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Rwanda: Will UN,Other International Bodies rescue Paul Rusesabagina from terrorism charges?

September 19, 2020

By Mohammed M. Mupenda *

Terrorism charges have been slammed against Paul Rusesabagina .Photo credit AFP

The Rwandan critic, whose role during the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis was fictionalized in the well-known movie Hotel Rwanda, has been the subject of controversy ever since.

Mr. Rusesabagina appeared last month under arrest in Kigali in murky circumstances, with his family alleging he was kidnapped abroad.

According to Rwanda Authorities, he was arrested because he is believed to be the leader, founder and sponsor of a violent extremist group operating in Rwanda and more widely, known as MRCD/FLN. The international arrest warrant under which he has been detained included accusations that in June and July 2018 in Nyungwe, and in December 2018 in Nyamagabe, attacks by the MRCD/FLN were carried out against innocent Rwandan civilians which left nine people dead and several seriously injured.

Prior to his arrest there were videos featuring him and he was heard on BBC radio talk calling all political and civil society organizations to support FLN soldiers to oust the Kigali government through waging war as political means had failed.

However, some human rights and legal groups have expressed concern that his arrest is the latest example of Rwanda targeting critics.

Calls demanding fair justice have been made by U.S Senator, Rusesabagina Hotel Rwanda Foundation, oppositions and on 8 September UN urged to intervene in case of detained Hotel Rwanda dissident.

Through the Clooney Foundation for Justice and the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, George and Amal Clooney have made a pledge to closely monitor the upcoming trial of Paul Rusesabagina in Rwanda, as part of CFJ’s Trial Watch initiative.

“Mr. Rusesabagina is currently detained provisionally for at least 30 days after he was denied bail, pending his trial,”.

Well, UN call, human right monitoring and other super power countries intervention could still give hope to his family, dissidents and others who wish to see Rusesabagina free but still not sure of how it will be done while terrorism charges are not welcome in any country.

For various newspapers both Rwandan and foreign, people’s talk, comments believe that Rusesabagina’s case would be serious, and some of the reasons being that Mr. Rusesabagina has Belgian citizenship, U.S resident and has been awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. However,  many observers say that these can’t save him out, due to Rusesabagina’s rebel attacks killed Rwandans, burned their property, looted their crops and took some hostages, Nsabimana Callixte and Rusesabagina admitted in various media outlets that the attacks killed civilians.

When Nsabimana was arrested and brought to justice, he pleaded guilty for all charges saying that even the birds could testify.

Mr. Rusesabagina’s acknowledgment that his rebellions killed people and apologized.

“I apologise, we never assigned FLN to kill people and that was not the mission noting that their actions should be blamed on them alone.”.

He admitted to sending some 20,000 euros ($23,000) to FLN commander Callixte Nsabimana – who is on trial on similar charges – but said this was personal assistance to a friend and not for rebel activities

Mr. Herman Hirwa Nsengimana, the successor to Nsabimana Callixte A.k.a Sankara was seen in the video conference included Rusesabagina, who was in the lead, also co-chaired the FLN, becoming the Supreme Leader.

Other reasons could be summarised as follows,  Rusesabagina has Rwandan citizenship by birth, the crimes is accused of committing are on Rwandan soil, the prosecutor also pointed out that before Rusesabagina was arrested there was a collaboration between  Belgian police and the U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), Rusesabagina’s home in Belgium was searched and some of the evidence against him came from there, and FBI had also conducted a thorough investigation into all the information from his indictment. 

Note that when the FLN attacks reached Rwandan territory, the US Embassy in the United States issued a statement saying that some parts of Rwanda were unsafe and that their residents were on high alert, and that they were aware of the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks.  Which are FLN soldiers, whose commander was based in the USA.

The case of Nsabimana Callixte who pleaded guilty to all the charges against him and even wished that his case would be reconciled with those of Rusesabagina and Herman because all the charges against FLN are fully involved.

In multiple speeches, Rusesabagina expressed support for the FLN – which has carried out armed attacks and is described as a terrorist organisation by Rwanda – but the extent of his involvement in its actions is unclear.

*Mohammed M. Mupenda is a news correspondent and freelance reporter, who has written for publications in the United States and abroad. He is also a French and East African language interpreter.

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