Friday August 29 2014

Kagame’s former top security guard in court


By Ignatius Ssuuna

Col Tom Byabagamba, the former head of the Republican Guard, a highly trained elite force that guards President Paul Kagame has appeared in military court in Kigali where he faces charges including spreading propaganda against the state and concealing information that threatens state security, among other charges.

Col. Byabagamba appeared in Nyamirambo military court together with Brig. Frank Rusagara and a driver Sgt (rtd) Francois Kabayiza who face similar charges.

Brig. Rusagara, was the first to be arrested on Monday last week, before investigations led to the arrest of Capt. Kabuye, a businessman, and then Col. Byabagamba. Capt. Kabuye was not produced in court.

At the time of their arrest, Rwanda’s defence and Military spokesperson, Brig Gen Joseph Nzabamwita said, the trio were suspected of committing “crimes against state security”.

Col. Byabagamba was removed as head of the Republican guard in 2011 and taken to RDF to head the anti-terrorism docket. He recently returned from a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.

The accused pleaded not guilty to the charges and the hearing continues on September 5. The court was packed as friends and relatives came to follow the proceedings.

Rusagara was retired from the army in October last year and also served as Rwanda's Defence Attaché to the United Kingdom.

Before his UK posting, Brig Gen Rusagara served as the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence as well as the head of Nyakinama Military College. Capt Kabuye is a businessman and married to Rose Kabuye, former director of State Protocol.

President Kagame has said in the past that army officers get arrested because the army in Rwanda does not tolerate indiscipline.

However, Kagame’s critics in exile have accused the President of “purging” whoever has divergent views from the President and his inner circle. Colonel Byabagamba is married to Mary Baine, former Rwanda Revenue Authority boss.

Meanwhile, a Military High Court in Kanobe, postponed the ruling of a case involving Lt Joel Mutabazi, President Paul Kagame’s former bodyguard and 15 others.

They face charges including threatening state security by planning terror attacks in Rwanda, inciting the masses against the government, spreading false information with the aim of tarnishing the image of the country, conspiracy to murder and threatening the life of the head of state among other charges.

The judgement has been adjourned until September 12. The presiding judge Maj. Bernard Rugamba Hategekimana said the delay was due to flesh evidence that came up and court needed more time to examine it before making their final decision.

The trial of Lt Mutabazi, who was arrested and extradited from Uganda last year under mysterious circumstances, has been marred by evidence and testimony retractions, forcing the judges to postpone it.

Lt Mutabazi has maintained innocence and asked the court not consider the request of the prosecution who has sought life sentence for him