By Erasme Rugemintwaza
Since 12/27/2021, the 8 Rwandans relocated in the Niger territory following a Niger-UN agreement, have been in a great disarray following the expulsion order issued by this host Government of Niger.
This case of 8 Rwandans acquitted or released by the Arusha International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), have waged intense political-legal confrontation between Niger and the UN and powerful lobbies to bring them back home in Rwanda.
These 8 Rwandans are great dignitaries of the former regime overthrown by the RPF-Inkotanyi in 1994. Their profiles push Kigali to intense diplomatic activity, not for a social repatriation rather for political motives.
These Rwandans are:
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 Prefect of Butare;
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.
The Affair was a great challenge between two Parties, UN and Niger, which were initially unequal. On the one hand, there is the Government of Niger, which does not want to lose its friend Rwanda, seriously violates the Agreement by alleging diplomatic reasons without any respect for the procedures found in the Agreement. On the other hand there is the UN, which wakes up from its leave with a whole arsenal of legal instruments and in the eyes of everyone valid, to protect these people duly resettled on Niger soil. Thus, on December 30, 2021, the Criminal Courts look into the case by studying the Requests of these people endangered by the expulsion and make the gracious appeal to the Government of Niger. Thus on 12/31/2021, The Duty Judge in Arusha, Joseph E. Chiondo Masanche, in full power conferred on him by the Presiding Judge of the Criminal Courts in The Hague, Carmel Agius, gave the Order to the Government of Niger to suspend the Expulsion Order of these 8 Rwandans, for a period of 30 working days. The order document is as follows:
“ORDER TO THE REPUBLIC OF NIGER TO STAY THE EXPULSION ORDER OF RELOCATED PERSONS AND ORDER FOR SUBMISSIONS
IN THE MATTER OF
FRANÇOIS-XAVIER NZUWONEMEYE PROSPER MUGIRANEZA PROTAIS ZIGIRANYIRAZO ANATOLE NSENGIYUMVA ALPHONSE NTEZIRYAYO ANDRÉ NTAGERURA
HEREBY INSTRUCT the Registry to serve the present Order on Niger;
INVITE the Government of Niger to provide, within 30 days of service of the present Order,written submissions regarding the validity of the Expulsion Order and its compliance with theRelocation Agreement;
ORDER Niger to stay the Expulsion Order and to allow the Relocated Persons to remain on its territory, in accordance with the terms of the Relocation Agreement, pending the final adjudicationof this matter;
INSTRUCT the Registry to serve the present Order on all the Relocated Persons, includingMuvunyi and Sagahutu, and on all counsel recognised as currently representing them;
INSTRUCT the Registrar to file submissions, within 30 days of the present Order; and
REMAIN SEISED of the matter.”
According to information reported to The Rwandan and reliable sources, the Government of Niger, this 3rd January 2022, accepted the Order from the UN legal bodies and to suspend the Expulsion Order of these 8 Rwandan for 30 working days to debate this thorny issue. Some people are already wondering if the diplomatic reasons which were mentioned by Niger in the Expulsion Order won’t change something and thus see these 8 Rwandans take another destination: or Rwanda, or The Hague!