By Erasme Rugemintwaza
This October 7, 2021, by a resolution taken almost unanimously, the European Parliament (EP) asks Kigali to repatriate Paul Rusesabagina, sentenced to 25 years in prison. Kigali rants and cries out for neocolonialism. A diplomatic game that thrills!
The European Parliament adopted almost unanimously (660 votes against 2 and 18 abstentions), the resolution which calls for questioning the fairness of the verdict and for the immediate release of Paul Rusesabagina for humanitarian reasons, as well as his repatriation. .
The resolution calls for the humanitarian repatriation, “without prejudging his guilt or his innocence”, of Belgian-Rwandan Paul Rusesabagina, sentenced on September 21, 2021, to 25 years in prison for terrorism. Aware of the concerns expressed, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, however asked not to lose sight of the evidence of the prosecution, much of which was provided by the judicial authorities of Belgium. “Mr. Rusesabagina is the epitome of human rights violations in Rwanda,” says the resolution.
On September 21, 2021, Paul Rusesabagina, Belgian national and resident both in Belgium and in the United States, hero of the film “Hotel Rwanda” of 2004 for his action in the rescue of more than 1,200 people threatened by the genocide of 1994, was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. He was found guilty of nine counts related to terrorism and activities attributed to the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change/Front de Liberation Nationale (MRCD-FLN), a coalition of opposition political parties and its armed wing accused of carrying out deadly attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019, in the south of the country, in a region near the Nyungwe forest and bordering Burundi.
Belgium, whose judicial authorities have collaborated in investigative duties, as well as the United States claim that Rusesabagina did not receive a fair trial in Kigali.
_ A delicate matter that must considered carefully! _
Rusesabagina affair started off on a bad footing, which already heralded a tragic end. Because the “Conditions of arrest which fall under the kidnapping, non-access to a lawyer of his choice, confiscated confidential legal documents, presumption of innocence swept aside by President Paul Kagame …”, as the MEP Marie Arena said, showed Kigali’s determination to condemn Rusesabagina and not to deliver justice.
The EP seems to regret its silence, or the timid and unsuccessful reaction it has already made. Initially, “The only circumstances of his arrest would have deserved a firm reaction in principle from the European Union”, affirmed Tom Vandekendelaere, continuing that “It is a delicate matter, but Paul Rusesabagina is a European citizen, and we must defend it for the safety of our fellow citizens. Rwanda wants good relations with the EU and its Member States, and I cannot imagine that Kigali cannot be reduced to more reason “. As a reminder, the first resolution adopted by the European Parliament on February 11, 2021, quite simply condemned, without any other form of follow-up, what it described as “the enforced disappearance, illegal restitution and incommunicado detention of Paul Rusesabagina. ”
The EP’s resolution is much more motivated by the health state of Rusesabagina. For Kathleen Van Brempt, “this 25-year sentence for a man who has cancer and needs treatment is a death sentence.” His colleague Hilde Vautmans supports this plea for release, for humanitarian reasons, even if “we do not comment on his guilt or his innocence”. But the fact remains that Belgium is not viewed favorably in the whole affair. Assita Kanko claimed that Belgium had “let down” the person and suggested extradition to the United States.
_ Belgium singled out! _
The Rusesabagina case exposed the weaknesses of the Belgian authority, the monitoring of which was left, as if to get rid of it, to diplomacy and especially to Minister Spohie Wilmès. The collaboration of the judicial authorities of Rwanda and Belgium was one way that we can even speak of “conspiracy” between Kigali and Brussels against Rusesabagina. While the Kigali prosecutor’s office had been facilitates even for the actual search of the residences of Paul Rusesabagina in Belgium, we saw Kigali expelled its Belgian lawyer, Maître Vincent Lurquin, without any reaction from the side of the Belgian State. Me. Vincent Lurquin said that Belgium behaved like “a consenting victim”, considering only the arrogance of Rwanda towards it. And still, the Belgian services reassure that they are closely monitoring the situation of Mr. Rusesabagina. But Minister Sophie Wilmès explained that “Nothing can be done without the collaboration of Rwandans. We are trying to keep a maximum of open channels to help Paul Rusesabagina as much as possible “.
The parliamentary resolution also urges the Rwandan government to respect the right of the Belgian government to provide consular assistance to Mr. Rusesabagina, in order to guarantee his state of health and proper access to the defense.
Questioned by MEPs, the European Commission assured to have recalled on several occasions, and even recently, its concerns with Kigali. It also says that it is in contact with Belgium, which keeps her informed.
The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, also observed that the convict had the right to appeal. In addition, “we note that the authorities have corrected many of the issues raised after being sensitized,” he said. “The serious accusations against the accused and all the evidence brought by the prosecution should not be ignored either, much of which was provided by the cooperation of the judicial authorities of a Member State”, added Josep Borrell, without mentioning Belgium by name.
_ Kigali counter-attacks _
The Kigali counter-attacks came promptly. As with for the first resolution of EU of February 2021, which was treated by the Rwandan Parliament as “an insult to the sovereignty of Rwanda”, the reactions for this second European attempt abound in the same direction. But this one insists on a phenomenon which becomes a contagious leitimotive of the African dictatorships which blackmail the West: neocolonialism. Ange Kagame, a girl more present than her mother around Paul Kagame, posted on her tweeter account “we are no longer in 1884”, thus referring to the Berlin conference which shared Africa the European powers.
Rwandan government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo called the resolution “noise” and “interference in the administration of justice in Rwanda”.
On her tweeter account, she posted that the European Parliament had ignored the decision itself. “… The noise of deputies trying to interfere in the recent conviction of Rusesabagina, […] it interferes in the functioning of Rwandan justice. “. The most terrifying reaction is that of Stéphanie Nyombayire, press secretary in the Rwandan presidency, who writes on her tweeter account: “A European passport no longer means impunity to kill our citizens. It also does not give you the right to dictate what justice means (while harboring genocide fugitives and their proud descendants). Please limit your colonial nostalgia to the confines of your hypocritical mind. ”
_Is the suspension of aid possible?_
At the request of the European Parliament, it also called on the EU-led meeting to reconsider its assistance to the Rwandan government and other institutions in the country, so that there can be no doubt about the implementation of human rights. And, it is important to note that this aid is not used in activities which undermine freedom of speech and the press, political freedom, the rule of law and non-governmental organizations.
At present, whether we watch it or not, the determination of the EU is very real because the false propaganda of Kagame and especially the blackmail on Belgium have become an open secret and an obsolete strategy. For humanitarian reasons, Kagame should release Rusesabagina. The EU never wants to exonerate Rusesabagina outside the legal channels, it wants the improvement of the health of its citizen who is seriously ill and detained in bad conditions. And what is fortunate is that the channels of cooperation on this matter still exist. The EU no longer wants to let it go because of the weaknesses of one of its members. As for the possible sanctions, if any, they should focus first on individuals, Kagame and his mercantile clique, by freezing their fortunes and restricting their movements. Public aid should now flow through civil society in the Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach. But Kagame is not this man who cares about the public interest, he only wants his greatness from which there is a big doubt to release Rusesabagina. To you Rwandans, be aware of Agaciro Development Fund, new version, to always fill Kagame’s slush fund!