Lungu’s possible implication with Rwanda’s major terror suspect mildens his electorate’s support

  • + Trial of terror Nsabimana a.k.a Major Sankara makes heavy accusations against Zambian President 
  • + Zambia denies accusations that Lungu was bankrolling Rwandan Rebels 
  • + Lungu haltingly cleans his image as 2021 elections approach 
Vanguard

Why is Lungu’s heat level mild?

Answer: Lungu losing support after Major Sankara’s declarations. 

On Monday 13th July 2020, before the High Court in the Special Chamber for International and Cross Border Crimes sitting in Nyanza District (in Southern Province, Rwanda), the trial for Rwanda’s terror suspect Callixte Nsabimana a.k.a Major Sankara was reopened. Mr Nsabimana is facing 17 charges, including Formation of an illegal militia group, taking part in terrorist activities, killing, kidnapping and denying and undermining the 1994 genocide, where up to a million Rwandans are estimated to have been murdered between the 7th and 15th July 1994. Such a declaration marked a turning point in Zambia and Rwanda relations, which for a very long time have been classified as “fraternal relations found on mutual respect”. 

Nsabimana accused Zambian President Edgar Lungu of bankrolling Rwandan militia to orchestrate deadly attacks in his country’s border regions. More than the President itself, the Patriotic Front (hereinafter PF), the political party where Lungu belongs to. Nsabimana states that Lungu had made a down payment of $150.000 in support of “rebel attacks to remove President Paul Kagame from power”. In fact, he also accused Burundi and Uganda of facilitating him and other people to coordinate their activities. In turn, the Zambian presidency said it would like to categorically refute these claims. Lungu alleged that the accusations were false and as such must be treated with the contempt they deserve. However, why has the Zambian government decided to deny these accusations in public instead of simply undermining him and label him as a desperate terrorist seeking to mitigate factors over his penalty. 

This leads us to the question of who is Mr Nsabimana? He was a young student who went to South Africa in order to pursue his law studies and eventually attain a PhD. He was fond of this country after he was welcomed by Mike Rwabirinda, a Rwandan who lived in South Africa who convinced him to pursue his studies there. But as we know you should always watch out, and not delegate trust in the first “friend” that passes by. Unfortunately, Mr Rwabirinda had hidden intentions, he worked on Radio Itahuka, which sold propaganda that targeted the Rwandan government. At this point, Nsabimana was lured to join the Rwandan National Congress (RNC), a terrorist organisation, which purported to be an opposition group toward the Rwandan government. Even though his initial plans were not to enter into any militia group, indeed he had been led astray. 

Who is changing Lungu’s temperature? 

Answer: Discovery of fraudulent business transactions with the aim of sponsoring terrorism? 

The main issue at stake in the pleading from the accused is whether or not there is any veracity within his statements. To form our own opinion about the situation it is essential to look back at Lungu’s political party moves. To start with, at the beginning of the year 2020 the PF was involved in the transaction of a bogus joint venture. Zambia provided a substantial portion of its gold deposits to Karma Mining and Array Metals to an inexistent joint venture for an initial paltry of $2.5 million as of capital injection. However, in return, the latter company, Array Metals has granted the access to $500 million worth of unprocessed gold, as well as the processing chain of the joint venture since Karma Mining holds the majority stake. 

Though this may sound to be a bit out of the blue, the key detail that marks the difference is the fact that one of the companies, Karma Mining is a Sudanese entity. Sudan is a country well-known for sponsoring state terrorism and it is under sanctions by the US, UK, EU and the UN for its sponsoring terrorism. In addition, the Vice President of Array Metals has established links to a Sudanese army general, who is currently under UN sanctions. Not only that, but both companies also hold close ties to the ruling elite in the Ugandan government. 

If we stop for a second and thoroughly look into all of the details, isn’t it too much of a coincidence for Nsabimana accusing both Lungu, who controlled this joint venture in first hand, and the Ugandan government for their involvement in overthrowing Rwanda’s government? Is he simply holding to his last hopes available for him or for the first time the truth is actually out?  

What is driving Lungu?

Answer: 2021 elections peeking out.

Nsabimana might have just uncovered a terrorist financing transaction on Zambian oil, which would heavily harm the President’s reputation. Lungu’s political party has already a past “criminal record” that props up suspicions linking the Patriotic Front with unknown activities in Sudan. For example, in 2012 the PT was accused of sending youths to Sudan to study unknown courses at the African International University. However, there was no record of any graduation taking place at all. Hence, what were these kids doing in this country? It certainly does not seem to have a legitimate and legal backing. 

Nevertheless, now more than ever, Lungu needs to be seen as a transparent leader if he is willing to fulfil his determining wish to win the 2021 elections. To do so, he needs to eliminate all the anti-Lungu or Patriotic Front elements, at least for a while. This is the main reason why suing Major Sankara was the least the PF could do in order to safeguard themselves. Any other action could have raised doubts about the credibility of the President or his ruling party, which is what Lungu has to avoid at all cost. 

What does this mean for you? 

Answer: Zambia’s destabilising security and new diplomatic threats in central Africa. 

All in all, from the aforementioned evidence, it is very likely that the current Zambian President, Edgar Lungu has been actively participating in terrorism abroad indirectly. Given the fact that the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame accused Zambia of interfering in its affairs and sponsoring armed movements against his administration, the accusations against Lungu make complete sense in the retaliation arena. On one way or another what is super clear is that Nsabimana’s accusations have the potential to jeopardise Zambia’s diplomatic relations with Rwanda and other countries closely allied with the latter. Not only is diplomacy at stake but also the state’s peace, since accusations of this type could also bring terror attacks into Zambia as a form of retaliation. Overall, Lungu is in a position right now that he would rather change in a 360 degrees spin. 

Berta Pereda Asencio

Research & Analysis Intern