Tuesday, December 7, 2010

HRRF: Open letter to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yves Leterne

By Paul Rusesabagina
President, Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation
President, Highly-Inclusive Inter-Rwandan Dialogue

December 6, 2010

Dear President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Yves Leterme:

I write this letter as a humanitarian trying to bring truth, reconciliation and peace to my home country of Rwanda. Unfortunately, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front party continue to rule in Rwanda only in their own interests. I humbly ask for your assistance to prevent Paul Kagame from doing even more harm to both his own people, and to millions of others in the region.

It is increasingly clear that Kagame’s rule is harming the vast majority of people in Rwanda and the large Rwandan exile and ex-patriot community who are unable to return home in legitimate fear for their lives. According to the recent UN Mapping Report and other well-documented evidence, Kagame’s efforts have also directly led to the war over conflict minerals in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where more than six million people have now died.

The highly unrepresentative elections in Rwanda in August, 2010, where Kagame won reelection with 94% of the vote, brought political repression in Rwanda firmly into the public eye. All real opposition candidates were prevented from registering their parties, from organizing and from being on the ballot. Oppressive tactics included well-documented assaults, arrests and suppression of all independent media. This went so far as the murders of the Green Party’s Vice Presidential candidate, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, and of journalist Leonard Rugambage who was investigating an assassination attempt against a former Rwandan general. When American lawyer Peter Erlinder went to Kigali to represent Victoire Ingabire, one of the opposition leaders who was imprisoned, Erlinder himself was also arrested on false charges. Unfortunately, all of these
tactics are typical of a Rwandan government that accepts no dissent from its official policies.

Even more devastating, the Mapping Report published in October, 2010 by the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights provides damning evidence of Rwandan government and military culpability in the conflict in the DRC. This includes strong allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Rwandan troops against Hutu civilians in the DRC. It also includes evidence that must be investigated about the potential that the current Rwandan government perpetrated a genocide against Hutu civilians in the DRC between 1993 and 2003.

These horrific charges have been known to the human rights community and to Rwandans for years. The UN’s report, however, is important international validation of the charges against Paul Kagame’s current government.

Strong evidence exists that the UN Mapping Report is just the tip of the iceberg on Rwandan involvement in the DRC, with even more atrocities committed between 2003 and 2010 in that terrible war over conflict minerals. The UN Security Council has regularly implicated Rwanda, among others, as a foreign power that perpetuates the ongoing conflict in the DRC for its own benefit through support of rebel groups who mine and sell conflict minerals. In this case, the profit benefits only a few elites who are in power in Kigali.

Recently, the Rwandan government has once again been flinging false charges against myself, associates in my foundation, and others both in and outside of Rwanda who criticize Kagame and his actions. This is simply part of a long campaign of lies intended to slander and libel anyone who dares to disagree with the official RPF position on the history of Rwanda and what is going on now, both inside of the country and in the region. When attempting to defame a perceived opponent, Kagame’s government has a long history of making up charges, inventing evidence, hiring witnesses either with payments or with release from prison terms. Most recently, they inventing an alleged terrorist group to which critics supposedly provide funds.

These false allegations have been made against myself, against American lawyer and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda counsel Peter Erlinder, and against Rwandan political candidate Victoire Ingabire, among others. This defamation is also frequently accompanied by physical intimidation. This includes the arrest of Erlinder and many opposition candidates. On a personal note, my home in Belgium was ransacked for the third time. This happened on October 21st, 2010 while I was in the hospital recovering from surgery. It is clear that the target of the theft was documents in the Kinyarwanda language, and these could only be useful to a Rwandan.

Kagame’s government in Rwanda has set up its legal system as a form of ethnic and political apartheid. Opponents are not merely assaulted or detained, but rather laws are created to perpetuate the rule of a small minority. These laws are then used against any opponents in an attempt to legitimize the clear discrimination that is taking place.

What is clear here is that these charges are nothing but attempts to distract attention from the real problems facing Rwanda. By defaming anyone who has the audacity to speak freely and criticize the regime for its clear abuses of power, Kagame’s government hopes to distract its critics by forcing them to defend themselves. More importantly, Kagame and the RPF want to distract the international community, the press, and governments around the world by trying to turn the focus away from the very real problems facing Rwanda and the region.

This behavior must not be accepted, and must not be allowed to stand. The allegations in the UN Mapping Report, along with the political repression and complete lack of political freedom in Rwanda, the ongoing conflict over minerals in the neighboring DRC all demand immediate and prolonged international attention. These crimes by the Rwanda government are too serious to be deflected by their flinging of allegations against their critics.

For legal purposes, I hereby categorically state that any charges brought against me by the Rwandan government in the press are completely FALSE. I have NEVER provided funding to the groups mentioned by the government or to any “terrorist organization.”

I have never even heard of the organization the Rwandan government described in the media reports.

Further, to the best of my knowledge the alleged “terrorist organization” in question did not exist until the Rwandan government created it as a scapegoat to charge political opponents.

The charges against me in the press from Prosecutor Ngoga came in response to two press releases that my Foundation issued asking the international community to monitor President Kagame’s actions toward Victoire Ingabire and to hold the Rwandan government accountable for actions described in the UN Mapping Report.

In addition, I mention charges brought “in the press” here because to date, I have not been made aware of any formal charges brought against me. Of course, in Rwanda formal charges are not a necessary part of the “justice” system run by and for the benefit of those in power. If formal charges are ever brought using the alleged documentary evidence, I will be happy to refute those point by point.

In closing, it is clear that this new round of allegations against myself and others is simply another in a long series of desperate ploys by a repressive, vengeful and fearful government in Rwanda, aimed to silence myself and other legitimate critics. I am pleased to join the increasingly large group of human rights advocates and members of the international community in calling out the Rwandan government for their crimes inside and outside the country, as well as for their horrific repression of the vast majority of Rwandans. Someone must speak for the average Rwandan citizen when the government has manifestly failed in its duty.

I humbly ask your continued and increasing support in lending your voice, and that of your country, to the cause of the Rwandan people. False allegations against free speech and honest criticism cannot be allowed to stand. Intense, public attention must be provided to the many allegations brought against the Rwandan government both during the recent elections, and especially in the UN’s Mapping Report.


Paul Rusesabagina

Related Materials:
Belgium: Hotel Rwanda’s Paul Rusesabagina to Appear at Protest in Brussels

Belgium: Alert to European Citizens During Kagame's Presence in Brussels

Belgium: General Kagame's Show in Brussels Clouds EU's Image

Smearing a Hero: Sad Revisionism Over 'Hotel Rwanda'


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home