Kigali, 11 April 2012.
The defence counsel introduced to the court a former prominent member of the FDLR rebel group, Michel Habimana who had a lot to say about the key prosecution witness, Vital Uwumuremyi in the case against Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Defence counsel brought in this witness in order to explain how the prosecutor’s key witness Major Vital Uwumuremyi was working for intelligence services and thus was instrumental to tailor his testimony to match the prosecutor’s theory of the case.
Michel Habimana and Vital Uwumuremyi were arrested in the same circumstances, shared the same prison cell in military barracks for many months and were well known members of FDLR military wing. In this regard, the defence witness would be in a better position to shed light on the so-alleged collaboration between the FDLR and opposition parties, especially with FDU-INKINGI, and about the unknown CDF rebel group.
Called to the witness box, witness Michel Habimana confessed how they both were approached to help in the planting and inducing evidence against Madame Victoire Ingabire before her return to Rwanda. Michel Habimana also told the court that when they were in detention in Kami military barracks in 2009, under advices of people believed to be intelligence officers, Vital Uwumuremyi tried to recruit him to wage charges and false allegations against Ms. Victoire Ingabire, so she can be thrown out of the race in the upcoming presidential elections. The witness told the court that he has never heard about the so called CDF rebel group, He pointed out that if it ever existed, he would have known.
In all different places where both men were detained together including their incarceration in Gisenyi, Vital Uwumuremyi confessed his intelligence jobs on behalf of the RDF military intelligence to lure his colleagues into deadly traps, ending up captured while trying to meet him. For others, he would indicate where they were hiding and they would be arrested.
He also pointed out that those who were sceptical about his calls narrowly escaped capture, death or forced repatriation. The witness provided the example of an officer named Adolphe lured into an ambush, captured and detained in Kami military intelligence. When they met face to face within the Kami prison, Adolphe was enraged when he saw Vital Uwumuremyi and seized him by the throat accusing him of betrayal…”
The witness highlighted the position and rank of Vital Uwumuremyi within the FDLR as follows: “he has never been a Major. The highest rank he reached was S/Lieutenant. He never completed his secondary school education and was not in the army before 1994. He was a driver before leaving Rwanda and he only received some military training in DRC at the end of 1998. In 2004-2005, he attended a cadet officers training course meant for those who did not complete secondary education and was commissioned S/Lieutenant. Promotions usually happened after 3 years. He could not have been promoted to the rank of major because 3 years had not elapsed when we returned to Rwanda. Even if he had been promoted he could not have jumped to the rank of Major”.
He told the court that when he arrived in Rwanda he went through various detention centres, including military barracks. Later he was told that he had been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia by a Gacaca court. His appeal never took place as he received the summon the day before the appeal hearing. Yet, the law provides for a period of at least 7 days. When he raised this flaw before the appeal chamber, he was told that he had to plead or lose his case. When he insisted on his constitutional rights, he was taken back to cell and up to date, he does not know the fate of his appeal.
Nevertheless, the prosecution alleged that having been sentenced to life imprisonment, the defence witness could not be allowed to adduce any evidence.The defence lawyer objected to the prosecution statement and asked the court at least to hear the witness just for the court ‘s own information. The court ruled that it must be so but added that the witness will not be sworn in.
The witness gave an extended chronology of the launching and the activities of the FDLR in Eastern Congo until the time when it merged with the branch that was in Kinshasa to form the FDLR-FOCA.
Since its inception in 2000-2003, the FDLR FOCA expressed willingness to work with other political parties. The first attempt was with Democratic National Pact (PDN-IGIHANGO) that short-lived. Ever since, there was no more collaboration between the FDLR and other political parties. After the Rome agreement in 2005, internal wrangles split the rebellion into two factions. The original FDLR stayed apart while the FDLR CMC was prone to political collaboration with other political organisations but none of those factions discussed with Ms Ingabire’s political party.
The witness said that as far as the party FDU-INKINGI was concerned, both sides could not find a common ground because FDU-INKINGI was against the military struggle. The party FDU-INKINGI suggested that if there had to be cooperation, the FDLR would go back to Rwanda and work as a political organisation.
When examined on the circumstances of the creation of a so-called Bahama battalion by Lt. Col. Tharcisse Nditurende, witness Michel Habimana explained that the disagreements between commanders flushed out Nditurende, who took with him about 30 oldiers under his command for survival. No action was taken against him by his hierarchy though they suspected he might end up going back to Rwanda as many others had done before.
Defence counsel, Gatera Gashabana, said that he wanted Michel Habimana to say something about the mission that was given to him by intelligence services to go to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to convince other FDLR members to return to Rwanda when he was in detention. Following prosecutor’s objection, the judge ordered that no question could be raised on that issue. In response, the defence counsel said that it was fine if the court was refusing to know the truth.
Then the judge ordered the witness to step out of the courtroom while the counsel complained about the lack of interest for the court to know the truth because of a clear double standard siding too closely with the prosecutor’s wishes to trash the testimony of a witness who has shared for two months a prison cell with its protégé in a military intelligence detention facility within the “Kami barracks” and especially when there is overwhelming evidence that Vital Uwumuremyi was carrying on intelligence missions within the DRC on behalf of the Military Intelligence.
The court asked the counsel to explain how he came to know that Vital Uwumuremyi worked for intelligence services. The counsel responded that evidence could be found in the minutes of the hearing of Prosecutor’s witness Lieutenant Karuta (quote no 55). But still open court discussions on Vital Uwumuremyi’s job for Military Intelligence service were denied and the high court refused to hear details on regular intelligence collaboration even during the detention in Kami military detention.
Today’s hearing shows beyond any doubt the collusion between the prosecution and the court in framing the questions to be asked or not to the witnesses and in blocking the questions that expose the weaknesses of the prosecution case.
In a normal criminal justice system based upon the presumption of innocence and due process, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza would be out of jail and continuing her political career instead of being tried by politically motivated overzealous prosecutors and kangaroo courts.
Interim Vice President