Rwanda: Military Prosecution Seeks Life for 23 Kinigi Assailants

25 November 2021

Military prosecution has called for life sentences for all the assailants who took direct part in the October 5, 2019 deadly attack that the P5 militia group carried out against civilians in Kinigi sector, Musanze district.

During the attacks, 15 people lost their lives, 14 were injured, and property was looted or destroyed.

P5 is an umbrella organisation that brought together five different anti-Rwanda outfits including Rwanda National Congress (RNC), RUD Urunana, FDU Inkingi, PS Imberakuri and PDP Imanzi.

These are part of the bigger group of 38 militia operating under the P5 umbrella who were arrested at different times from both within and outside the country.

The trial has been going on since May this year, at the Military High Court.

During the hearing on Wednesday, prosecution, which was represented by Captain Lieven Kayihura, initially summed up cases of seven suspects who took direct part in the attack and were arrested on Rwandan territory, seeking a maximum sentence.

They include Selemani Kabayija, the deputy commander of the assailants during the attacks, Theoneste Habumukiza, Emmanuel Hakizimana, Alex Ndayisaba, Fidèle Nzabonimpa, Jean Damascène Ntigurirwa and Bahati Umaziminsi.

They face multiple counts including murder, accessory to murder, armed robbery, joining an illegal armed group, joining a criminal group, terrorism, battery, conspiring with a foreign government aiming to wage war against Rwanda, and attempting to use war to remove the current government.

Reacting to prosecution's submission, the defendants' lawyer (all the seven suspects have one lawyer) urged that the life-sentence was a hefty one for his clients.

He noted that though his clients were cooperative during the trial, they never pleaded guilty to the capital offenses and gave reasons absolving them of the crimes of conspiring with a foreign government aiming to wage war against Rwanda, and attempting to use war to remove the current government.

It should be noted that the defendants earlier told court that they did not really share in the P5's motives of removing the government of Rwanda by use of war, since they were just tricked into joining militia by people who promised them jobs in DR Congo.

In addition, they said they did not have any dealings with the Ugandan government aimed at waging war against Rwanda, since they did not have the capacity to deal with the political figures in the neighbouring country.

Some of the accused were apparently recruited from Uganda and prosecution has previously said that they were facilitated to cross into DR Congo where they had their base by Ugandan security operatives.

Tackling the other charges, the defence lawyer said that murder, accessory to murder, battery and armed robbery should be presented as one crime: terrorism - which has a penalty of 15 to 20 years in prison, which can be even lower due to mitigating circumstances.

"They admitted to court that they did these things, and even asked for forgiveness. This should be a mitigating circumstance," he said.

"They are young people. I guess among them there, only one is above 30 years of age. They were taught bad things and they went on to take part in them. However, now they can be rehabilitated and become good citizens," he added.

The trial will continue on Thursday and military prosecution will continue with final submissions on the remaining suspects.

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