Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Wednesday expressed dismay at foreign countries and agencies for piling pressure on his government over the ongoing court trials of Rwandans that are accused of involvement in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, who have been hiding in exile.
Kagame accused countries, especially of those which provided refuge to such suspects; of losing focus on the actual crimes they are accused of, and dwelling more on how the Rwandan government managed to bring them back home to face trial.
Speaking in Kigali today, at the 27th commemoration of the genocide in which about 800,000 Rwandans mostly the Tutsi were massacred, Kagame described the growing international pressure as hypocritical.
“It’s funny because among those undergoing trial here, there are those who have been living outside, protected in one way or the other. It is interesting to find that when these trials are ongoing, for some, especially those who are hosting these people, the issue is not what they did that they are being tried for, but how they got here,” Kagame stressed.
“Fine, if they got here the wrong way, we can still talk about that, but shouldn’t we consecrate also on what is more important that is what they are being tried in the courts of law?”
President Kagame over the past months has been on the spot over controversial extradition of opposition figure Paul Rusesabagina who has been living in exile in the US.
Rusesabagina was the managing director of the Hotel “Des Mille Collines” in Kigali during the genocide in 1994 who offered shelter and protection to 1268 Tutsis and moderate Hutus who were fleeing from the killing.
He is an internationally acknowledged human rights hero whose story was told in the film Hotel Rwanda and his laudable role was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the highest civilian award in the US, by then-president George W. Bush.
In August last year, he was arrested at the Kigali international airport, according to the Rwandan government.
His family and international lawyer however, have maintained that he was kidnapped and subjected to extraordinary rendition from Dubai to Rwanda.
In a recent interview with CNN, Kagame implied that Rusesabagina was not abducted from Dubai, but that he was on his way to neighboring Burundi before his plane was diverted to Kigali.
Rusesabagina is currently facing terrorism charges
But sounding furious in today’s speech, Kagame referred to Rusesabagina and other detainees as people who “sought international relevance by killing innocent people and threatening our economy.”
“At one point we told the hosts of these people that these are criminals; they killed our people, they have stolen, raped, they did all kinds of things and we are trying to hold them accountable; but they (foreign countries) said these are critics of the leaders of Rwanda, who are fighting for freedom and rights.
He also described the detainees as “disgraced former officials disgruntled by petty resentments, and spent years cultivating a campaign of lies.”
“You can tell lies about me; it won’t change me. It won’t change this country to be what you want it to be, no matter how many lies.”