa, has faced (and will continue to face) military force by the Congolese army, and is now facing justice in Rwanda.”

The RNC was formed by Rwandan dissidents led by former Rwandan Chief of Staff Nyamwasa — who now lives in exile in South Africa — and former Rwandan former chief of intelligence Patrick Karegeya — who was killed in a hotel in Johannesburg in 2013, also in exile.

A report by a UN Group of Experts last December said Nyamwasa was recruiting fighters and stockpiling ammunition from Burundi, Uganda and the DRC.

It said the exiled general had frequently travelled from South Africa on recruiting missions for a newly formed rebel group called P5 — a sub-body under the RNC.

The group reportedly primarily operates in the South Kivu region of the DRC.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his DRC counterpart Felix Tshisekedi earlier this year agreed on the need for cooperation in order to resolve conflicts in the region.

The trial began weeks after Sylvestre Mudacumura, the commandant of the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, also based in the DRC, was killed by the Congolese army.
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