November 9, 2019

Court Hears That 700 Congolese Refugees Joined Rebel Group of Exiled Rwandan General

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Here the 5 accused appeared on October 24. Clemence Mukeshimana is the only woman in the group. She was deputy head of Kiziba refugee camp. She is the one currently giving her defense

A court trying Congolese refugees has heard that Rwanda government deployed security forces at a refugee camp to stop exodus of refugees leaving to join rebel group.

The information was divulged during the ongoing trial of five Congolese refugees in connection with protests that took place there February 22-23, 2018. This group, according to prosecution, were the leaders of Kiziba refugee camp in Karongi district who also mobilised others leading to deadly demonstrations.

In the session which took place all day Thursday November 7, Clemence Mukeshimana, who was deputy leader of the camp and is out on bail, continued with her defense. She is the only woman in the group.

Prosecution has tabled recordings of supposed interviews she had on BBC and VOA great lakes services in which she makes unfounded allegations against the government of Rwanda. Mukeshimana says government was deliberately starving them and was not allowing them to go back to their country DRC.

These audio recordings and documents purportedly prepared by the camp leaders are some of the pieces of prosecution evidence in the case. Other documents show the group demanding Rwanda either improves camp conditions, sends the refugees to third country, or lets them go back to DRC.

As a result, the refugees are facing charges including spreading rumours intent on undermining government internationally, insurrection, holding illegal demonstration and attacking security forces.

In the dock for her defense, Mukeshimana and her lawyer admit she had BBC and VOA interviews, but dispute the audios presented by prosecution as fabricated from YouTube. They say prosecution did not write to VOA and BBC to get authentic audios.

Mukeshimana told the court sitting in Karongi district, packed to capacity with others watching from windows, that in the 22 years she had lived in Kiziba refugee camp, she had never seen soldiers and police deployed anywhere near the camp until February 2018.

She says government was given false information that over 700 refugees had left to join a rebel group in Uganda led by ex-Rwanda army chief Lt Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa. It this information, she says, that led government to deploy in and around the camp.

Reacting to this claim, prosecution team said such narrative was coming from the accused and not part of their charge sheet.

The latest defense by Mukeshimana follows that of October 24 in which she said prosecutors are not telling court the “real reason” why they are being prosecuted.

ALSO READ: Congolese Refugees Tell Court Rwanda Government Is Not Revealing Real Reason For Their Prosecution

On February 22-23, 2018, angry protests broke out in the Kiziba refugee camp, home to more than 17,000 Congolese. Carrying placards and chanting, they matched to the local UN refugee agency UNHCR office in Karongi town and local government offices.

In the chaos that followed, and continued inside the camp, 11 refugees were killed. The victims were buried near the camp by the refugees themselves. Some of the anti-riot police officers also sustained serious injuries.

The session continues December 31.

Meanwhile, there is also a separate trial of 26 refugees from same camp over the same incidents.

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