By Erasme Rugemintwaza
Eight Rwandans who were transferred by the United Nations from Arusha to Niger are now in deep disarray after being forced by the government of Niger to evacuate the country in seven days. Their transfer took place after long-term detention, during which the UN sought asylum almost in vain for those acquitted or who have served their sentence for the crimes of genocide and other crimes against humanity of which they were alleged and for which they were apprehended and brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha.
What is behind this impromptu deportation when these people have only been in the country for three weeks?
Who are these Rwandans?
A decree of the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization of Niger, composed of only three articles, (Our editorial staff has obtained a copy) stipulates, after presenting the various laws on which it is based, including the Constitution of Niger and other laws governing the stay of a foreigner in Niger, in its first article that:
The persons bearing the following names are definitively expelled from the territory of Niger with a permanent residence ban, for diplomatic reasons.
They are the following:
1. Zigiranyirazo Protais, born on 02/02/1938 in Gisenyi/Rwanda;
2. Nzuwonemeye François-Xavier, born on 08/30/1955 in Kigali/Rwanda;
3. Nteziryayo Alphonse, born on 08/26/1947 in Butare/Rwanda;
4. Muvunyi Tharcisse, born on 08/15/1953 in Byumba/Rwanda;
5. Ntagerura André, born on 02/01/1950 in Karengera/Rwanda;
6. Nsengiyumva Anatole, born on 04/09/1950 in Gisenyi/Rwanda;
7. Mugiraneza Prosper, born on 02/10/1957 in Kibungo/Rwanda;
8. Sagahutu Innocent, born on May 30, 1962 in Cyangugu/Rwanda.
All of these Rwandans were detained in Arusha where they were brought before the International Criminal Court for Rwanda (ICTR) to stand trial for their alleged role in the genocide and other crimes against humanity in Rwanda. Among these people, there are some who have been acquitted and others who have served their sentences but all remained almost in detention as they were still looking for the possibility of reuniting with their families in various European and American countries or of going to other places in other countries that would accept them.
Some of these people were in the high hierarchy of the overthrown government in 1994, some were ministers and governors of prefectures, others were high-ranking military officers.
1. Zigiranyirazo Protais: He is the brother-in-law of President Habyarimana Juvénal. He is the brother of Agatha Kanziga, the wife of President Habyarimana. The man was nicknamed “Z”. He was governor of Ruhengeri prefecture for more than 10 years. In 2008, he was convicted of crimes of genocide, and later on appeal in 2009, he was acquitted;
2. Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye: He was the Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion;
3. André Ntagerura: He became Minister of Transport and Communications in 1994. He was charged with crimes of genocide in the so-called Cyangugu case, but was acquitted on appeal in 2006;
4. Prosper Mugiraneza: Former Minister of Public Service. He was convicted of crimes of genocide by the Arusha tribunal, but was later acquitted on appeal in 2013;
5. Lt Col Anatole Nsengiyumva: He was the commander of the military operational sector in Gisenyi.
6. Lt Col Alphonse Nteziryayo: Former governor of Butare prefecture
7. Lt. Col. Tharcisse Muvunyi: Former Commander of the School of Non-Commissioned Officers of Butare (ESO);
8. Capt. Innocent Sagahutu: He was the Deputy Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion.
When and how did these Rwandans arrive in Niger?
On 12/06/2021, these eight Rwandans were transferred to Niger from Arusha, Tanzania, in accordance with an agreement signed between the United Nations and Niger. This was confirmed by the Chairman of the Mechanism of International Tribunals, Judge Carmel Agius, who said the transfer was made in accordance with an agreement signed between the UN and the government of Niger on November 11, 2021.
The agreement stipulates that Niger grants them permanent resident status. Each of these people also receives a one-time United Nations grant of $ 10,000, or roughly ten million Rwandan francs. The UN also pays for their accommodation in the first year. This means that these people would have to spend a whole year under United Nations grants, to be, after this period, more personal and resume a normal life.
The agreement, however, states, in its article 7 entitled ” Non bis in idem and non-extradition , that “The Republic of Niger does not extrade or otherwise hand over released or acquitted persons to the Republic of Rwanda or any other State for trial …” Basically this is the agreement that begins to be broken in less than a month after it is signed!
Because since Thursday 23/12/2021, the authorities of Niger have withdrawn from these people the legal documents of their residence in the country, “Residence permits”, under the pretext of “correcting some errors”! From then until 12/28/2021, these people could no longer leave their homes, rather, they were surrounded by soldiers!
These men were therefore shocked to see that on 12/27/2021, Niger issued an order from the Ministry of the Interior to expel them definitively, giving them seven days to leave the country, and giving instructions to the competent authorities, to supervise the execution of this decree. What is behind this about-face in Niger?
Rwanda threatens the UN and Niger!
Niger invokes diplomatic reasons for this expulsion. What are these diplomatic reasons really? Was Niger’s decision to expel Rwandans taken in isolation, especially since it immediately invalidated the agreement signed with the UN, represented by Mr. Abubacar Tambadou, UN Deputy-Secretary General? If Niger dared to make this decision on its own, would it have an effect on it? Or was it stipulated in the agreement? What can be said is that the termination of the contract that has been signed by two parties usually requires the consent of both signatories.
According to the newspaper Jeune Afrique, it is the discontent of Kigali that is at the origin of this turnaround.
In an article published on 12/13/2021 in the newspaper close to the Rwandan government New Times, entitled “Rwanda seeks clarification over transfer of ex-ICTR detainees to Niger”, we can see the diplomatic reasons insinuated in the ministerial order for the expulsion of Rwandans.
Indeed, Rwanda, through its parmanent representative to the UN, Mrs. Valentine RUGWABIZA, requested clarifications from both the UN and the government of Niger during a meeting of the UN Security Council on 12/13/2021. Rwanda claims that it informally learnt about the transfer of these indviduals.
“We have not been informed by either the Mechanism or the host country about the transfer of these Rwandan nationals,” said RUGWABIZA.
In her approach, Mrs. Valentine RUGWABIZA seems to accuse the UN of mismanaging its budget, wondering if these people will continue to be the burden of the UN. In a blunt statement, Ms RUGWABIZA said: “We will appreciate clarification from the Principals of the Mechanism, in the appropriate General Assembly Committee, on whether the transfer, settlement, and living cost of these men who are free from any Mechanism proceedings are part of the budget of the Mechanism,” Rugwabiza told the council.
She continued, “We expect Niger to exercise its responsibility to ensure that none of the persons use their territory for subversive activities that have contributed to the insecurity and instability of the Great Lakes Region for the past decades.”
She added that there is evidence that some of these Rwandans transferred to Niger have been engaging in such subversive activities after their acquittal by the former ICTR. In the article of this newspaper close to the Rwandan Government, the will of the Rwandan government to make life impossible for these Rwandans is evident, by using slander and subtle diplomacy: Rwanda wants these Rwandans to be brought back to the country.
However, RUGWABIZA said this after the president of the Mechanism of International Tribunals, Judge Carmel Agius, said that the transfer of Rwandan detainees was carried out in accordance with the agreement signed between the UN and the government of Niger on November 15. 2021.
These are apparently the reasons why the government of Niger resolved to expel these Rwandans. Niger has been intimidated that it is receiving hard-core criminals who can use its territory for subversive purposes, while the UN has been criticized for misusing the budget for those no longer in its charge. But aside from these public statements, there may have been an invisible hand in the process of making this important decision. We can suspect in particular the corruption or the pressure of the French leaders who are in perfect relationship with Rwanda. After all, the leaders of Niger are in need of French support in the fight against Islamist extremists.
In conclusion, let’s try to see the implications of this decision to expel these Rwandans. The consequences of this decree are enormous. First and foremost, these Rwandans are in a state of great turmoil, their families worrying all the more that they have long been denied to reunite with their families. These expelled Rwandans are starting to see the alternative of being brought back to Rwanda as possible, which for them is the ordeal because they are afraid of many things including their safety, and the fact that they will be translated again in court, for fabricared crimes, but above all contempt and coercion in the interest of the RPF-Inkotanyi.
This was confirmed by one of them during his interview with the BBC on Tuesday, 12/28/2021. Captain Innocent Sagahutu said they had nowhere to go because they no longer have any papers with them because the authorities in Niger picked them up under the pretext of making some corrections. When asked if they would be ready to go to Rwanda if this is the UN’s decision, Captain Innocent Sagahutu told the BBC that the UN is well aware that they cannot agree to go to Rwanda because they refused for a long time. He said the government in Kigali has serious problems, calling everyone genocidal even those who have been acquitted by the courts. He said that they are not going to be slaves in their own country, that they are not ready to walk with their heads down, and finally that they cannot trust the current government but that when Rwanda will have a government worthy of the name, they will return to the fold. As for the dilemma in which they are, Captain Innocent Sagahutu quite simply meant that they are still in the hands of the UN even if currently its agents are on leave until January 10, 2022. To remedy this they have sought a lawyer to help them, especially since they no longer go out and are crisscrossed by soldiers.
The RPF-Inkotanyi government seeks to intimidate and humiliate all the former members of the overthrown government, as well as those who are generally of the time, wherever they are, by showing them that they have been defeated and that they have nowhere to flee, since all countries and even the United Nations no longer understand them.
It is for this evil goal that the government of Kigali is doing everything possible to bring these Rwandans back to Kigali. All means are fine for Kagame to get hold of his opponents, particularly the dignitaries of the Habyarimana regime. Thus, Kigali has just launched an intoxication campaign by its propadandist Tom NDAHIRO. We actually read on his twitter account a message about Major Ntuyahaga who was brought back to Kigali after having served his sentence in Belgium. It should be noted that Major Ntuyahaga was brought back to Kigali without his consent so that one day, in a situation like this one, he would serve as an example to lure the international community. Major Ntuyahaga is a kind of ambush, a bait to catch uninformed people. How really the RPF-Inkotanyi can want to repatriate the people whom it calls inveterate criminals to whom it is necessary to be careful, according to the statements of Mrs. Valentine RUGWABIZA? Does Rwanda have a purgatory to purify these people whom it takes for the mastermind a genocide which despite its acceptance still arouses controversy 27 years later, or Rwand has crematoria ovens to wrest vows from them to consolidate its narrative? Miraculously, through its spokesperson Alain MUKURARINDA, the Rwandan Government has just accepted, this evening of 12/29/2021, that it had a role in the decision of Niger, always brandishing the example of Major Ntuyahaga who was forcibly sent to Rwanda from Belgium.
Speaking to the Voice of America, Ms. Léoncie Ntagerura, a Rwandan resident of France and wife of Andre Ntagerura, said she was also shocked, saying their relatives had not been informed of their destination. She says that the diplomatic reasons given by Niger for the expulsion were unknown,- but this time it is clear that it is Rwanda which is behind this situation of disarray-, as she suspected long before, when she said there is a country which does not want their relatives to settle in Niger. “What we are asking now, luckily they are still in the hands of the United Nations, is to bring them back to Arusha, but if the United Nations cannot bring them back to Arusha, there is a ‘mechanism’ that left them in Arusha, working in The Hague, take them to The Hague, then our relatives will be at peace. So, I think no other country can accept them, ”she said.
This expelling decision highlights the important diplomacy of Kigali government that could lead to the cancellation of a UN agreement with a country other than Rwanda. Mrs RUGWABIZA’s words sounded like a threat to the UN, publicly accused of mismanagement of resources, as well as the intimidation to Niger which accepts the criminals, hide the strong desire of the Rwandan Government to see these Rwandans brought back to Rwanda. It is clear that Rwanda, with the help of its friends, has convinced Niger that it must expel these Rwandans. Among the friends of Rwanda, one can think of France for its many advantages for Rwanda, in particular for the security of the French gas exploration sites at Mozambique.
Analysts find that Rwanda’s desire for these Rwandans is not a normal repatriation to their homeland, rather Kagame regime wants to use them to strengthen its narrative, including the preparation of the genocide, not to mention the attack the plane of Habyarimana Juvénal which sparked the genocide. Their witnesses, taken at the cost of their lives, will consolidate the narrative of Kagame regime. These two factors, the preparation of the genocide and the attack on the Habyarimana plane, are the priorities of the RPF-Inkotanyi government because they constitute subjects of great controversy which divide the international community and thus annoy the regime. So to have great personalities like these, to repeat the version served by the Government is to strengthen and consolidate its authority but above all to continue to give Paul Kagame freedom and power in the eyes of Rwandans and foreigners, especially his detractors.
In any case, this decision is very serious and has a huge impact. This is a decision that Rwanda prepared with important diplomacy because it still has a vested interest in consolidating the RPF-Inkotanyi and Kagame regime. But some find great collusion with the UN, which wanted to get rid of this file by creating an administrative vacuum in this period of leave. This UN plot is confirmed by the 15-day ultimatum given by Tanzania to Jérôme-Clément BICAMUMPAKA, who remained in Arusha for health reasons, to leave Tanzania.
In the meantime in Rwanda, the Association of Survivors of the 1994 Genocide, Ibuka, demands their return to Rwandan soil.
Where is he going to go? However, this decision to expel these Rwandans should challenge the international community to question more about human rights, proclaimed more than 75 years ago now. Will the UN really allow the extradition of these people to Rwanda? Let’s keep an eye on it.