Soldier Extradited by Canada Was Habyarimana Hitman – Military Court Hears

2nd Lt Seyoboka Jean Claude was a member of an elite commando unit which hunted and killed opposition politicians.
2nd Lt Seyoboka Jean Claude was a member of an elite commando unit which hunted and killed opposition politicians.

Under intense international pressure and rebel advance – former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana opened the political environment in 1992 prompting the birth of fierce internal opposition to his lengthy rule. But the flurry of political activity came with mysterious deaths of the opponents up until several months after the 1994 genocide.

Now details of what may have happened could be unraveling following the extradition by Canada last month of 2nd Lt Seyoboka Jean Claude. At the second hearing of his case to determine whether he should be granted bail on Thursday, the military court martial was told that due to his elite military background, releasing him would be a big mistake.

Seyoboka is facing genocide charges. He was already subject of a conviction by traditional Gacaca courts which sentenced him to 19 years for his role in the mass massacre of Tutsi during the 1994 genocide.

The court martial began his hearing by quashing the Gacaca conviction – as per the legal obligation that once a convicted person goes to the conventional courts, the Gacaca verdict becomes null and void.

Military prosecutors told court that Seyoboka was a member of an elite commando unit which hunted and killed opposition politicians. Specifically, Seyoboka led hit men who killed two prominent outspoken Habyarimana critics; Dr. Gafaranga Theoneste and Andre Kameya.

Dr. Gafaranga was an associate of the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) –and was also minister of Agriculture. Gafaranga was killed with his driver, as well as the minister on April 8, 1994 – two days after the genocide against Tutsis had begun full scale. The entire top leadership of PSD was wiped out.

Andre Kameya was editor-in-chief of ‘Rwanda Rushya’ (New Rwanda) newspaper. A group of about 15 soliders including Seyoboka attacked his home at Gikondo, a Kigali suburb on April 8 – but he had already fled.

Some days before June 15, 1994 – the prefect of Kigali Tharcisse Renzaho issued written orders to Odette NYIRABAGENZI a local official to kill André Kameya. Renzaho has been convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

On or about 15 June 1994, while in the company of Seyoboka and other Interahamwe militia, Odette Nyirabagenzi found and had André Kameya killed. He was also a prominent member of the Liberal Party (PL).

The court martial also heard that Seyoboka was trainer for Interahamwe militia in the Kiyovu area of Kigali. Seyoboka also raped Tutsi women rounded up by militias before they were killed at roadblocks.

In his preliminary defense, Seyoboka told court that he was not in Kigali from April until May as he was at the National University of Rwanda in southern Rwanda studying. He said on May 28 1994, he fled and crossed into Zaire (now DR Congo) – via Goma.

He formed part of the Interahamwe and defeated government forces that tried in vain to fight their way back to Rwanda. He would later end up in Canada, which extradited him on November 18 this year.

Military Prosecutors informed court that Seyoboka should not be granted bail – as there was overwhelming evidence he would temper with or even escape.

Court decides on Monday next week on Seyoboka’s bail application.

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