Rwanda: P5 Militia Members Claim They Were Tricked to Join Group

At least five men belonging to P5 coalition, a militia group of which RUD - Urunana is a member and which is responsible for attacks against citizens of Musanze district in 2019, have claimed that they were tricked into joining the outfit, and were kept in it against their will.

They made the claims on Thursday, June 10 during a hearing at the Military High Court, where they, along with 32 others are being tried in connection to the attacks against civilians in villages of Kinigi and Musanze sectors in Musanze District during the night of October 5, 2019.

During the attack, at least 15 people were killed and 14 injured before the assailants were repulsed by Rwanda Defence Force, which captured some of them.

Both the RUD-Urunana and P5 militia groups have bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

During Thursday's hearing, the suspects continued to present their defence to court, and here, it was the turn for members of the P5 militia who are part of the group, to address.

Unlike their counterparts who were captured during the attacks, these were not on ground during the attacks, they had remained back in the DR Congo.

They include, among others, Fred Kananura, Jean Hategekimana, Juvenal Hakizimana, Abdoul Ngendabanga and Claude Nyandwi.

They are among those that were apprehended during an offensive against armed groups by Congolese soldiers, which intensified a few years back.

Congolese authorities later handed them over to Rwanda.

The group pleaded guilty to a single charge of being part of an illegal armed group.

They pleaded not guilty to the rest of the charges, specifically those that link them with the terror activities by P5 and RUD Urunana. They reasoned that, besides not having played a role in the Musanze attacks, they were in the militia against their will.

They claimed that they were tricked into joining the armed group by some people promised them well-paying jobs, and thus seduced them to travel to the DRC, only to conscript them into military activities.

The suspects claim they were recruited from Uganda and Burundi.

They argued that once one found themselves in the militia, it was difficult to leave because of the risks involved, especially the fact that a person who tried to escape would be killed.

However, these claims were dismissed by the military prosecutor in the case who said that the suspects had not presented any evidence to show that they joined the militia group against their will.

"If they say they traveled to the DRC for jobs, they should show us evidence that they really traveled for that. For example, let them present appointment letters or any document that shows they were really going there for work," he said.

He further told court that if they wanted to escape, they would have done so since there was chance for it.

For example, he pointed out one of them who was in charge of communications, and had opportunity to move from place to place, and if indeed he didn't subscribe to their actions, he had several opportunities to break away from the group.

The case continues on June 22 to 24.

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