A court in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, has sentenced a former Commander of the Republican Guard, the elite force that guards President Kagame to three years in prison “for stealing a mobile phone”.
Tom Byabagamba, who has been stripped of the rank of colonel, was already serving a 15-year prison sentence for disrespecting the national flag, insurrection and endangering state security.
In 2016, a military court handed him a 21-year sentence, which was later commuted on appeal.
The court heard that he planned to use the phone to escape from prison. He has maintained that all the charges were trumped-up.
Following Tuesday’s ruling, he will now serve 18 years in total.
Mr Byabagamba told the court he was not the kind of person to steal such an “insignificant object”.
He admitted that being caught up in possession of a phone was in violation of prison regulations, but shouldn’t warrant a prison sentence.
Mr Byabagamba told the court his troubles started when his older brother and former senior adviser to the president fled the country and became a vocal critic of Mr Kagame.
A decorated military officer, Byabagamba served as personal bodyguard of President Kagame from 1990 to 2010
Byabagamba was arrested on August 24, 2014. Two years later on March 31, 2016, the Military High Court of Kanombe sentenced Colonel Byabagamba and retired Brigadier General Frank Rusagara to 21 and 20 years in prison respectively, including for inciting insurrection and tarnishing the government’s image.
The prosecution had accused them of criticizing the government, alleging state involvement in assassinations of opponents, and complaining about foreign and economic policy. In the charge sheet, the two are said to have been going around telling whoever bothered to listen; “Our man is finished”, demeaningly referring to President Kagame.
Their appeal was dismissed in December last year by the Court of Appeal, a civilian jurisdiction.
Origin of trouble for Byabagamba
On December 12, 2010, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) was founded by former powerful allies of President Kagame. Dr Himbara was one of the five founders. From then on, Rwanda’s politics changed forever.
It is alleged that President Kagame couldn’t understand how his blue-eyed boy Col Byabagamba could have let his brother betray the President. Though unknown, it is without a doubt that Col Byabagamba had been battling with his inner-self as to what do with his brother, if at all he didn’t know about his RNC plans.