One of the key suspects in the FLN-MRCD terror trial Nsengimana Herman on Thursday pinned his former boss, “Hotel Rwanda” protagonist Paul Rusesabagina, on the creation and recruitment of people into an armed group which he said he joined oblivious of its terrorist activities.
Nsengimana a former spokesman of the National Liberation Front (FLN), an armed outfit of the MRCD coalition which Rusesabagina was the leader, said that he was recruited into the militia force by his predecessor Nsabimana Callixte ‘Sankara’, who worked closely with Paul Rusesabagina.
While appearing in court on April 29, 2021, Nsengimana said that after escaping from Rwanda to Uganda, he met with Nsabimana online where the two had several chats which resulted in getting acquainted with each other and planning how to work together.
“I met with Nsabimana on social media, and we chatted normally. But in 2017 he told me he had quit Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and there was no hope of our desire to return to Rwanda. but days later I heard he formed RRMO party with other ex-RNC members,” he said.
Nsengimana noted that Nsabimana didn’t recruit him directly or ask him to join but as friends Nsabimana took it for granted and considered him a member of the new party, of which days later Nsabimana informed him that it was part of a bigger coalition-MRCD in DR Congo.
After undergoing several arrests while in Uganda, and desiring to return home, Nsegimana said that Nsabimana easily pulled him to join MRCD forces which had a vision of returning to Rwanda to claim their rightful place in the country.
“Nsabimana called me and told me to come to Congo to join refugees who have weapons and want to return to Rwanda and. So he asked me to join and I said it is okay, I can now take a rest from running up and down,” Nsengimana narrated.
Nsengimana said that the reason he joined the FLN forces on April 12, 2018 was after he was convinced that the coalition force, involving Rusesabagina was determined to fulfill his desire to return home, but was not aware of it as an armed force, a fact he learnt later after joining the forces in Congo.
“In March Nsabimana told me that CNRD and PDR ihumure of Rusesabagina had formed a coalition and his party had joined them as the third coalition party and agreed to work together but RRMO will do the military work and Rusesabagina will do politics and diplomacy to help FLN to attack Rwanda,” he said
Alternatively, Nsabimana said: “if the worst happens, we seek negotiation for the 2nd Arusha (Tanzania) negotiations or at the African Union (AU) level for the world to notice- so we can return home,”
In a long story narrative, Nsengimana said he joined Congo troops by managing to bribe his way there using support and funding from the MRCD of which he went through Kisoro, Bunagana in Uganda to reach Goma, DR Congo and later reach in Mweso in North Kivu on April 18, where FLN headquarters were located.
There he found Gen Wilson Irategeka, who was heading the whole coalition who showed him his residence and he embarked on a military rebel life starting with reading military books and later trained for three months in armed combat joining forces commanded by Gen Geva.
The prosecution case alleges that Nsengimana was in charge of recruiting and welcoming all new recruits in Congo but when court inquired, the suspect only agreed to part of this file accusation.
I was not the one welcoming them as alleged instead I was the one they found there always and I treated them like any other visitor would. Truth is that as a first recruit in the armed forces, I was their head and representative of the 30 who joined the army training,” he confessed.
Court interjected the suspect’s knowledge of how he came know Rusesabagina was directly involved in the FLN-MRCD forces operations and he said that he didn’t have firsthand knowledge or any contact with Rusesabagina but was intimated on the communication between their Leader (Gen. Wilson Irategeka and Rusesabagina and Gen. Geva.
“It is Wilson Irategeka who briefed me on the outcomes and even said that we have many more parties working together under MRCD like PDR ihumure, RRMO among others but also Gen Geva used to tell me some information,”
“I personally never talked to Rusesabagina since he was not in bushes but what I know is that Rusesabagina talked to Irategeka as a fellow president to president of a party, and I could see Wilson going to look for network to speak with the outside people. But they had to speak as presidents,” Nsengimana stated.
He said that Nsabimana called him to fill in the position of communication and media in MRCD and days later he couldn’t be reached so they recruited who is available- Esperance Mukamariya, a radio journalist on their Radio Ubumwe. He was taken to the youth department of MRCD
The suspect also pinned Sankara, as president of RRMO, as the person who was consulted by MRCD on the appointments of which he did nominate officials in various inactive posts including the one of Nsengimana being a spokesman of FLN before his arrest among other 400 rebels in the forces.
Nsengimana’s defense lawyer told the court that by fact of his client being implicated in activities which he was involved in and especially joining alleged forces that doesn’t make it a criminal offense legally.
“In brief, prosecution says he joined FLN on 18th April 2018 and the law was published on 29th September 2018, therefore we find that his actions before this were not criminal / we find the article used at a time when the crime was committed thus shouldn’t be based on as an element,” defense said.
However, Court asked if the fact that Nsengimana was in FLN once is not enough to be prosecuted, but defense insisted that unless there is prosecution refocus on charges on which terror group the suspect is connected to since MRCD is not a terror group and neither is FLN.