On September 19, 2023, Rwandan President Paul Kagame participated in an exclusive interview with the French publication Jeune Afrique. François Soudan, the Editor-in-Chief, conducted the interview and raised the critical issue surrounding Paul Rusesabagina.
Back in December 2022, Kagame had strongly indicated that Rwanda would not be intimidated into releasing Rusesabagina, sarcastically suggesting that it would take an invasion of Rwanda to free him. However, by March, Rusesabagina’s sentence was commuted, ostensibly following negotiations with the United States. When asked whether Rusesabagina had become a diplomatic liability, Kagame conveyed that from the outset, the case was fraught with misunderstanding.
According to Kagame, many countries hastily intervened, overlooking the crimes in which Rusesabagina had been involved. He suggested that while the world is not perfect, Rwanda had managed the situation according to its own understanding of the case. He noted that his government had achieved several objectives and that the narrative surrounding Rusesabagina and his associates was now clear. Despite whatever had been agreed upon behind the scenes, Kagame indicated that Rusesabagina had reverted to his old ways and said that his future would be dealt with at a later time.
This interview came at a time of heightened attention to Rwanda’s diplomatic relations, especially given the United States’ recent decision to restrict military cooperation with Rwanda due to its alleged support of the M23 armed group, known for recruiting child soldiers. Kagame’s comments were especially significant as they not only shed light on Rwanda’s internal legal matters but also provided a glimpse into the delicate balance the country maintains on the international stage.