President Paul Kagame says those who defend Hotel Rwanda ‘Hero’ Paul Rusesabagina or are calling for his release know nothing about his past, emphasising that Rwanda will focus on ensuring that victims of his actions get Justice.
President Kagame made the reaction on Monday during a virtual press conference that followed a state of the nation address, pointing out that he would understand if those who met Rusesabagina, the protagonist of Hotel Rwanda movie, whether at church or other occasions, felt aggrieved that their ‘hero’ is facing terror-related charges in Rwanda.
The Head of State was responding to recent calls by certain individuals, including a U.S Congresswoman, to release Rusesabagina, a US-Belgium resident or citizen, currently facing 13 terror-related counts, mainly linked to the 2018/19 attacks in South Western Rwanda by the National Liberation Front, known by its French acronym FLN.
President Kagame said that it is always true that when somebody is involved in wrongdoing, those affiliated to that person, including their families, would never admit that the individual did wrong, even if the evidence was clear for all to see.
“It’s not always going to be the case that when somebody is involved in the wrong; even if it is really clear, it’s true and there is no question about it. I don’t think you are not going to have people who will say “No. This person should not be touched. Yeah, they did this but you know,”
“If somebody in a family does something wrong, it’s not always going to be expected that all family members will accept that one of their own has done something wrong. They will always say no,” President Kagame said.
He said such is the case with Rusesabagina and those calling for his release, pointing out that it is not a first for Rwanda, in a way relating it to cases of people who were accused of committing genocide crimes but their families vehemently denied their involvement.
“The remaining members of the family that didn’t commit the crime will find it difficult to believe that their own actually did that crime. They will find ways of covering it up or denying it,”
“In this particular case, I am sure there are people who interacted with this man, who didn’t know very much about his history but they see him, they know him. I don’t expect that every one of these people will know the wrong side of this person,” the Head of State said of Rusesabagina.
He observed that sometimes even when they know, they will just treat the person as one of their own and try to defend and deny on his behalf, adding that it is only human for that to happen.
Justice must be served
Emphasising the importance of the ongoing judicial process, President Kagame said that there must be a way to resolve that kind of conflict in understanding of what needs to be done and this can be left to governments and courts of law which have a duty to hold people accountable for their crimes, without being sentimental.
“That’s what governments, laws, leaders are supposed to do. They are supposed to sort out these difficulties in favour of justice or what is right or what the law is,”
“That is what we will be pursuing, making sure that justice is done. It will not only be done in favour of Rusesabagina, it will also be done in favour of those who are aggrieved because of the loss of their family members’ lives,” President Kagame said in reference to the attacks by FNL.
President Kagame said that unlike those who are relying on sentiments, the issues around Rusesabagina are based on facts and testimonies of people whose actions affected, who also want to see justice served, the same way Rusesabagina wants justice -something he said should be left to courts of law to determine.
Rusesabagina arrived in Rwanda in August and was paraded to the media on August 31 before his file was sent to Prosecution which charged him with 13 counts of crimes he allegedly committed as the leader of Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), whose armed wing, FLN was behind attacks in South Western Rwanda between June 2018 and April 2019.
The charges include creation and being part of an irregular armed group, financing terrorism, terror activities for political gains, conspiracy to commit terror activities, commanding terror acts and being part of a terrorist group.
In October, his case was merged with those of Callixte Nsabimana and Herman Nsengimana, both former spokespersons of the rebel group, who were also arrested and sent to Rwanda, as well as 16 others also facing similar charges. Nsabimana and Nsengimana face up to 17 charges each, also relating to those of Rusesabagina.