By David Himbara
General Paul Kagame boasted that Paul Rusesabagina’s extraordinary rendition from Dubai in 2020 was flawless. Kagame’s kangaroo court has now found Rusesabagina guilty of forming an armed terrorist group in a months-long case. Judge Beatrice Mukamurenzi followed Kagame’s script – she ruled that Rusesabagina committed terrorist acts. Neither Rusesabagina nor his legal team attended the sham trial. Rusesabagina was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Rusesabagina’s trial fits into a long history of the devastation of dissent in Rwanda by Kagame and his police state. The message is clear – no Rwandan is safe to speak out against Kagame and his one-man ruling party, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). Rusesabagina boycotted the trial, maintaining that he did not expect justice in Kagame’s court after being captured in Dubai. He was denied access to lawyers of his choice, kept in solitary confinement, tortured and interrogated in a secret detention center. Rusesabagina lawyers’ rights to confidential communication and to prepare their own defense was repeatedly violated – a fact conceded by Justice Minister Johnston Busigye, before he was dropped by Kagame who has now exported Busingye as Rwandan ambassador to the UK.
How did Rusesabagina get here? Rusesabagina’s memoir, An Ordinary Man, was the point of departure that put him in a collision course with the Rwandan strongman. In the memoir, Rusesabagina stated that Kagame ruled Rwanda “for the benefit of a small group of elite Tutsis”, and that Rwanda had “a cosmetic democracy and a hollow system of justice.” Soon after, the Kagame regime began accusing him of exaggerating his role during the genocide against the Tutsi. After threats and incursions in Brussels where Rusesabagina lived, he moved his family to the United States, settling in San Antonio, Texas. It was from there that he boarded a flight in August 2020, to Dubai. He boarded a private jet with “Bishop” Constantin Niyomwungere whom he called his “friend” who supposedly invited him to deliver speeches in neighbouring Burundi. Rusesabagina was not aware that “the Bishop” was an agent for Rwandan intelligence that set up a trap to lure him into Rwanda. The private jet, operated by Greece-based charter firm GainJet and paid for by the government of Rwanda, landed in Kigali on August 28, 2020. Upon landing, Rusesabagina was tied up, blindfolded and arrested. The rest is history. Stay tuned.