Latest World News

In Rwanda, Paul Rusesabagina released on Saturday


Sentenced to twenty-five years in prison in September 2021 for supporting a group “terrorist” having “attacked people in their homes and in their cars”, Paul Rusesabagina, who had inspired the Hollywood film Rwanda Hotel before becoming a famous opponent of Paul Kagame’s regime, must be released on Saturday March 25. His conviction was “commuted by presidential order”told the World Yolande Makolo, spokesperson for the Rwandan presidency.

Paul Rusesabagina will be freed with nineteen other members of the National Liberation Forces (FLN), an armed wing of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), all sentenced at the same time as him. During his trial, Mr Rusesabagina confirmed his involvement in the FLN, a group responsible for attacks that killed nine people in 2018 and 2019 in southwestern Rwanda, but he rejected any involvement in these crimes. The prosecution relied on the statements of other members of the group, text exchanges, but also on a search carried out at his home in Belgium.

At the end of 2018, in a video posted on the Internet, the opponent had also declared that he was not giving up the armed struggle: “Since July, the FLN has launched a military struggle to liberate the Rwandan people. It is imperative that in 2019 we accelerate the liberation struggle, the Rwandan people can no longer bear the cruelty and all kinds of ill-treatment inflicted on us by the regime. The time has come for us to use all possible means to bring about change. As all political means have been tried and failed, it is time to try our last resort. »

Read also: In Rwanda, opponent Paul Rusesabagina sentenced to 25 years in prison for terrorism

Between the United States and Belgium

Paul Rusesabagina was made famous by the movie Rwanda Hotel, released in 2004, which shows how the manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines saved more than 1,200 Tutsi in his establishment during the genocide which killed one million people in the spring of 1994. After Rwanda, which he left in 1996 because he considered that the country offered less and less room for the opposition, Mr. Rusesabagina lived between the United States and Belgium. A taxi driver for a long time, he gave lectures all over the world on the genocide, the Great Lakes region and Rwanda, of which he criticized the authoritarian regime of Paul Kagame, president since 2000. His arrest, in August 2020, s t took place under controversial conditions since he was arrested when he got off a private jet in Kigali when he was thinking of going to Burundi.

Rwandan law allows certain sentences to be commuted, provided that the convicted person presents an apology. This legal process was widely used in the case of crimes related to the genocide of the Tutsi, in particular to shorten certain sentences and relieve congestion in prisons. “No one should have any illusions about what this means, because there is a consensus that serious crimes have been committed [par Paul Rusesabagina et les membres du FLN], for which they were convicted, let Yolande Makolo know. Under Rwandan law, commutation of sentence does not extinguish the underlying conviction. »

Also read the archive (2019): Article reserved for our subscribers In Rwanda, the somewhat too beautiful story of the Hôtel des Mille Collines

Ease certain diplomatic tensions

In a letter written on October 14, 2022 from his cell, Paul Rusesabagina, who benefits from a right of permanent residence in the United States, asks President Paul Kagame to pardon him to allow him to join his family, but above all for reasons health. “I wish to express my regrets for any action that the MRCD may have had on the violent actions of the FLN, he adds in this letter that The world was able to consult. Violence is never acceptable, including the use of violence to achieve political goals. It is even more serious when used to target civilians… I can assure you by this letter that I have no other personal or political ambitions. I will leave behind me the questions concerning Rwandan politics. »

The release of Mr. Rusesabagina comes at a time when Rwanda is weakened on the international scene. The country is accused by several UN and European Union reports of supporting the M23, which has relaunched an offensive in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), causing tens of thousands of refugees and numerous human rights violations. The release of the opponent could therefore make it possible to ease certain diplomatic tensions, in particular with Washington which, in May 2022, considered Paul Rusesabagina as “unjustly detained”.

Three months later during a visit to Kigali, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, expressed concern about his fate: “As I said to the President, we believe that people in all countries should be able to express their opinions without fear of intimidation, imprisonment, violence or any other form of repression”he assured at a press conference in Kigali.

“Rwanda notes the constructive role of the US government in creating the conditions for a dialogue on the issue of the release of Mr. Rusesabagina, as well as the facilitation provided by the State of Qatar”, recognizes Yolande Makolo. Before going to settle in the United States, the former hotelier must make a stopover in Doha.