By The Rwandan Lawyer
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has removed the justice minister but made him ambassador to Britain amid international scrutiny over the trial of Paul Rusesabagina, the hotelier credited with saving many lives during the 1994 genocide. A government statement issued on Tuesday gave no reason for the dismissal of Johnston Busingye, who had served as justice minister and attorney general since 2013.The present analysis points out different reasons underlying this dismissal similar to a demotion.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has removed the justice minister but made him ambassador to Britain amid international scrutiny over the trial of Paul Rusesabagina, the hotelier credited with saving many lives during the 1994 genocide. A government statement issued on Tuesday gave no reason for the dismissal of Johnston Busingye, who had served as justice minister and attorney general since 2013.Busingye was appointed Rwanda’s ambassador to Britain, the statement said. Kagame did not immediately name a new justice minister. Requests for comment to government spokespeople and the presidency office were not answered. Rusesabagina was hailed as hero after he used his connections as the manager of a Kigali hotel to save ethnic Tutsis from slaughter during the genocide. He was portrayed in the 2004 Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda”. Now he is accused of nine terrorism-related charges, including forming and funding an armed rebel group. Before his arrest, Rusesabagina, who was living in the United States, was a vocal critic of the Kagame government. Prosecutors have requested a life sentence for Rusesabagina, whose family says he is in poor health and being mistreated in prison. The court is scheduled to issue its verdict on 20 September. In an interview with Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel in February, then Minister Busingye said the government had paid for the flight that brought Rusesabagina to Rwanda last year, which Rusesabagina’s family said resulted in his kidnapping. Rusesabagina’s trial has drawn attention to Kagame, whom rights groups say has used authoritarian tactics to crush political opposition and extend his rule. The government’s arrest of Rusesabagina amounted to an enforced disappearance, a serious violation of international law, New York-based Human Rights Watch said at the time. Kagame became head of state in 2000 after he and his rebel forces halted the genocide in 1994 after 100 days of bloodletting and around 800 000 deaths of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. He won landslide victories in subsequent elections, the most recent in 2017, when he won nearly 99% of the vote. He changed the constitution in 2015, enabling him to rule legally until 2034.
The dismissal of the minister who is lowered under the ministry of foreign affairs is underpinned by unacknowledged reasons.
Rusesabagina Paul case
The testimony of Niyomwungere Constantine a Burundian bishop before the specialized chamber dealing with International Crimes establishes sufficiently that he was engaged by the Rwanda Investigations Bureau (RIB) to organize the abduction of Rusesabagina Paul. Besides, in an interview with Al Jazeera English’s UpFront, Rwanda’s Justice Minister, Johnston Busingye, admitted that the Rwandan government paid for the plane that transported Paul Rusesabagina from Dubai to Kigali.“The government paid,” Busingye told UpFront host Marc Lamont Hill.“There is a person who was operating with Rusesabagina for a long time, who was an interest of our public criminal investigation department, who accepted to turn him in and the payment was to facilitate the plan of this man to transport Rusesabagina to Rwanda,” he added. “The government did not play a role in transporting him. It was facilitating this gentleman who wanted to bring him to Rwanda.”Busingye said the Rwandan government had acted legally when it duped Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and US resident, into boarding a plane to Kigali.“In international criminal law, luring people into places where they can be brought to justice has happened and happened in many jurisdictions,” he said.When asked if it was legal for the Rwandan government to pay for a plan to bring Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and US resident, to Kigali against his will, Busingye said, “Yes it is.” Human rights organisations, members of the U.S. Congress and the European parliament have described Rusesabagina’s rendition to Rwanda as illegal under international law and called for his immediate release. Rusesabagina gained international fame when the story of how he saved more than 1,200 ethnic Tutsis during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide inspired the Hollywood film ‘Hotel Rwanda’. In August 2020, Rusesabagina mysteriously disappeared in Dubai and showed up in handcuffs in Kigali a few days later in what his family described as a kidnapping. Paul Rusesabagina is currently standing trial in Rwanda on terrorism charges. His family says the charges are fabricated and that Rusesabagina has been denied access to international lawyers. After a first interview with Minister Busingye, a video of the minister preparing for the interview with two public relations consultants from the British firm Chelgate was inadvertently shared with the UpFront team.In the footage, Minister Busingye acknowledges that the Rwandan prison authorities have intercepted correspondence between Rusesabagina and his lawyers. There was a particular document which actually suggested escape, which came from a child of Rusesabagina all the way to him, suggesting that they were being engaged on a possibility of getting him to escape. That one was found by the prison authorities but it was also handed back to Rusesabagina,” Busingye says on the recording with his PR consultants.In a first interview with Al Jazeera’s UpFront, Mr. Busingye denied that prison authorities had access to the exchanges between Mr. Rusesabagina and his counsel. “He has private communication,” he said.
Upon reviewing the footage, UpFront asked Busingye to be interviewed a second time to clarify the apparently contradictory statements he made.In this second interview, the minister defended the right of prison authorities to monitor correspondence between Rusesabagina and his legal counsel for security purposes.“The correctional services is an autonomous institution. It does its job of safety and security. Once that is done they do not have any power to divulge what they see,” Busingye said. When asked if he’d been given access to private communications between Rusesabagina and his counsel, Busingye said, “yes, of course.”“I said legal documents, communication between lawyer and client is protected. And I repeat that again,” he added.
A statement which contradicted the Head of State
Questioned about the rendition of Rusesabagina Paul and the role played by Rwanda to forcibly abduct him infringing rules of extradition, President Kagame Paul held more politician, diplomatic and wise responses than his attorney general. Indeed, President Kagame stated that the concerned was mistaken and was unexpectedly found at Kigali International Airport and then investigation and prosecutorial services seized the occasion to arrest and prosecute him for criminal facts allegedly committed in southern province. Unprofessionally, minister Busingye Johnston admitted that the Rwandan state funded the rendition of Rusesabagina Paul and doped him thanks to the Burundian bishop Niyomwungere Constantine. Even if President Kagame Paul did not immediately react against that stupid confession from the attorney general which was mediatized; surely, he did not well perceive that misconduct which who is not worthy of a minister of justice especially in the situation of a VIP suspect whose arrest and trial triggered legal, political and diplomatic repercussions around the world.
The case of the young brother of general Nyamvumba
Authorities in Kigali have jailed Chief Superintendent of Prisons, Camille Zuba after he allowed relatives (wife and sister) to visit Robert Nyamvumba, a younger brother to embattled former chief of defence staff, Gen Patrick Nyamvumba. According to court documents, On May 25, 2020, CSP Zuba allowed Robert Nyamvumba’s wife and sister to visit him at Nyarugenge prison commonly known as Mageregera where he has been incarcerated. Also, he reportedly allowed a senior police officer at the Rank of Chief Superintendent of Police to visit his wife at the same prison. This was in violation of COVID-19 directives which had been informed by the outbreak of coronavirus. On June 17, 2020, CSP Zuba was arraigned before Nyarugenge Primary Court in Kigali, the prosecution asked court to have him detained for 30 days as investigations into the matter are yet to be concluded. Court ordered that he be held at Nyaza prison as he waits for his trial to begin.
In March, the nation went into lockdown and the government announced strong preventive measures which included suspending of prison visits indefinitely.
As the Rwanda Correction Service is under the authority of the ministry of justice, the general commissioner general retired Georges Rwigamba was immediately removed but the Ministry of Justice was also concerned by this mismanagement and scandal and would finally be handled in the detriment of its minister. This is the second reason to have chased Busingye Johnston.
Furthermore, the overcrowded carceral population which entails enormous expenses in the state where they consume 15 million per day and billions per year while there are crimes which do not harm society and whose perpetrators should be freed and go to work instead of wasting time in prison. This challenge has not yet been met and it remains on Busingye Johnston’s back.
Rwandan citizens were expecting the dismissal of Busingye Johnston just after the avowal about the involvement of the state in the unlawful abduction and arrest of the hero of hotel Rwanda. With the time he had just spent in this ministry, the problems of injustice that the population undergoes on a daily basis remain unanswered; a new departure was needed.