When Rwandan police last month arrested eight people suspected of working with an armed group operating out of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), they brought to light the existence of a little-known coalition of opposition parties going by the name Platform Five (P5).
The eight — Gratien Nsabiyaremye, Evode Mbarushimana, Leonille Gasengayire, Boniface Twagirimana, Fabien Twagirayezu, Erneste Nkiko, Papias Ndayishimiye and Norbert Ufitamahoro — were accused of organising and recruiting for the newly formed armed wing of P5. They are expected to go on trial before the end of this month or early November as prosecutors are still gathering evidence.
Janvier Twagirayezu, a lecturer at a government vocational college was acquitted after it was found that he was not linked to the group.
The underground organisation that operates in exile, was founded in June 2016 when the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), a breakaway faction led by Dr Theogene Rudasingwa; Union Democratic Forces-FDU Inkingi, the unregistered party of jailed opposition politician Victoire Umuhoza Ingabire; and Parti Sociale Imberakuri, the unregistered faction led by Bernard Ntaganda; and the little-known Europe-based PDP Imanzi and Amahoro PC, came together to form a coalition which they named Platform Five.
According to court records, Ndayishimiye and Ufitamahoro admitted to have been arrested while heading to DR Congo to join P5, while the rest, including Twagirimana, the acting head of FDU Inkingi and Gasengayire, a treasurer and co-ordinator of the same political organisation, denied the charges.
Last week, the Nyarugenge Intermediate Court denied the suspects bail on grounds that they were a flight risk or would jeopardise investigations.
According to state prosecutors, intercepted messages showed that the suspects had formed the armed organisation under P5 and it had already been recruiting people in and outside Rwanda.
“The suspects are in close contact with Maj Faustin Ntilikina, who is co-ordinating the activities of P5 at global level,” the prosecutor said adding that Rwandan authorities were investigating Ntilikina for criminal activities.
Maj Ntilikina, a former officer in the army during President Juvénal Habyarimana's reign, lives in France and has been out of the public limelight until recently when this son, Frank Ntilikina, a professional basketball player, was signed by the NBA’s New York Knicks.
Rwandan authorities say Maj Ntilikina is actively involved in activities aimed at toppling the government through violent means.
Mr Nsabiyaremye is said to have admitted being in touch with a senior FDLR member through social media and had used financial enticement to recruit Ndayishimiye and Ufitamahoro into P5. The two were however intercepted in the southwestern town of Rusizi, before they could enter DR Congo.
The lawyers of the detained suspects however say that P5 is not a known political organisation and if it exists, it certainly has no means or capacity to overthrow the government.
“The suspects have all been in Rwanda for the past two years, meaning that even if P5 exists, there is no proof that they are involved in it,” says Gatera Gashabana, one of the lawyers of the arrested opposition members.
Antoinette Mukamusoni, also a lawyer of the suspects says that the individuals were engaged in legal mobilisation of support, aimed at registering and establishing the unregistered party of Ms Ingabire and did not engage in any criminal activities.
Human Rights Watch however termed the arrest and pending trial as part of the growing government pressure on political opponents.
Kigali dismissed the allegations.