Court remands FDLR leaders

Lt Col Nsekanabo (2nd left) and Nkaka (2nd right) have their handcuffs removed before a judge at Gasabo Primary Court in Kigali on Monday. Emmanuel Kwizera.

Two top FDLR militia commanders were on Wednesday sent on remand for thirty days pending further investigations into the charges they face.

The duo – Ignace Nkaka, the outfit’s spokesperson, and Lt Col Jean-Pierre Nsekanabo, its head of the intelligence – had on Monday appeared before a judge at Gasabo Primary Court in Kigali, and prayed for bail.

They were charged with being members of a terrorist group (FDLR), engaging in terrorist activities, and conniving with a foreign government and other negative groups to wage war on Rwanda, among others.

Judge Justin Nshimiyimana ruled on Wednesday that the two be taken to prison given the gravity of the charges, including being members of a terrorist group which planned and executed attacks that claimed innocent lives on Rwandan soil.

The case follows their extradition to Rwanda earlier this year by the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They were arrested by Congolese authorities last year on their way from a meeting in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, with another terrorist group, the Rwanda National Congress, according to accounts by the two suspects.

“Nsekanabo admitted knowledge of many attacks by FDLR on Rwandan soil in the recent past. He also agreed to having been on the trip to Uganda on a mission to seek ways of FDLR collaborating with the RNC so as to attack and destabilise Rwanda,” the judge ruled.

“All these are strong reasons why they should be remanded pending further investigations,” Judge Nshimiyimana further ruled.

Court also put into account the submission by prosecution which invoked the law that allows for remand for charges which carry prison terms of more than two years, especially in case investigations have not been concluded.

“All their charges carry prison terms of above two years (on conviction). Court finds that they should be imprisoned so that they do not escape or try to tamper with evidence, especially since they did not come on their own will,” the judge said.

The two suspects were not with their lawyers on Wednesday.

While they do not deny being members of the FDLR, the suspects claimed that they did not know that the militia group was an outlawed terrorist organisation.

The FDLR comprises remnants of masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

The two joined the outfit when it was still known as Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR). In 2000, ALIR merged with other groups to form FDLR.

For the past 24 years, the militia has been entrenched in DR Congo’s east where they continue to cause humanitarian catastrophe – killing, raping and plundering – as well as launching attacks into Rwanda.

Plea for reintegration

Nkaka and Nsekanabo on Monday told court that having seen developments in the country; they no longer want to be associated with the FDLR.

They contested prosecution’s request for one more month of detention as their case is being investigated.

The militia intelligence chief told court that he is pleading to be reintegrated as this is a chance he cannot waste by trying to return to the Congolese jungle.

Milton Nkuba, Nkaka’s lawyer, on Monday explained that, throughout, his client has cooperated with investigators

The duo was arrested at the Bunagana border, between Uganda and DR Congo, last December.

Nsekanabo told court that it had been his third clandestine mission to Uganda.

The two accused men did not deny that they were arrested while on their way from Ugandan capital, Kampala, where they had been sent by their superiors to liaise with members of the dissident group, Rwanda National Congress.

Court on Monday also heard that during their trip to Uganda, they were received and facilitated by Uganda’s State Minister for Regional Cooperation, Philemon Mateke.

In Uganda, court heard, their talks aimed at forming an FDLR-RNC alliance, aimed at destabilising Rwanda’s security.

They were extradited to Rwanda earlier this year by DR Congo authorities.