On February 11th, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding justice for Mr. Paul Rusesabagina.
Who is Paul Rusesabagina? A former hotel manager, Rwandan by birth, holder of Belgian citizenship and a US green card. Rusesabagina gained prominence after a 2004 Hollywood fiction: “Hotel Rwanda” portrayed him as a brave man who saved 1,200 people when they sought sanctuary in his ‘Hotel des Milles Collines’ during the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi between the 7 April and 15 July 1994.
But genocide survivors at the hotel dispute Rusesabagina’s good samaritan picture, saying that he extorted them for money and turned away those who could not pay, to meet their killers stationed outside the hotel.
Following his Hollywood fame, Paul Rusesabagina received numerous accolades in north America, which conferred him the status of international speaker. Hero in the West, but foe in his native Rwanda, Rusesabagina toured universities in north America denying the genocide against the Tutsi and in the beginning of 2018, founded a political party: the “Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change” (MRCD) with an armed wing: the “Front for National Liberation” (FNL) with a self-declared mission to forcefully remove the Rwandan government.
In this video released on Christmas 2018, after deadly attacks conducted by the FNL militia, Paul Rusesabagina boasts of being its founder and calls everyone to join him. A year later he was arrested when he mistakenly disembarked a private jet chartered in Dubai en route to Burundi to meet up with his FNL militia. He is being tried alongside 20 other militiamen captured during various incursions on Rwandan territory. This is the man that the European Parliament adopted a resolution in support of, dismissing the Rwandan judicial system as biased and predicting that his trial will not be fair.
In its point E., the resolution defines Paul Rusesabagina as “a human rights defender, a strong critic of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and his ruling party”. The resolution refers to the terror attacks as “events that transpired in Nyaruguru district in June 2018 and Nyamagabe district in December 2018”. Here are the so-called ‘transpired events’: 9 people killed in Nyaruguru and Nyamagabe district and 82 children forcibly conscripted into NLF.
These are not mere allegations, Mr. Paul Rusesabagina publicly took responsibility and describes the terror attacks as “a movement launched to liberate the Rwandan people”.
In point I., the European resolution claims that “Mr Rusesabagina has been denied access to legal counsel of his choosing”. In this interview with the New York Times, Mr. Rusesabagina confirms that he is being represented by his chosen counsel: “I chose my lawyers and I am happy with them. But my family is not informed.” Rusesabagina’s lawyers, whom I spoke to, confirmed that they get to speak to their client in camera and at their convenience.
What the European lawmakers mean is that a Belgian lawyer flew to Rwanda to represent Rusesabagina, but the learned friend could not be licensed by the Rwandan Bar Association to practice in Rwanda, in virtue of an international norm of reciprocity, since Rwandan lawyers are not allowed to practice in Belgium.
Further on K(1) and (4), the European Parliament “Condemned the enforced disappearance, illegal rendition and incommunicado detention of Paul Rusesabagina”; How can a person be detained incommunicado and still give interviews to the New York Times, The East African, receive visits of the Belgian diplomats in Kigali, speak on the telephone to members of his family and meet frequently with his lawyers? What more are Europeans demanding? A daily zoom with family? A weekly webinar with militia – MRCD/FNL? Rusesa is not a guest in the famous Hotel Rwanda he is a captured terrorist in prison.
Interestingly, the resolution in K(3)., “recalls that extradition should have taken place through independently overseen proceedings to guarantee its legality and a fair trial”. The Rwandan government made formal requests to Belgium for Rusesabagina’s extradition. Searches were conducted at his Belgian residence, evidence of his terror activities seized by belgian police and transferred to Rwanda, but Belgium refused to arrest or extradite him.
On the opportunity of the European Resolution:
Terrorism is the question of our time, it has disrupted our way of life, killed thousands of innocent civilians and decimated economies. Terrorism knows no border; nations, weak and strong alike face the calamity. The reason terrorism is hard to defeat is because it involves elaborate networks with cells dispatched across continents. At times money is fundraised on one continent, combatants recruited on another and attacks launched on yet another. The defeat of global terrorism indeed requires global cooperation.
While terrorism perpetrated on European and American soil is, at times, planned and funded in some countries of the Middle East, the first and last official government to openly support terrorism was the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The European parliament is officially second!
How are European nations to expect cooperation from their African counterparts in the fight against global terrorism, if they turn around to support African terrorists hell-bent on attacking African citizens?
We in Rwanda are dismayed that terrorism conducted on our soil is headquartered in European capitals – with open support of European institutions: in 2021! In principle, we were to expect the European parliament to adopt a resolution consoling Rwandan victims of their citizens’ actions.
On Rusesabagina’s European citizenship:
In fifteen countries of the European Union, namely Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Danmark, Estonia, France, Greece, Ireland, Lettonia, Lituania, Malta, Netherland, Roumania and Slovenia, one can be stripped of their acquired citizenship if convicted of terrorism. This is true too for the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia.
In 2014, 36 year old Mohamed el-Hafiani, a Moroccan-French, was stripped of his French citizenship after being found guilty of terrorism. In the US, a federal judge stripped a Pakistan-born, one Iyman Faris of his naturalized U.S. citizenship at government’s request, for similar crimes.
In Belgian law: 4.12 of 2012 a new article 23/1 CNB provides for the possibility to be stripped of one’s naturalization if one has been sentenced to at least five years for serious crimes related to terrorism. Art. 23 goes further to stipulate that the naturalization may be withdrawn if the interested “seriously fails in their duties as Belgian citizen.”
Mr. Rusesabagina who still holds Rwandan citizenship, can hardly be presumed innocent. While presumption of innocence is a fundamental right, it has two exceptions, namely: ‘confession’, or ‘being caught in the act’. Without pre-empting the final verdict of his trial, one might argue that the two exceptions apply to Rusesabagina’s case. The man went on television, declared being the leader of a terror organization (confession), after the said terror organization had conducted attacks that killed innocent civilians (crime), and was (caught in the act) on the way to meet said terrorist organization in Burundi.
In this day and age, nations should be distancing themselves from terrorists. But in contrast, European governments harbor perpetrators of the genocide against the Tutsi, give unquestioned naturalization to their offspring which embolden them to operate NGOs that deny their parents’ deeds and openly collect funds for anti-Rwanda terrorist outfits roaming neighboring forests. Let’s recall that European nations had the power to stop the genocide against the Tutsi but, not only turned a blind eye, but instead aided perpetrators to flee and be installed in Europe – to date.
On the allegations of rendition:
The Emirate nation from where Rusesabagina was arrested has not complained of any illegal action conducted on its soil, nor have the African nations from where Rusesabagina’s jet transited. None of them submitted a lawsuit to the International Court of Justice for violation of sovereignty. In other words: An African terrorist was arrested in Asia: Asian nations assisted in his arrest and did not complain, African nations assisted in his arrest and did not complain. European nations which had been harboring and funding him are now complaining.
The message is loud and clear: If you attack a western country, we will eliminate you, but if you attack an African country, we will support you…
My childhood friend Ngirinshuti, a member of the genocide survivors’ association who was denied citizenship in Europe after spending fifteen years there, succinctly explains it: “It is harder for a genocide survivor to acquire European citizenship than it is for a genocide perpetrator or his children.” And to add; “Once you have shown support through activism to the current Rwandan government, you are frequently summoned by security organs and blacklisted. But openly opposing your African government in Europe guarantees you citizenship, scholarships and other advantages. I will leave readers to be the judges of the meaning of all this…