The High Court in the Special Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes sitting in Nyanza District on Monday reopened the trial of terror suspect Callixte Nsabimana who is facing 17 charges including terrorism and treason.
The alleged crimes were committed when Nsabimana was the Spokesperson of the ‘National Liberation Forces (FLN)’, an armed terrorist organisation founded by the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a political organisation founded by Paul Rusesabagina, among other members.
Nsabimana appeared in court on Monday where he pleaded guilty of all charges but said that he was misled by some individuals including Kayumba Nyamwasa.
When the trial reopened, Nsabimana, who was a self-proclaimed ‘Major’ in FLN accused Zambian President Edgar Lungu of allowing them space to operate in his country to overthrow the Rwandan government.
It is not the first time Nsabimana, who was arrested and deported to Rwanda in April 2019, has accused Zambia of facilitating him and others to coordinate their activities. In his statement made before prosecutors, Nsabimana, named several countries including Uganda, Burundi and Zambia.
The trial was conducted digitally due to COVID-19 measures where all the parties made submissions through a live video link. There were glitches from the start of the trial which were resolved and the hearing proceeded.
Only Three judges and a court clerk were in the courtroom in Nyanza while Nsabimana and his lawyer were in a Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS) facility in Kigali.
Some of the plaintiffs in the case, including Vincent Nsengiyumva, the Executive Secretary of Nyabimata Sector, who was wounded in the June 2019 attacks by FLN in Southern Province, were in court.
Nsengiyuma’s vehicle was set ablaze by the attacking militia in Nyanza sector in the attacks which Nsabimana claimed before he was arrested and deported to Rwanda.
Also present in court was a representative of the Omega Transport Company, whose buses was one of those burned by the attackers in Nyungwe Forest in 2018. The attacks were repulsed by the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF).
Upon the reopening, the Judge said the number of claimants had increased to six, who were all given a chance to present their identities and claims before court.
On his part, Nsabimana said that they were supported by ‘a certain country and its president’ whom he did not want to mention.
He was compelled by court to say the country since, in the trial, there will be no stone left unturned, as the plaintiffs want to hear and deserve the truth.
“In 2017, towards the end, the President of Zambia, President Edgar Lungu promised MRCD President Paul Rusesabagina that he would help him overthrow the Rwandan government and that he would donate $150,000 to the cause,”
Nsabimana revealed that in early 2019, shortly before his arrest, Appolinaire Nsengiyumva, one of the leaders of the PDR Ihumure party, one of the members of the MRCD coalition, went to meet with President Lungu to discuss the support for FLN.
Nsabimana stressed that the attacks by FLN were possible due to the support of the Zambian government, in what could be a shocking revelation.
On the charge of ‘creating an illegal armed group’, Nsabimana pleaded guilty and apologised for his actions but claimed that he only joined the group in July 2018, as a Spokesperson, but was not involved in its establishment.
The accused said he joined opposition groups when he had gone to South Africa via Tanzania, to pursue law studies and acquire a PhD but he originally had no plans to oppose or fight the Rwandan government.
While in South Africa, Nsabimana said that he met members of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), a terrorist organisation, purporting to be an opposition group, where its members convinced him to join the group.
He said he had been told by Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa and the late Col Patrick Karegeya as well as other former soldiers who fell out with the government.
He alleged that he was told that RPF ordered the shooting of the plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana and that the Bagogwe were killed by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF-Inkotanyi) who put the crimes on Habyarimana’s army.
In South Africa, he was welcomed by a one Mike Rwabirinda, a Rwandan who was born in Nyanza but lived in South Africa, who had initially invited him to pursue further studies.
Rwabirinda helped Nsabimana and another young Rwandan man identified as Alphonse Safari, to join RNC and later facilitated them to connect with Kayumba Nyamwasa.
“Kayumba warmly welcomed me and we shared a cup of tea. I thought he was a good person and I didn’t care about it but I later figured out that he didn’t have good intentions when he started to brief me about his plans,” Nsabimana said.
He said that Kayumba asked him to join others and start working on Radio Itahuka as well as other propagandas targeting the Rwandan government.
The Judge asked him why an educated individual with a sound mind would allow to be lied to and he said that “I was hanging out with bad people and I also ended up being like them”.
On his role in the attacks, Nsabimana claimed that he was not directly involved in the planning of the attacks, claiming that he previously confessed his involvement under duress, despite many videos online of him proclaiming the attacks.
He said he believed in war against the Rwandan government, but he was not the one planning. He said the rebels were being commanded by a one ‘General’ Barnabé Sinayobye, who he said did the planning.
He alleged that he was more of a ‘politician’ than a fighter, adding that he was not impressed by attacks which claimed civilians. He said at the time he was not in the region he was in Comoros Islands and Madagascar.
At the time of the attacks in June 2018, Nsabimana appeared in several Youtube videos claiming responsibility and adding that they were going to carry out more attacks inside Rwanda.
Asked about military training and the rank of Major, Nsabimana said that he had never done any military training, that the rank was given to him by ‘General’ Wilson Irategeka, the overall commander, as a means to empower him to speak on behalf of the fighters, while his deputy was a Captain.
He faces a total of 17 charges, which include engaging in terrorism for political gain, involvement in terrorist activities, the issuance of instructions in terrorist activities, treason and incitement to commit terrorism, murder and intrusion of murder and kidnapping, among other charges.
He is also accused of spreading false information or propaganda aimed at undermining the Rwandan government abroad, denying genocide, armed robbery, arson, engaging with the foreign government to cause war, fabrication or use of forged documents, among other crimes.