Rwanda: RUD Urunana Case - Deputy Commander in Kinigi Attacks Pleads Not Guilty

Selemani Kabayija, the man who was deputy commander during the attack that the RUD Urunana militia launched against civilians in Musanze in 2019 has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges slapped against him by prosecution.

Kabayija was second in command to Cassien Nshimiyimana alias Gavana, who led the assault on citizens of Kinigi and Musanze sectors in Musanze District, during the night of October 5, 2019, killing 15 people and injuring 14.

They also looted property.

37 suspects belonging to the RUD Urunana group are currently on trial in Rwanda for their responsibility in the attacks.

Many of these were captured during the attack in Musanze, while others were apprehended by UN peacekeepers and the Congolese military during operations against armed groups operating DR Congo

Authorities in DR Congo later sent them to Rwanda

Appearing before court on Wednesday, June 9, the suspects presented their defence in response to the charges that were slapped against them by prosecution.

Among those that spoke to court on the day was Kabayija who faces eight charges including making an illegal armed group and being part of it, having a relationship with a foreign government or its officials (Uganda) with an aim of waging war against Rwanda, being part of a terror group, committing murder and complicity in murder, armed robbery, and among others.

Kabayija pleaded guilty to only a single charge: being part of an illegal armed group.

He denied the rest of the charges - in a rather strange way.

For example, speaking about murder charges, he reasoned that their plan was not to kill citizens, and therefore, they did not attack anyone in their home, but rather, they killed only those who tried to intercept them while on their way to carry out the attacks.

"No one was killed from their homes. The people who died during the attacks were those whom we found on the roads and they tried to intercept us," he said.

However, prosecution argued that the idea of saying that people intercepted the rebels is not valid, especially because the people that were killed were unarmed civilians.

Besides, prosecution also showcased evidence that some of the people were killed from their homes, adding that the militiamen used weapons like hoes and stones against some, since their commander had told them to stop using bullets.

On the charge of having a relationship with the government of Uganda with an aim of waging war against Rwanda, Kabayija argued that he never interacted with any Ugandan government officials, as his lawyer support him by demanding that the prosecutors should produce tangible evidence that pins his client to the allegations.

"Prosecution does not present evidence, for example: are there any phone calls that Kabayija made to foreign government officials? Or was there anything like a meeting he had with them?" he asked.

The prosecutors, however, argued that it is known that RUD Urunana was getting support from Uganda, and Kabayija joined the group knowing that it works with Ugandan officials.

On the charges of armed robbery, Kabayija and his lawyer admitted that the assailants stole some foodstuffs from the community because they were hungry.

In response, a prosecutor asked:

"Does being hungry give someone a right to rob? Besides, it was not only foodstuffs that were robbed, since other property like money and mobile phones were also stolen during the attack."

The hearing also involved a rather ridiculous statement from Kabayija when he told the judges that RUD Urunana attacked Rwanda because FARDC - the Congolese government army had been attacking them in recent times, and thus, they also decided to make an attack.

The judge asked him: "How do you justify the fact that when you are attacked by the FARDC and you decide to make a counter-attack, you make it against innocent Rwandan civilians? And, in addition, you should realise that they were not wrong to attack you, because you were in their territory as an illegal armed group that should not be there."

The case continues on Thursday, June 9.

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