Genocide suspect’s kin plea for justice

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020 00:00 |
Family of Paul Rusesabagina (left) has alleged the Rwandan government is coercing the 66-year-old. Photo/AFP

Kigali, Tuesday

Paul Rusesabagina who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 minority Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, last month admitted to backing Rwandan rebel groups when he appeared before a Kigali court, facing terrorism charges.

But his daughter is calling on the international community to pressure the Rwandan government to free her father, claiming he is being forced to admit things he didn’t do.

“Given what the Rwandan government does to people in the prisons – we know about the brutality, we know about the torture – so, whatever he is saying in the hands of Paul Kagame, has to be taken with that consideration,” Carine Kanimba, Rusesabagina’s youngest daughter told SBS Radio.

Rusesabagina was the general manager at Mille Collines hotel at the time of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed some 800,000 people.

He was depicted in the Oscar-nominated movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’ as using his connections to save the minority Tutsis from the bloodshed by sheltering them in the hotel.  

He left Rwanda in 1996 and claimed asylum in Belgium where he became a Belgian citizen. He is also a permanent resident of the United States.

The 66-year-old human rights advocate was arrested and charged with terrorism offences in August after he travelled to Dubai from the US.

While the Rwandan authorities claim his arrest was made because of international cooperation, his family says Rusesabagina was kidnapped.

It’s personal

“We know that the Rwandan government had been after him for many years.

They tried to get the other authorities, the US, Belgium, to hand him over to them based on made-up allegations of Kagame’s regime but nobody agreed.

They had to go to the extent of kidnapping him,” alleges Kanimba, who is currently in Brussels to marshal support from the European parliament for the release of her father.

After the arrest, Rwandan president Paul Kagame appeared on television and refuted claims of kidnapping. He says Rusesabagina travelled to the country on his own volition.

Last week, the Rwandan Prosecutor General Aimable Havugiyaremye announced various terrorism charges against Mr Rusesabagina, including financing terrorism, recruiting child soldiers, kidnapping, arson, and forming terror groups.

He said the charges were in connection with his leadership role in the armed group known as MRCD - Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change which is an opposition party based overseas.

He is also accused of forming another armed group – National Liberation Front (FLN), which has claimed responsibility for attacks in Nyungwe near the border with Burundi.

“We formed the FLN (National Liberation Front) as an armed wing, not as a terrorist group as the prosecution keeps saying.

I do not deny that the FLN committed crimes, but my role was diplomacy,” Al Jazeera quoted him as saying in the court.

Kanimba says there cannot be a fair trial in Rwanda and has accused the Rwandan president of trying to “silence” her father for not following his line on the 1994 genocide.

“My father called out Paul Kagame for the crimes he committed after the war and until this point today.

He started advocating for the people he (Kagame) had done wrong to and also refused to follow the one story that Paul Kagame wants people to believe about what happened in the genocide.”

After he left Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina was awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his efforts to save the lives during the Rwandan genocide. - AFP

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