Africa-Press – Rwanda. On a sunny morning of August 31, 2020, Rwanda Investigation Bureau, at its headquarters in Kigali, paraded Paul Rusesabagina before the media. The former hotelier at Hôtel Diplomate and Hôtel des Mille Collines was accused of being involved in a series of terror attacks that claimed the lives of nine innocent Rwandans in the Southern province.
Since his incarceration, the international community; governments, media and individuals, have not ceased to raise their voices pressuring the government of Rwanda to release him. On September 10 2020, a statement released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) defined the Mageragere inmate as “a prominent critic of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)” and denounced his arrest describing it as “an enforced disappearance,” a baseline for accusing Rwanda of violating “international laws.”
Two months later, a U.S Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney wrote a letter to President Kagame of Rwanda requesting him to “immediately release” Rusesabagina and “safely return him” to the U.S.A, a country that granted him a permanent residency and whose president in 2005, George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
For a moment, imagine Rwanda responding to this request in affirmation. It is like the U.S building a mansion on the side coast of Miami Beach for Osama Bin Laden, or Belgium repatriating the terrorists behind the 2016 Brussels bombings in respect of their safety and health. That is how absurd it would be.
Like the HRW and Ms. Carolyn, the European Parliament also joined the marathon with a resolution in which the arrest was considered illegal and called on the government to release him immediately. Rusesabagina being a Belgian national with a U.S green card and a U.S Presidential Freedom Medal laureate fools the international community to think they are in a good position to advocate for his release.
But one thing they forget is that no kind of nationality grants him power to plot deadly attacks on innocent people and no single kind of award immunizes him of being held accountable of his terrorism.
However, regardless of the noise and pressure, which in some ways portrays the urge of powerful countries to control poor countries, Rwanda’s jurisdiction moved on to try Rusesabagina and the co-accused.
In a court ruling of 20th September, 2021, the High Court’s Special Chamber for International Crimes and Cross-border Crimes found him guilty and sentenced him to 25years in jail.
With the court having announced its verdict, now the new song is “the trial was unfair.” Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs in Belgium, Sophie Wilmes, was among the first to react to the verdict. The statement she released a few hours after the court ruling, reads “Rusesabagina did not benefit from a fair and equitable trial.”
Such statements discrediting the work of a legitimate justice system are no longer tolerable in modern Rwanda. Responding to the statement, Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately cancelled a bilateral meeting that was scheduled to happen on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. Again, this was a clear gesture that a foreign country has no power to decide on what is good and right for Rwanda.
But the pressures and colonial inspired attitudes are not things of this age. In 1995, with lots of doubts about the capability of the post-genocide transition government to rebuild the country and restore peace, the international organizations exerted the same pressure trying to intervene in the governance of the country. The government did not tolerate this. It expelled 38 NGOs from its territory and suspended 18 others from operating.
In 2012 the world again rose against Rwanda. It was after the U.N had released a report accusing Rwanda of supporting M23, a rebel wing that was operating in the eastern part of DRC. Rwanda’s image on the international scene was tarnished and countries like the U.S.A, England, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Swiss and European Union decided to suspend their aid to Rwanda. It was tough times for the country but with visionary leadership and the spirit of self-reliance Rwandans have entertained, the government launched Agaciro Development Fund, the country’s sovereign wealth fund.
Rwanda has gone through a lot and it has used every hardship as an opportunity for growth and stability. It is a country that, against all odds, has risen from ashes and is now eyeing total independence. Today, her interests are no longer to please anyone, not even the west, but on the wellbeing and development of her people.
For those questioning this, a proof has been given that no single pressure will bring Rwanda to her knees and no noise will be too loud to distract her.