Rwanda: Ugandans, Burundians Among Captured RNC Militia Combatants

A military police officer takes hand-cuffs off suspects at the Military Tribunal in Nyamirambo, Kigali.

Four Burundian and three Ugandan nationals are part of a group of 25 RNC combatants arrested in neighbouring DR Congo before they were arraigned in a military court in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Wednesday.

The group, which was charged with four counts each at the Military Tribunal in Nyamirambo, also includes one Tanzanian-born Malawian national.

The Burundian nationals include Jean Minani, 37, who was born in Kayanza commune, who worked as a mason before joining the Rwandan militia; Jean Marie Nsabimana, 28, from Kibitoke region; and Janvier Nsengiyumva, 42, from Mbuye, Burundi.

The fourth is Jean de Dieu Ndirariha, aged 23, a Primary Two dropout who was selling doughnuts before joining RNC.

The Ugandan nationals include Suleiman Lubwama, from Lubaga in the capital Kampala. The father of six was born in Lukaya, Masaka district, court heard.

The other two Ugandans who had joined the RNC militia and were among those arraigned before court on Wednesday were identified as Fred Desederiyo, 23, from Mubende district; and a one Joseph Katwere. Deserediyo was a farmer before joining the militia in Congolese jungles.

The eighth foreign national, a Malawian, is Lambert Ribanje, who was born in 1996 in Rumazi camp in Tanzania. He studied up to Senior Two.

Uganda and Burundi have severally been linked to anti-Rwanda hostilities in recent years, with both countries cited in a UN report released in December last year as major sources of recruits and supplies for DR Congo-based Rwandan rebel outfits.

All the 25 suspects have been charged with four counts, including; being part of an unlawful military outfit, treason, forming an illegal military outfit, and conniving with foreign countries to destabilise Rwanda.

Led by South Africa-based fugitive Kayumba Nyamwasa, Rwanda National Congress, or RNC, is a terrorist organisation blamed for a spate of grenade attacks in Rwanda between 2010 and 2014 that killed at least 17 people and injured over 400 others.

The most senior member of the group that was produced before court today is retired army Major Habib Madhatiru, 53, a former officer in the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), who's walking on crutches due to a leg injury he sustained at the time of his capture.

Most of the captured combatants, including Madhatiru, were recruited by RNC operatives from Uganda before travelling to DR Congo through Burundi, where they were received by military officers and were given weapons, prosecution said, providing particular details for each case.

RNC operatives were particularly targeting demobilised soldiers for recruitment, court heard.

Congolese forces have in recent months stepped up operations against armed groups in the country's east and recently killed "Lt Gen" Sylvester Mudacumura, the commander of genocidal FDLR outfit.

FDLR is an offshoot of the forces and militia groups that crossed into DR Congo from Rwanda after playing a major part in the slaughter of more than a million people during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

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