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Rwanda Jails 2 Former Military Officials for Incitement

FILE - Two former Rwanda military officers have been convicted of plotting against the government of President Paul Kagame, shown at the African Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 30, 2016.

Two former senior Rwandan military officers have been sentenced to up to 21 years in jail on charges of inciting the public to cause an insurrection and of linking with exiled critics of President Paul Kagame.

Colonel Tom Byabagamba and retired Brigadier General Frank Kanyambo Rusagara were sentenced by a military court in Kigali. Byabagamba, who once headed Kagame's security detail, got 21 years and Rusagara got 20 years, one of the court’s three judges said late Thursday.

The two were arrested in 2014, and the prosecutor pressed charges linking them to Patrick Karegeya, a former spy chief who opposed Kagame and was killed in 2014 in South Africa.

The prosecution also accused them of connections with another exiled Kagame opponent, former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who survived a 2010 assassination attempt in Johannesburg.

The court found Byabagamba guilty of inciting the public to insurrection, tarnishing the government’s image while holding an official position, obstructing a criminal investigation and disrespecting the national flag, said the judge, Major Narcisse Cyubahiro Nsengiyumva. Rusagara similarly was found guilty of inciting and tarnishing, as well as illegally possessing firearms.

The court also found Rusagara and Byabagamba guilty of spreading the message of the Rwandan National Congress, an opposition group in South Africa whose members included Nyamwasa and Karegeya.

Byabagamba and Rusagara denied the charges throughout the trial and said they planned to appeal the sentences.

Exiled Rwandan opposition members previously accused Kagame and his government of responsibility for Karegeya's death and for attacks on Nyamwasa and other overseas-based critics.

Karegeya fled to South Africa in 2007 after allegedly plotting with Nyamwasa to overthrow Kagame.

Kagame and senior Rwandan officials have denied involvement in attacks on exiled opponents, but have called them traitors who should not expect forgiveness or pity.

The court also sentenced Rusagara's driver, retired Sergeant Francois Kabayiza, to five years in jail and a fine of 500,000 francs ($662) for obstructing a criminal investigation.