In interviews with BBC and VOA Kinyarwanda, NSABIMANA Callixte a.k.a Maj Callixte Sankara sounded a man in charge. His fight with the National University of Rwanda back in 2008 showed him as courageous and outspoken. In court today, he was complete opposite; pale, inaudible and looking malnourished.
At 8;40am, the Gasabo Intermediate Court opened for the first hearing of the case in which state prosecutors detailed 16 charges against the 34year-old. Sankara, through his lawyer Moise Nkundabarashi (which means “I like shooters”), filed bail application.
Prosecutor, who unusually did not reveal his names, detailed charges including: Formation of illegal armed group, terrorism for political benefit, participating in terror acts, involvement with terrorist group, kidnapping, spread false propaganda, looting, denying the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, using forged documents and armed robbery.
In starting his defence, Sankara pleaded guilty to all the 16 charges, but only commented on 3 of them. Particularly, he said FLN attacks had killed civilians, yet the rebels had been ordered to attack only military targets.
The ex-FLN spokesman said: “How can you go on radios to defend killing innocent civilians? It would have been easier to speak if the targets were soldiers killed. I told Maj Gen Sinayobye Barnabé about (Rwanda army) statement on the attack…and he denied they had killed any civilians, saying that [RDF] are liars.”
Sankara then said: “I apologise to the victims’ families, all Rwandans and the President of the Republic.”
He added: “What I can add is that as a person who studied law, I know the consequences of a long legal process. I can confirm that am not ready to continue fighting the charges against me because whatever I did was in the open, in fact even birds in the sky can be witnesses.”
Here are some of what we know after today’s appearance?
Comoros: Today, the Prosecutor confirmed that Sankara was arrested in the Indian Ocean Island of Comoros on April 14. However, in the press conference where Sankara was first displayed, Mbabazi Modeste, spokesman of the Rwandan Investigations Bureau (RIB) said Sankara was arrested April 13.
News of his arrest was first reported on the morning of April 15, by Comoros media.
Sankara’s sunglasses: For years, since he began dissident activities in South Africa with the Rwandan National Congress (RNC) of Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, Sankara always appears in dark sunglasses. In court today, the Prosecutor explained that Sankara was found with four different sunglasses and three cellphones. Prosecution also said Sankara has been using the glasses to disguise himself and camouflage.
Lesotho: On capture, Sankara was found with Lesotho passport under the names Kabera Joseph, born from Masisi, DR Congo. It was acquired in 2013. Sankara paid 5,000 South African Rands (Rwf 311,000). Prosecution says it is a fake passport.
FLN Command Structure: In court today, Sankara mentioned “Maj Gen Sinayobye Barnabé” as the one who commands FLN incursions into Rwanda. Barnabé Sinayobye alias Morane is former commander with FDLR.
On May 31, 2016, Sinayobye and more than 50 militia commanders, led by the Second Vice-President of FDLR, “Colonel” Laurent Ndagijimana (also known as Wilson Irategeka), defected to create a new group called National Council for Renewal and Democracy or CNRD-UBWIYUNGE.
On March 18 last year, six dissident groups including CNRD-UBWIYUNGE, PDR-Ubumwe of Paul Rusesabagina (character of “Hotel Rwanda” movie) announced they had merged. They formed ‘Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD)’, with Rusesabagina as head, based in France and U.S.
In the same way that FDLR has a military wing called FOCA, MRCD has its own military wing, the Front de libération nationale (FLN). FLN consists of two operational sectors, one in DR Congo’s North Kivu and one in South Kivu, with two geographical axes in each.
No FLN bases in Nyungwe: According to Sankara in court today, FLN does not have any bases in Nyungwe forest national park, shared with Burundi. Instead, for all the attacks they have done, like December 15 last year, which killed 6 people and left 28 injured, the group treks from South Kivu, via Burundi into Nyungwe. It is from here that they attack and flee back to Congo, according to Sankara.
President Pierre Nkurunziza: Sankara also gave surprising information about Burundi. He said the corridor in Burundi through Cibitoke is provided by Burundi intelligence officers who let FLN through. Sankara affirmed that Burundi’s president Pierre Nkurunziza and senior military figures were not involved. This particular information is surprising because the government of Rwanda has repeatedly accused Burundi’s government.
Uganda: Sankara also told court that FLN has contact with Brig Abel Kandiho, head of Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). However, they never met him face to face.
However, during the presentation of the 16 charges, the prosecutor said Burundi government was providing bases for FLN and Uganda government was the source of funding.
Prosecution says Sankara is a security risk and cannot be let free. Defense lawyer Nkundabarashi outlined several rights Sankara has including constitutional right to bail.
In his final submission in the more than 2hr session, Sankara said from today, everything FLN does should be on them.
The court will deliver bail verdict on May 28, at 3pm.
Addition reporting by Celestin Ndereyehe who was in court
You can also find us on Signal