RwandaSpecial Reports

INSIDE STORY: How Rwanda’s Col Byabagamba, Rusagara Fell In Trouble

Former Chief of Staff Rwanda Republican Guard, ambulance Lt Col Tom Byabagamba faces over 15 years in jail as the trial on charges of inciting insurrection, tarnishing the image of the country and concealing an illegally obtained pistol edges closer to an end, Chimp Corps report.

The trial of the once powerful Colonel Byabagamba and Brig Gen (Rtd) Frank Rusagara trial resumed early this month at Military High Court Kanombe.

Prosecution submitted that while deployed on a Tour of duty in South Sudan under the United Nations Mission, Byabagamba blamed the Government of Rwanda for the death of ex spymaster Patrick Karegeya, and a one Major John Sengati.

Dissident Karegeya was in 2014 strangled from his hotel room in South Africa.

President Kagame denied reports that his government had a hand in Karegeya’s killing but did not express any regrets as the fugitive was reportedly working closely with negative forces to topple the ruling establishment through war.

During the trial, Byabagamba’s lawyers Valerie Gakunzi and Albert Ngirabatware described the accusations as contradictory and baseless.

The defence said Byabagamba served diligently and executed his mandate with profound professionalism which was highly recognised by the RDF.

The court also heard different testimonies brought in court by the Prosecution whereby at least five RDF senior officers testified in statements how Rusagara was disseminating words aimed at discrediting the Government and particularly the Head of State.


During its oral argument before the Court, the Prosecution disclosed that Rusagara “used to talk to different high ranking serving military officers telling them that their Commander-In-chief was ‘finished’; and went on feeding the officers with propaganda celebrating negative forces,”.

According to testimonies heard in court Rusagara was sympathising with dissidents outside the country such as Rwanda National Congress (RNC) whose he used to chant merit and called other officers to follow their political programs on their radio.

During the hearing Rusagara and his lawyer Buhuru denied the charges saying they are baseless.

Byabagamba and his co-accused at Kanombe military court this year
Byabagamba and his co-accused at Kanombe military court this year

Long term jail sentence

As the trial comes to a close, a close look at the penal code shows the accused face long term jail sentences in case they are found guilty.

Article 463 of the Penal Code provides that, “Any person who, by speeches held in meetings or public places, or writings, images or emblems, any posters, sold or on sale or displayed to the public, knowingly spreads rumours, excites the population against established Government, or incites or attempts to incite citizens against each other or attempts to alarm the population with intention to cause trouble on the national territory of the Republic of Rwanda, shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of ten (10) years to fifteen (15) years.”

Byabagamba also is battling charges of tarnishing the image of the country which could attract a punishment of 5 years for a conviction and “concealing objects which were used or meant to commit an offence contrary to Article 327 of the Penal Code.”

Article 660 of the Penal Code states penalties for a leader who tarnishes the image of the Country or the Government: “Any authority who commits an act aimed at tarnishing the image of the Country or the Government, shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of three (3) years to five (5) years and a fine of one million (1,000,000) to five million (5,000,000) Rwandan francs.”

The Penal Code (Article 671) provides the punishment for possessing, selling, manufacturing, falsification of identification marks, distribution and importing arms.

“Any person who illegally possesses, lends or gives an arm, or falsifies its identification marks, shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of six (6) months to one (1) year and a fine of three hundred thousand (300,000) to three million (3,000,000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties. Any person who illegally and in any way imports, stocks, sells, manufactures or distributes arms, or their parts, shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of more than five (5) years to seven (7) years and a fine of five hundred thousand (500.000) to five million (5.000.000) Rwandan francs,” it reads.

What happened?

An investigation by ChimpReports shows that in 2014, Col. Byabagamba who was literally the commander of the highly trained military unit that guards the president, and his colleagues were arrested and detained under a at Murindi Military prison.

General Rusagara was previously the G1 – General Staff Officer in Charge of Personnel and Administration, Director of Finance, Secretary General (Permanent Secretary) of the Ministry of Defence, President of the Rwanda Military Court and Commandant of the Rwanda Military Academy, Nyakinama.

According to friends and family, Rusagara, was not happy with being sent to United Kingdom as a military attaché at the Rwanda embassy.

To him, the new assignment appeared to be a demotion.

“He tried to show his anger about the perceived demotion up to when he retired in 2013. The government learnt that he was bitter but did not act,” recounts a source.

However, his grumbling and reckless accusations worsened when he retired from the army.

“He started going to the Tennis Club here in Kigali where he would be heard engaging in subversive propaganda. At one time he was recorded by intelligence praising the opposition Rwanda National Congress, saying it was getting stronger and that President Kagame was a liar,” a highly placed source revealed.

Headed by exiled fugitive General Kayumba Nyamwasa, the RNC is accused by Kigali of building networks with the DRC-based genocidal group, FDLR, to blow up bombs in Rwanda which left dozens dead and many more injured.

The source told this investigative website that “Rusagara would get drunk on waragi and start telling all who wanted to hear how Kagame’s government would be defeated by negative forces. So he would talk and talk, and was warned on several occasions by his superiors to avoid such inflammatory remarks but he would pretend that he has listened only to resume the following day.”

Family members in Uganda said Rusagara was frustrated by the army’s failure to promote him to the rank of Major General or General yet he was an intellectual.

Rusagara holds an MA in International Security Studies from the University of Nairobi, Kenya and a B.Com Degree from Makerere University, Kampala – Uganda and held several portfolios in policy formulation and implementation as a Senior Officer of the Government of Rwanda in the Ministry of Defence.

Around August 2014, the family member revealed, matters worsened when Rusagara started frequenting bars almost on a daily basis to disparage president Kagame, RPF and the government.

“We think he was frustrated and desperate. He kept on saying the government would fall soon but did not say how.” His arrest and prosecution was a matter of time.


It should be remembered that Rusagara is a brother in-law to Byabagamba.

Byabagamba was the head of the President’s security, and part of his close security ever since the RPF struggle in the 1990s.

Many in security looked at him as Kagame’s “son” given his loyalty and commitment to maintain a solid security ring for the head of state.

However, in one reshuffle, Byabagamba was transferred from the Republican Guard to head a new Anti Terrorism desk.

This transfer reportedly angered Byabagamba.

“Both Rusagara and Byabagamba had a false sense of entitlement. But as institutions grow, changes in leadership are inevitable,” said a source who preferred to speak anonymously given the sensitivity of the story.

“Tom (Byabagamba) had become so unpopular in the Republican Guard among the rank and file due to his arrogance, segregation and disrespectful attitude towards his juniors,” he added.

It is said President Kagame acted against Byabagamba after young soldiers in the Republican Guard committed suicide due to the latter’s highhandedness.

“Some soldiers deserted the army or took their own life because of being stretched to the limit. So when he was kicked out, he started talking ill of the establishment and preaching dissent to friends and others which caused more tensions in the armed forces,” a highly placed source narrated on Tuesday.


Byabagamba was reportedly warned several times by superiors but then he could not take the fact that he is no longer head of presidential security and kept on bad-mouthing the president, the government and the party.

In a bid to encourage him to reform, Byabagamba was sent on a peacekeeping mission in Darfur. His views on the establishment did not change.

Byabagamba is a brother to David Himbara who fled Rwanda after being demoted from the powerful position of Strategic and Policy Unit to mere advisor.

Byabagamba is said to have maintained close communication with Himbara and other RNC figures, raising more concerns about his intentions.


Around October 2014, police learnt that Rusagara had imported two guns, one from Israel and another from South Africa.

“These were not the ones allocated to him by the government (which he should by law return on retirement as stipulated). He will explain to court why he secretly procured these guns,” a source noted.

Sources say given his utterances, Rusagara would have used his new guns to commit a high level crime.

Moments after arrest, Rusagara instructed his driver François Kabayiza to take the guns for hiding at Byabagamba’s house in Kigali.

Security was quick to learn about the plot thus moving in on Byabagamba and Rusagara’s driver who were both apprehended after the discovery of the hidden guns.

Back to top button
Translate »

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker