President Kagame’s response to a leader who requested him to release Rusesabagina

On 27 April 2022 at 02:22

It has been more than 20 days since the Court of Appeal maintained the 25-year sentence handed to Paul Rusesabagina for terrorism charges linked to MRCD/FLN rebel group he founded.

The decision was taken on 4th April 2022 when the Court of Appeal read the ruling for Rusesabagina and 20 co-accused terror convicts.

They were convicted of terrorism charges related to attacks by MRCD/FLN terror group in different parts of the country in the districts of Nyaruguru, Nyamasheke, Nyamagabe and Rusizi in Southern Province which claimed nine lives, left a car burnt and several valuables looted between 2018 and 2019.

The arrest of Rusesabagina in 2020 dominated the international media coverage and triggered mixed reactions where politicians, organizations and some European countries demanded the release of Rusesabagina.

President Paul Kagame has talked about the issue as he addressed diplomats accredited to Rwanda during a ceremony held at Kigali Convention center in the evening of 26th April 2022.

The Head of State has said that laws cannot tolerate the crimes committed by Paul Rusesabagina and co-accused individuals even in countries claiming for his release.

“It is absolutely surprising that people who have hundreds years of history of these sort of things I am talking about, justice, democracy, human rights and so on; sometimes rightly give us many lessons getting it so wrong in this particular case. But I understand it is not just getting it wrong like they don’t know. It is getting it wrong because of who they think we are. They just look down upon us. While you can look down upon me, you can disrespect me to that extent; it is my duty to make sure that I don’t agree with you. I would seriously object. That is what Rwanda is and should be, now and for the future.”

The President also disclosed how one of leaders once requested him to release Rusesabagina putting forward objections that ‘he is a hero who should not be jailed’.

“One time, one of these leaders you would really respect, came to me and said you know ‘you should have this man released’. First of all, I said that ‘I am not the court’. Secondly, even if I would use my authority as president which would be abusing my authority, ‘can you explain to me a little bit of why you think it should be the case?”

“He said, ‘you know he is a hero, people say, it is like he is rivaling you! I told this guy, ‘I am not a hero, I don’t even want it to be’. This is what I said during the commemoration on the 7th April. How can you be a hero in a situation like ours of Genocide. One would have been a hero if they had prevented this from happening in the first place; but we lost over a million people,” he added.

Paul Rusesabagina was renowned in Hotel Rwanda film which described him as a brave man who saved people at Hôtel des Mille Collines during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Some of victims who stayed at the hotel revealed that some implications of the film are different from the reality, because they paid the cost of living there unlike the man’s lie that they were housed for free.

Rusesabagina himself also admitted that Hotel Rwanda does not depict the whole truth because it was exaggerated to make it more appealing.

President Kagame said that he continued to talk to the leader who claimed for the release of Rusesabagina, asking him what to tell families who lost relatives during attacks plotted by the rebel groups of Rusesabagina.

“This person said, ooh, there are victims? We can also go to them and say sorry,” he noted.

“Then I said, how about others co-accused with him? There are around 20 of them who also testified and first of all accepted their responsibility themselves, and testified against this person because they were together in the same crime. Do we have this one released, these ones stay in prison and tell the victims to shut up?” Kagame added.

The Head of State emphasized that the leader seemed to show that Rusesabagina was made a hero to distort Rwanda’s history.

“The effort is about changing victims to be the perpetrators. […] So, there is a counter narrative,” he noted.

Kagame added that people intending to distort Rwanda’s history will not succeed.

“We have to have the capacity and we do, to really absorb this insult, I should say. We have developed capacity to absorb it, live our lives and move along. […] Sometimes, there are certain things about us, about our history, about the core of who we are that no amount of intimidation can work here,” he said.

“I really hope that even when I am not there, these other good Rwandans will stand out to this kind of challenge we face every day. I really hope so,” Kagame stressed.

The Head of State said that Rwandans have own values that they want to own up their problems and hold each other accountable and be held accountable by others.

President Paul Kagame addressing members of the diplomatic corps.
President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame arriving at the event venue at Kigali Convention Center.
First Lady Jeannette Kagame was also present at the event.
It was glamour as diplomats attended the dinner event.