Rwandan musician pleads guilty to plot to attack government

06 November 2014 - 18:58 By AFP

A popular Rwandan musician appealed for leniency Thursday after pleading guilty at the opening of his trial to plotting attacks on the country's leaders.

Kizito Mihigo is on trial along with three co-accused on charges including conspiracy to murder, complicity in a terrorist act and conspiring against the government of Rwandan strongman and President Paul Kagame.

"I plead guilty to all charges, like I did from the first day I was arrested, and I ask for forgiveness," Mihigo told the court.

However, his lawyer John Bigaraba said there was no evidence for all the charges.

His co-accused, demobilised soldier Jean Paul Dukuzumuremyi and Cassien Ntamuhanga, a journalist, as well as Agnes Niyibizi, all denied the charges.

The arrests come as Rwanda holds commemorations to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide, but also amid mounting criticism of the alleged suppression of political dissent by President Kagame.

Police, who arrested the four in April, said they planned attacks in revenge for the assassination of a former spy chief and fierce critic of Kagame.

Kigali's former intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, who lived in exile in South Africa, was found strangled to death in a Johannesburg luxury hotel on New Year's Day.

Mihigo is accused of being "in charge of mobilising the youth" for the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition party in exile, as well as the FDLR, Rwandan Hutu rebels who include the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in their ranks and who are based in the forests of neighbouring DR Congo.

Mihigo has admitted to having links with the two groups, although limited to conversations over the Internet.

Prosecutor Faustin Nkusi said Mihigo had discussed in online conversations "overthrowing" the government and had drawn up a list of "people who were to be killed", including Kagame and senior ministers.

The trial continues.