Paul Rusesabagina the former President of MRCD – FLN militia group was handed 25-year jail term last year over terrorism charges. In April 2022, the Court of Appeal retained the sentence handed to Rusesabagina by the High Court.
The court also ordered compensation to victims of MRCD-FLN attacks.
Ahead of his visit to Kigali, Anthony Blinken confirmed that the release of Paul Rusesabagina would be among issues of discussions with President Paul Kagame.
He stressed that such negotiations are needed in countries where US citizens are detained illegally.
Similar message demanding the release of Rusesabagina was echoed at different times by US politicians and human rights organizations.
Meanwhile, Rusesabagina was convicted based on evidences provided by relevant authorities in Belgium and US among others, particularly regarding his funding to FLN.
Ahead of the visit of Blinken to Rwanda, victims of MRCD-FLN attacks penned a letter with an attachment of their names and signatures.
The attacks were carried out by the terrorist group between 2018 and 2019 led by Rusesabagina.
The letter shows that discussions about the issue have been pushing for the release of Rusesabagina and disregarded affected victims.
“Our suffering at the hands of Paul Rusesabagina’s MRCD-FLN continues to be dismissed or outright ignored by the very entities that purport to champion the human rights of the vulnerable,” reads part of the letter.
“As victims of the MRCD-FLN attacks, we have endeavored to come together to amplify our voices and raise awareness to the actions of Paul Rusesabagina and his co-perpetrators,” adds the letter.
The victims revealed that highlighting the devastating impact these attacks have had and continue to have on their families, will underline the importance of their demand for justice, dignity and compensation.
According to the letter, the governance of MRCD-FLN operated on a rotational basis among the various leaders of affiliated political parties. Paul Rusesabagina assumed its presidency from July 2017 to June 2019 when the violent attacks were carried out to affected families in the outskirts of Nyungwe National Park.
In these attacks, reads the letter, the MRCD-FLN combatants carefully avoided any interaction with the police or the army and only attacked places where they knew people were unarmed and defenseless.
It is said that the attackers went into shops looting and would also break into the homes of people, assaulting them and robbing them of food, money and clothes.
In the letter, the victims also claimed that assailants indiscriminately shot passersby, threw grenades at cars where some people who could not escape the buses were burnt to death or succumbed to gunshot wounds.
On the other hand, the attackers are accused to have kidnapped people and made them carry looted goods into the forest.
“The MRCD-FLN murdered 11 people, including e children, the youngest being ten years old. Among those killed, were four parents who were the sole providers of their families,” adds the letter.
Among those killed is Anatole Maniraho who was ordered to lie down and shot dead instantly. The victims explained that Maniriho left a pregnant wife where his child, currently a toddler, will grow without father.
Others include Isaac Niwenshuti,17, who was on his way to visit his father but was killed and burnt beyond recognition in the bus attack. His family was only able to identify him through DNA testing.
“The current discourse from the international community and the calls for his immediate release are very distressing to our families and communities. Paul Rusesabagina is just as guilty as Sankara and co-perpetrators. He has expressed no remorse for his actions and the violence his terrorist organization inflicted on us during the trial, worse he simply decided not to participate in it,” reads the letter in part.
“As the victims of the crimes of Paul Rusesabagina and Sankara’s MRCD-FLN, we need justice to be served to its full extent. Through the court, we have received retributive justice, and we now seek restorative justice,” adds the letter.
The victims insisted that they want to see their suffering told and considered in all engagements related to Paul Rusesabagina and his terrorist organization.
“We are the ones living with the consequences of his actions and have yet to recover emotionally, physically and financially from the violence inflicted upon us by the MRCD-FLN,” reads an extract from the letter.
The victims also commended the support that the US Government continues to extend to victims of terror attacks both domestically in the US and globally and demanded that the efforts be extended to them.
“As such, as a gesture to recognize our rights as victims of terror attacks, we request to have those efforts extended to support our needs as well. The court-ordered compensation to the victims has yet to materialize, leaving some of us in dire financial situation.
We are aware that some of the perpetrators of terrorism in the communities have assets in the United States. In line with its stated commitment, we hope for US Government to support our quest for remedial justice. This, we believe, will send a strong message that the US supports victims of terrorism and is committed to holding perpetrators of terrorism fully accountable for their actions,” concludes the letter.
Blinken arrived in Rwanda on Wednesday 10th August 2022 expected to address members of the press on Thursday.