KIGALI – Self-styled Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Nsabimana alias Maj. Sankara on Thursday May 23, pleaded guilty to the 16 charges terrorism he stands accused of in a Rwandan court.
He named Uganda’s Chief of Military Intelligence Brig-Gen. Abel Kandiho and Burundi military officials as backers of numerous attacks on President Paul Kagame’s regime including the famous Nyungwe Forest attack that saw government forces hit hard.
Maj. Sankara pleaded guilty to all the 16 charges he faces including terrorism.
He spent most of the morning giving details of how, among others, Ugandan intelligence supported rebel outfit National Liberation Force (FLN)’s attacks in and around Nyungwe National Park.
Until his arrest in April this year, Maj. Sankara was the group’s spokesperson.
The group last year allegedly launched sporadic attacks on East Africa’s smallest country, killing nine people and leaving scores injured.
Rwandan authorities say the group also abducted several others, burnt vehicles, and looted and that group fled back into Burundi, a neighboring but rival State to Rwanda.
Maj. Sankara said that in a bid to find allies within the region, FLN was constantly in touch a Burundian external intelligence officer who he only identified as Maj. Bertin alias Moses.
Rwandan intelligence says FLN is affiliated to another outfit known as MRCD, which is led by Rwandan dissident Paul Rusesabagina, and is also part of the P.5, an amalgamation of groups with training bases in DR Congo that seeks oust Kagame iron-fisted administration.
Maj. Sankara alleged that Major Bertin was instrumental in helping FLN rebels to move from DR Congo to Burundi’s Cibitoke area, then Kibira Forest before they crossed over to Rwanda’s Nyungwe forest where they hit government forces hard.
On Uganda connection, he claimed the Burundian officer, through a one Capt. Sunday Charles from Uganda, set up a meeting between FLN and Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI); Brig-Gen Abel Kandiho.
“When the meeting was confirmed, a decision was made to send Barnabe Sinayobye and another officer. When they got to Uganda, Gen. Kandiho was not available due to other commitments but he sent a Colonel who I learnt works in external intelligence to represent him,” he said.
Maj. Sankara said that the meeting between his team and Uganda’s CMI rotated around FLN’s appeal for both military and diplomatic support from Uganda.
“In our meeting, we asked for their military support and backing in terms of diplomatic relations and received a positive answer. By the time of my arrest last month, we were planning to go back to Uganda to finalize the deal,” he said.
Maj. Sankara faces 16 counts including terrorism, murder, kidnapping, genocide denial, arson, armed robbery, forgery, and causing bodily harm.
In his submissions, the Rwanda’s prosecutor, Oscar Butera, said that among the counts include one of conniving with foreign governments with an aim to wage war on Rwanda.
“While Uganda provided arms, Burundi allowed passage. Nsabimana (Sankara) himself recruited 30 people from Uganda and sent them to DR Congo for military training,” Butera alleged.
He alleged that Maj. Sankara’s revelation corroborates with the report of UN Group of Experts, which cited Uganda in facilitating the recruitment drive for the outfit.
The two FDLR officers – Ignace Nkaka, the outfit’s spokesperson, and Lt Col Jean-Pierre Nsekanabo, its head of the intelligence – were arrested at the DR Congo border.
According to Rwandan Media outlets, the meeting in Kampala was chaired by the Ugandan State Minister for Regional Affairs Philemon Mateke. Rwanda alleges that the meeting was also attended by a delegation of another anti-Kigali outfit, Rwanda National Congress, among others.
Relations between Rwanda and Uganda have soured in recent past in the wake of a raft of grievances against the Kampala establishment, including alleged persecution and illegal arrest, torture and irregular deportation of Rwandans.
Kigali also launched a media campaign against Uganda, quoting a number of Rwandans, testifying about torture meted out on them by Ugandan security operatives, mainly CMI agents, working with Rwandan dissidents, “after refusing to join anti-Kigali armed groups.”
Both CMI’s Brig. Kandiho and Capt. Sunday are also named in the report by the UN Group of Experts, which showed that Uganda was facilitating Rwandan dissidents to destabilise the country.
The UN report also said the rebel outfits were actively recruiting from Uganda.