Niger breaches commitments and expels 8 Rwandans: the underside of the deal 

By Ben Barugahare

The government of Niger has recently decided to suspend the order to expel the 8 Rwandans residing on its soil for 30 days pending a resolution. Indeed, this government had previously resolved to chase eight dignitaries of the former rwandan regime infringing the agreement signed with the UN according to which it was committed to offer asylum to those Rwandans. There is then wondered the real reasons underlying this decision apparently unexpected and the present analysis strives to detect the ins and outs of such a diplomatic option which is not officially clarified on the side of Niger authorities. 

Niger has ordered the expulsion of eight Rwandans linked to the East African country’s 1994 genocide for “diplomatic reasons”, just a month after they were welcomed in the capital Niamey, according to a ministerial order seen by AFP on Wednesday.The order was published after a previous report on the expulsions by the Jeune Afrique news magazine said that Niger’s government made the U-turn after Rwanda expressed its displeasure about their arrival in Niamey.“The people whose names follow are definitively expelled from the territory of Niger with a permanent residence ban for diplomatic reasons,” said the order, which was signed by Niger’s Interior Minister Hamadou Amadou Souley. Of the eight names listed, four were convicted of crimes during the genocide by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR): former Governor Lt Col Alphonse Nteziryayo, ex-military intelligence head Lt Col Anatole Nsengiyumva, and former army officers Lt Col Tharcisse Muvunyi and Captain Innocent Sagahutu. All four have served their sentences.

The other four names were acquitted by the ICTR, including Protais Zigiranyirazo, who is the brother of former first lady Agathe Habyarimana. The other three were Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, former commander of an elite battalion, ex-transport minister André Ntagerura and Prosper Mugiraneza, former public service minister. “The interested parties will be given notice to leave the territory of Niger within seven days,” the minister order said, without indicating where they would be expelled to.The authenticity of the order, published by the Nigerien newspaper Air Info, was confirmed to AFP by the interior minister, who declined to give further details. On 15 November, Niger signed an agreement with the UN to host nine Rwandans — the eight expelled as well as former Rwandan foreign minister Jerome Clement Bicamumpaka, who was also acquitted by the ICTR. Around 800 000 people died between April and July 1994 in Rwanda as the extremist Hutu regime tried to wipe out the Tutsi minority, causing one of the 20th century’s biggest massacres.

The rude resolution of Niger authorities to expel Rwandan they had internationally agreed to host hides a series of plots and intrigues hatched by invisible foreign authorities.

Pacta sunt servanda

In international law, “every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.” This entitles states party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (signed 23 May 1969 and entered into force on 27 January 1980) to require that obligations instituted by treaties be honoured and to rely on such obligations being honoured. This basis of good faith for treaties implies that a party to a treaty cannot invoke provisions of its municipal (domestic) law as justification for negligence of its obligations pursuant to the treaty in question. The only limits to application of pacta sunt servanda are the peremptory norms of general international law, which are denominated “jus cogens“, i.e. compelling law. The legal principle of clausula rebus sic stantibus in customary international law also permits non-satisfaction of obligations pursuant to treaty because of a compelling change of circumstances.Understandably, Niger is breaching its conventional commitments and this betrays the soft character of international rules whereby their infringement by a party does not entail any coercive effect; the reason why they are often violated. 

The Rwandan hand behind

There is unofficially reported that recently President Kagame Paul met French president Emmanuel Macron who discussed various issues among which the Mozambique war but also eventual intervention of Rwandan defense forces in Niger to secure the area against Boko Haram which sows terror in those desertic lands. The president of Rwanda apart from an envelope of millions of euros from which he should benefit, would have demanded that these Rwandans be driven out of the country or extradited to Rwanda where the worst awaits them of course. Then under the order of French President, the Niger head of state would have resolved to comply despite the international commitments concluded with the UN on this case in accordance with which the country granted asylum to those Rwandan citizens who are judicially clean but cannot cannot return to their country for safety reasons.

Precedence of international courts over national jurisdiction

According to article 8 dealing with concurrent jurisdiction especially its paragraph 2 of the resolution 955 instituting the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda, judgments of ICTR have primacy over judgments of national courts of all states. However, if those Rwandans are extradited to Rwanda, there is expected that they will afford courts and be retried because Rwandan regime does not agree with the former ICTR which either acquitted some of them or inflicted to others soft penalties while for the Kigali regime they deserved all life imprisonment. They can then organize a series of scenarios to arrest them and subjugate them to criminal courts on genocide charges. In this regard, if they are delivered to the hands of Rwandan authorities, they must expect the worst: life imprisonment to be sentenced by the chamber of Rwandan high court in charge of international and cross-boundary crimes competent to judge them as it tried Dr Mugesera Leon in the controversial conditions that any objective analyst know.

Issue of res judicata

In general, the objection of res judicata is part of legal reasons to make inadmissible a criminal action but as Rwanda has chosen a monist system it does not recognize the primacy of ICTR judgments over those rendered its domestic courts. In this line, it put aside decisions made by this ad hoc international court and privileges judgments from Rwandan courts especially as it has a hand on them implying that it can dictate the decision to take against one or another convict.

Issue of new evidence as pretext

Another alternative Rwandan courts may base on is the resurgence of new charging proofs to justify the submission of those people to new trials and this will be sufficiently easy because charging witnesses will be recruited locally and receive versions they have to present as what occurred in the case of Rusesabagina Paul whereby Niyomwungere Constantin had been already bribed to plot his forced rendition and appeared before the court to testify against him on instructions of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau and the Ministry of Justice as confessed by the former attorney general Mr. Busingye Johnston.   


Overtly, Niger authorities did not randomly change their minds but they were really influenced by other invisible authorities and were compelled to balance their interests between complying with the agreement between UN and them and the secret deals with France and Rwanda which involve political, geo-strategic and economic interests. The best thing we may wish to those unfortunate Rwandans is to find other countries ready to host them and ensure their safety which is visibly threatened.