Dark Clouds Hovering over Zambia/Rwanda Diplomatic Relations as Terrorism Sponsorship Allegation gains Attention

Lusaka and Kigali are publicly trying to downplay the gravity of the allegations emerging from the hearing of Rwandan terror suspect, Calixte Nsabimana Monday. In his submission to the Rwandan High Court for International and Cross-border Crimes, Nsabimana named President Edgar Lungu as a key ally and enabler of his group’s activities on Zambian territory, several Rwandan and international media outlets have reported.

According to a story published Monday July 13 by the news outfit, Kigali Today, the High Court in the Special Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes sitting in Nyanza District Monday, reopened the trial of terror suspect Nsabimana who pleaded guilty to all 17 charges brought against him, including terrorism and treason.

Kigali Today also revealed in its report that when trial reopened, Nsabimana, who was a self-proclaimed ‘Major” in the National Liberation Forces (FLN) named President Lungu as supportive of their activities in allowing them space to operate in his country to overthrow the Rwandan government. The Paper noted that it was not the first time Nsabimana, who was arrested and deported to Rwanda in 2019, alleged that Zambia had facilitated him and others to coordinate their activities. He also mentioned Uganda and Burundi as co-enablers of their actions.

A Rwandan government official who offered to speak to Timescape on conditions of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press on the issue, said “The allegation is too serious to be ignored, it needs further investigations”.

He noted, however, that it was difficult to tell what the motivation for such an allegation was, more especially that the revelation was “…coming from a suspect other than a credible source”.

The alleged crimes were committed when Nsabimana was Spokesperson for the FLN, an armed terrorist organization founded by the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), a political organization created by Paul Rusesabagina, among other members. 

Zambia’s official reaction in the wake of the indictment of President Lungu by an accused person undergoing trial was not long in coming. In a statement, a copy of which was handed to Timescape, the Zambian State House refuted the media reports “…suggesting that Zambian President Edgar Lungu has allegedly provided financial resources to a named Rwandan organization to launch attacks in Rwanda…”, as false. 

“Republic of Zambia State House would like to categorically refute these claims and wishes to state unequivocally that these allegations are false and must be treated with the contempt they deserve,” the statement read.

The Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations, Isaac Chipampe, said the governments and peoples of Zambia and Rwanda “…continue to enjoy strong and fraternal relations founded on mutual respect and a common purpose based on shared values and principles”.

However, Zambia’s Financial Intelligence Centre’s 5th money laundering and terrorist financing trends report for 2018 on page 21, case number 3 cites suspected terrorist financing recommended for further investigation to competent authorities. The reports indicate that a suspected terrorist, financing two foreign nationals X and Y incorporated company D in Zambia.

“Company D held bank accounts with bank B. Mr. X requested the bank to amend his name, date of birth and nationality. Upon receipt of this request, the bank-performed customer due diligence and adverse information on the new credentials were revealed. The new name was linked to a terrorist group in Country Q within Africa. Mr. X made multiple forex purchases using his company account to fund his travel from Zambia to the African Country where terrorist activities are rampant. The forex purchases by Mr. X were suspected to be funding terrorist activities in Country Q,” FIC reported.

Zambia’s official statement of denial notwithstanding, an opposition leader in the country, Nason Msoni, President of the All Peoples Congress (APC) told Timescape that the statement from State House leaves more questions than answers. He wondered why the suspect just singled out President Lungu in the first place amongst all the other presidents of Africa.

Nason Msoni, President of the All Peoples Congress- APC  (C) Lusaka Voice

“In view of the seriousness of the allegations made against Mr. Lungu and Zambia, it is prudent for Mr. Lungu to be joined to the ongoing proceedings so that he can have an opportunity to defend himself and Zambia from these damaging allegations instead of issuing a halfhearted denial whilst here in Zambia”.

Mr. Msoni said the allegations were rather too serious to be treated in this casual manner by State House. “This matter has serious repercussions and borders on the entire national security of the country,” he warned.

Maheba Refugee Settlement in Kalumbila District of North Western Province of Zambia (C) Data.unhcr.org-UNHCR

In May 2018, the Zambian government  granted temporal residence permits to 1,468 former Rwandan refugees at the Maheba Refugee Settlement in Kalumbila District of North Western Province, marking the beginning of a process to integrate  about 4,000 refugees in Zambia, some of whom have been living in the country for more than 24 years.

According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) the government and people of Zambia have shown legendary generosity and hospitality toward refugees from various countries.

The UNHCR indicates that in 2019 Zambia hosted at least 85, 871 refugees and other persons of concern, representing an increase of 13 percent from 2018’s figure of 76,027. The persons of concern mainly live in Meheba Settlement, in North-Western Province, Mayukwayukwa in Western Province and Mantapala, in Luapula Province.