Rwandan Opposition Activist Gunned Down In South Africa

 

A Rwandan opposition figure exiled in South Africa was on Sunday shot dead in Cape Town, his party said, calling the attack an “assassination”.

Seif Bamporiki, 49, who was the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) coordinator in South Africa, was killed as he delivered furniture in the crime-ridden township of Nyanga.

While the motive for his murder is still unclear, RNC spokesperson Etienne Mutabazi told AFP the method mirrored past politically-motivated attacks.

The killing “was executed in a similar modus operandi of luring the victim in a compromising and insecure environment for assassination,” he said.

Mutabazi was referring to past attacks on Rwandan dissidents in South Africa including ex-intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, whose body was found strangled in his room in a luxury hotel on January 1, 2014.

READ ALSO: Ugandan Soldiers Jailed For Assaulting Journalists

Bamporiki and his colleague from a pawn shop were accosted by two gun-toting assailants as they waited for a client who had disembarked from their vehicle to collect money to pay for a bed he had bought.

The client had “been looking for him for quite a while”, Mutabazi said. “Even on Saturday, that particular individual came to the shop and said only Bamporiki could serve him.”

The attackers made off with the activist’s pick-up truck and money, leaving his body on the ground.

No arrests have been made so far.

Another Rwandan exile, former general Kayumba Nyamwasa, survived two assassination attempts.

Pretoria described one of those, in June 2010 in South Africa, as an attack by foreign security operatives.

AFP

The Nine Lives Of Rwanda Genocide Survivor Albertine

Genocide Survivor Albertine Mukakamanzi pose for a photograph in front of coffins in Gatwaro Genocide Memorial in Kibuye, western province of Rwanda, on December 1, 2020. – The Gatwaro Genocide Memorial has skulls, bones and belongings from hundreds of victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

 

“Goodbye, Mama. We’ll meet in heaven.”

Those were the young Albertine Mukakamanzi’s final words to her mother, whom she last saw kneeling in prayer as the men with machetes closed in on their refuge.

Mukakamanzi has had to dig deep into her resources of courage to return to the place of that farewell, more than 26 years later.

The site, in Kibuye, in western Rwanda, is now a memorial of skulls, bones and belongings from hundreds of victims of the country’s genocide.

Here, Mukakamanzi had been hoping for — but also perhaps dreading — a glimpse of the clothing her mother wore that day.

Clad in black, the 48-year-old weeps silently, her tears masked by tinted glasses, as she gazes at a giant glass window behind which human remains are stacked.

They are just a few of the 800,000 people who were slaughtered in a 100-day welter of hatred and bloodlust, in the last genocide of the 20th century.

The memorial, inaugurated in 2019, is located at the site of the former Gatwaro stadium where thousands of people were butchered.

They included Mukakamanzi’s parents, two brothers, youngest sister and two nephews. She is her family’s only survivor.

READ ALSO: From France To Rwanda’s Hills, The Husband-And-Wife Genocide Hunters

Mukakamanzi appears embarrassed for breaking down at the sombre memorial, lined with coffins, torn and bloodstained clothes and rosaries.

“I don’t know what came over me, I never cry,” she says, gripping a railing on the memorial’s perimeter wall.

“I was looking to see if I could spot my mother’s clothes but I couldn’t see them,” she says bleakly.

The slaughter of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority was sparked by the assassination of president Juvenal Habyarimana — although the bloodbath had long been in preparation.

On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Habyarimana, from the Hutu majority, was shot down in Kigali.

The plane was struck by at least one missile as it came in to land at Kigali, also killing Burundi’s president Cyprien Ntaryamira, another Hutu, on board.

The attack shattered a fragile peace process, triggering government-orchestrated massacres by Hutus that also targeted moderates in their own community.

– Killing machine –

Mukakamanzi carries with her a past of almost indescribable suffering, a burden that she shoulders by a steely will to survive. Despite her ordeal, she is a bubbly and gutsy businesswoman.

During several hours of interviews with an AFP journalist at Kibuye near Lake Kivu in December, Mukakamanzi recounted the nightmare months of 1994.

In the first weeks of the genocide, her family’s home was burned down. The family fled, seeking refuge at the Gatwaro stadium like thousands of other Tutsis, who had been promised the gendarmes would protect them.

But the reality was the opposite.

Like the Home Saint Jean hotel or the Kibuye church — whose priest, Mukakamanzi’s uncle, was thrown off the bell tower — the stadium was attacked by the extremist Hutu militia, the Interahamwe.

 

Clothes of victims of the Tutsi genocide stored in Gatwaro Genocide Memorial in Kibuye, western province of Rwanda, on December 1, 2020.

 

The notorious group was a killing machine, created to torture and massacre Tutsis.

“We heard gunshots from far away and saw the Interahamwe brandishing machetes outside the stadium and shouting ‘Tomorrow it will be your turn’,” Mukakamanzi said.

“We quickly realised then that death was waiting for us.”

– 10,000 dead –

On the afternoon of April 18, they “kept on firing guns and throwing grenades, and returned in the evening with machetes and knives to kill people,” she said.

The family tried to regroup that night.

The elder brother had already been killed and her father and younger sister were seriously wounded by grenade shrapnel. Her other brother and two nephews had disappeared and were probably dead, she thought.

“I cried and told Mama ‘they are going to die… we are lucky to be alive, we must leave,'” Mukakamanzi says.

But her deeply devout mother refused.

She said she had sworn before God “never to leave Daddy, either in good times or bad.”

She relates slowly, with great emotion, the last moments with her mother, whom she left kneeling in prayer beside her injured husband and younger daughter.

“I told her: ‘Goodbye, Mama. We’ll meet in heaven’.”

The Interahamwe stormed the stadium that night.

By the time they had finished their work, ten thousand people who had been sheltering at the stadium the previous morning lay dead.

Emerging from the memorial, Mukakamanzi points to a thickly wooded mountainside through which she fled.

– Baby buried alive –

She lived like a hunted animal the next few weeks, hiding in the forest and only emerging at night.

One day she came across a hostile group. She was stripped and attacked. A woman then plunged a knife into her breast — a wound that caused a horrendous swelling, Mukakamanzi says.

She tried to go to the home of her godmother’s brother in a school in Kibuye but found no trace of him.

“There were bodies strewn all over the school,” she remembers.

Discovered by an Interahamwe group, Mukakamanzi — fatigued and famished — was asked to “dig a hole to bury a baby alive”.

“I refused… they were going to kill me anyway,” she says, recalling the incident with glassy eyes.

“The Interahamwe dug a hole and put the baby in it… I can still see it shaking its head trying to get the soil out of its mouth.”

She was then beaten with mallets and left there.

 

A general view of skulls of victims of the Tutsi genocide stored in a showcase in Gatwaro Genocide Memorial in Kibuye, western province of Rwanda, on December 1, 2020. – The Gatwaro Genocide Memorial has skulls, bones and belongings from hundreds of victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

 

In these bleakest hours came a ray of hope. She was found by a young Hutu man who was deeply devout and promised to hide her in his house in a locked room.

But one day she was discovered by the man’s mother who raised a furore, shouting “There is a cockroach (a pejorative term for Tutsis) here.”

Mukakamanzi was attacked with machetes, for which she still bears ugly scars on her scalp. She was thrown in the school’s latrines, where corpses had been piled.

– ‘Dogs wanted to eat me’ –

Even so, “nothing can stop fate,” she says.

The young man who had sheltered her returned and used a rope to haul her out of the latrines. But an Interahamwe group arrived, and he fled.

“I was covered in filth, there were worms on my body and I smelt horrible. They said ‘Let her alone, she’s going to die anyway'”.

Then began “the longest journey of my life,” she recalls, describing how she staggered to the local hospital to try to get medical treatment.

“The big problem I had was that the dogs, which were feeding off corpses, wanted to eat me. I had to fight the dogs away with a branch.”

The only silver lining was that Mukakamanzi’s animal-like state prevented her from getting raped.

“I was 21 and looked like an old woman and stank like a corpse,” she says. Even passing militias would let her be, saying “Leave this bit of rubbish, she’s going to die.”

At the hospital in Kibuye “where treating Tutsis was strictly banned,” she succeeded in joining a group of young women who were able to hide in the morgue during daylight hours thanks to the help of a male nurse.

Some nurses would come in secret to treat her, throwing buckets of water over her body to clean her and “wash the insects out of my wounds.”

But one day, the morgue remained closed and the group of young women were found by the Interahamwe and then thrown into prison.

– Life after genocide –

All appeared lost until a Dutch nun from Mukakamanzi’s church turned up at the prison and secured her release by paying the police.

Mukakamanzi took shelter at the home of her elder brother’s friend and at the end of June learnt that French troops had arrived in the town.

She then managed to get to an aid camp run by the French.

Mukakamanzi, like many other survivors, carved out a new life for herself in the bustle and anonymity of the capital Kigali and never once returned to the forest of Rubengera where she had hidden.

 

Alain Gauthier poses for a photograph in Kibuye, western Rwanda, on December 2, 2020. – Alain Gauthier and his wife Dafroza Gauthier has devoted much of their life to tracking down genocide suspects who have found refuge in France. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

 

But things were never easy for her, even then.

Many of those who escaped the genocide like her have borne numerous sufferings since, adding to the heavy cross they already have to bear.

She married a genocide survivor who suffered from trauma, but they divorced a few years later and she raised their two daughters, now 24 and 20, by herself.

Mukakamanzi joined the Rwandan police force, retiring after 18 years of service to become an entrepreneur. She also survived a serious road accident.

– Justice and survival –

For nearly 10 years now she has been helping a Franco-Rwandan couple, Dafroza and Alain Gauthier, in tracking down genocide suspects sheltering in France.

She has been asked to testify in a Paris court in the trial of Claude Muhayimana, a French-Rwandan accused of transporting the Interahamwe to western Rwanda to carry out massacres.

The trial was to start in February but has been postponed — the Covid pandemic has made it difficult for witnesses to travel to France and give their testimony.

The Kibuye memorial is located near a school. Life has returned to normal here now and the silence is sometimes pierced by the cries of shrieking children.

“My family perished but I am here to get justice, that’s what I can do for my family,” Mukakamanzi says softly.

“What I expect from a trial is relief if justice does its work.

“In all honesty, no survivor can spend a single day without thinking about that. Every gesture reminds you of a family member, a friend. But one shouldn’t think of that all the time, because one also has to live.”

AFP

From France To Rwanda’s Hills, The Husband-And-Wife Genocide Hunters

Bisesero genocide survivors Narcisse Kabanda (R) and Aaron Mukomeza (L) pose for a portrait in Bisesero, western Rwanda, on December 2, 2020. – Narcisse Kabanda says that it gives them strength every time they hear that people on the run who carried out the genocide have been arrested. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

 

A stunned silence, and then cries of joy ring out in the green Bisesero hills.

Survivors of one of the most terrible episodes of the genocide in Rwanda have just spotted Alain Gauthier — their lifeline to justice.

“I’ve come to say ‘turikumwe’ (“we are together”) and that you mustn’t lose heart or hope,” the 72-year-old Frenchman tells them.

His brow burnt from the relentless sun, Gauthier has travelled nearly 9,000 kilometres (5,600 miles) to bring news to the people of this remote village.

A genocide suspect from their region is due to be tried in France, he tells them, as he is warmly embraced by Tutsi herders who have come to know him well.

With his Rwandan-born wife Dafroza, 66, Gauthier has devoted decades of his life to tracking down genocide suspects who have found refuge in France.

They have become nicknamed “The Klarsfelds of Rwanda” after Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, fighting to prevent evil from being consigned to a footnote of history.

Genocide Survivor Albertine Mukakamanzi (L) is overwhelmed by emotion as Alain Gauthier (R) try to comfort her at the Gatwaro Genocide Memorial in Kibuye, western Rwanda, on December 1, 2020. – The Gatwaro Genocide Memorial has skulls, bones and belongings from hundreds of victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

 

In just 100 days in 1994, some 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate members of the Hutu majority were slaughtered, in massacres orchestrated and inflamed by the authorities.

So far, the Gauthiers’ efforts have led to about 30 legal cases being initiated in France against Rwandan suspects, all of them men.

Six have gone on trial, three of whom have been convicted. One was jailed for 25 years and the other two given life sentences.

This early December day in Bisesero marked just one stop in a two-week trip in which Gauthier criss-crossed Rwanda, accompanied by an AFP journalist.

READ ALSO: The Nine Lives Of Rwanda Genocide Survivor Albertine

The hills stretch into the distance, their shades of green capped by a gentle mist extending over Lake Kivu.

Gathered around him, the ageing, weather-beaten herders, clutching sticks and wearing trilby hats, talk of wives and children lost.

For weeks the Tutsis of Bisesero held off their local attackers until the extremist Hutu government had militiamen brought in from other regions to launch mass attacks.

An estimated 50,000 people were killed.

“Each time we hear that people on the run have been arrested, it gives us strength,” one of the herders, Narcisse Kabanda, 63, says.

 

Bisesero genocide survivor Aaron Kabogora poses for a photograph in Bisesero, western Rwanda, on December 2, 2020. – Aaron Kabogora lost 10 family members in the Bisesero massacres and still has a bullet still lodged in his leg and scars visible on his shoulder. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

 

Claude Muhayimana, a former hotel driver in Rwanda who took refuge in France and gained French nationality in 2010, was due to have gone on trial in Paris on February 2.

He is accused of having transported Hutu militiamen to sites in the west, including the Bisesero region, where massacres were carried out.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic making it difficult for witnesses to travel, the opening of the court case has been postponed.

– Race against time –

Aaron Kabogora lost 10 family members in the Bisesero massacres.

“My wife, my children… they were killed in different places, for some, we still haven’t found the bodies,” says the thin-faced 71-year-old, a bullet still lodged in his leg and scars visible on his shoulder.

Gauthier has come especially to see Kabogora. He wants to follow up on some strong testimony in the Muhayimana case that he gathered on a previous visit.

“I was born here, I lived through the genocide here, there are lots of Interahamwe (militia) who passed through here,” Kabogora says.

Gauthier decides on the spot to cite Kabogora in the case so at least one Bisesero survivor will testify.

A few days later proves even more fruitful when he meets for the first time a former close neighbour of Muhayimana, who he hopes will offer some “very precise facts” to the court case.

“It’s essential that those who have seen, and those who know, talk,” he says.

Some of the planners, sponsors and killers of the genocide have faced trial in Rwanda or other countries as well as before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

But many continue to evade justice.

“It’s a race against the clock,” Rwanda’s Prosecutor General Aimable Havugiyaremye told AFP in an interview in the capital, Kigali.

“As time passes, what’s more difficult is identifying these suspects, even physically,” he said, adding many change identity and nationality, making international cooperation crucial.

He hopes that that will be helped by efforts under way to move online all the witness accounts they have collected so far and by creating a database to share information.

For more than two decades, the Gauthiers have travelled to Rwanda about three times a year during their holidays and now retirement to search for evidence from ex-killers, prisoners and survivors.

They do it as volunteers and on behalf of all victims, they say.

Muhayimana was arrested in 2014 in the northwestern French city of Rouen.

A year earlier, an investigation had been opened due to a case brought by the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), an association co-founded by the Gauthiers.

– ‘Our life changed’ –

Nearly 27 years after the genocide, Gauthier still gets emotional talking about the day he had to tell Dafroza that her mother, Suzana, had been shot outside the church in a Kigali parish where she had taken refuge.

“April 6, 1994, that’s when our lives changed — a cataclysm in our lives, like all victims’ families,” he said.

Between 70 and 80 members of her family were killed, Dafroza told AFP, her eyes empty.

“On my mother’s side there were no survivors: my mother, my uncles, nephews were killed,” she said in an interview in their home town of Reims, northeastern France.

 

Bisesero genocide survivor Narcisse Kabanda is seen in Bisesero, western Rwanda, on December 2, 2020. – Narcisse Kabanda says that it gives them strength every time they hear that people on the run who carried out the genocide have been arrested. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

 

While the genocide was under way, Gauthier said the pair, despite their deep shock, fought to raise awareness of what was going on.

“We wrote to politicians, newspapers, we did demonstrations… and we went to work,” the retired teacher and school headmaster said.

Dafroza was employed as a chemical engineer and they had three young children; later, they took in victims’ children too.

Two things would prove decisive in making up their minds to campaign for the prosecution of genocide suspects.

First were the horrifying stories they heard on their initial trips back to Rwanda after the 1994 killings.

Then, in 2001, at the end of a court hearing they were attending in Brussels against four suspects, the founder of a Belgian victims’ association turned to them and said bluntly: “And you in France, what are you doing?”

That same year, the CPCR was set up.

Since then “we haven’t had a single day without talking about the genocide…” Gauthier said.

– ‘Too long’ –

While Rwanda was never a French colony, successive French governments cultivated close ties after the country’s independence in 1962, including training its top military leaders.

France also signed military deals with the Hutu strongman president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death in 1994 sparked the massacres.

Against the backdrop of these ties, a number of genocide suspects have sought refuge in France.

Rwanda has made 48 extradition requests to France, more than to any other European country.

But France’s highest court has consistently opposed the extradition to Rwanda of suspects accused by Kigali of genocide, on the grounds that the crime was not in the Rwandan statute books at the time of the massacre.

The Gauthiers believe that it has taken the French justice system “too long” to start honing in on suspects, even if things have improved since 2012.

They welcomed the creation of both the position of a special prosecutor in France and a central office for combating crimes against humanity, known by its initials as the OCLCH.

Nevertheless, procedures are slow and time is lost which only helps the perpetrators, they bemoan.

 

Alain Gauthier poses for a photograph in Kibuye, western Rwanda, on December 2, 2020. – Alain Gauthier and his wife Dafroza Gauthier has devoted much of their life to tracking down genocide suspects who have found refuge in France. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to put together cases because many witnesses have died,” Gauthier said.

“Others have failing memories or no longer want to talk” encouraged by the Rwandan authorities to favour reconciliation.

The accused are elderly and “risk never being put on trial,” he said.

And in some areas with few survivors where perpetrators return home after serving lengthy prison sentences, witnesses feel afraid and alone, he added.

In France, conducting a legal case against a Rwandan genocide suspect takes on average 10 years at a cost of a million euros ($1.2 million), said Eric Emeraux, the former OCLCH head.

“The NGOs which do this tracing work are indispensable, because the French state’s resources are not up to the challenge,” he said in Paris.

The Gauthiers have funded their work themselves and thanks to donations made to the association.

– ‘Must hold to account’ –

For his latest trip across Rwanda, Gauthier focussed on gathering evidence for five cases, scattered over 11 areas.

Travelling around Rwanda on roads crowded with motorcycle taxis, women with goods piled high on their heads, dusty trucks and bikes carrying live chickens, Gauthier passes the hours humming along to the latest album by his son-in-law Gael Faye.

Faye is a musician and writer who authored “Small Country” (“Petit Pays”), a hugely successful novel set in the 1990s during the war in Burundi and genocide in Rwanda.

Gauthier is a dual French-Rwandan national, an attachment that dates to when he taught in Rwanda in the early 1970s, in a town where Dafroza was also studying.

Genocide Survivor Albertine Mukakamanzi pose for a photograph in front of coffins in Gatwaro Genocide Memorial in Kibuye, western province of Rwanda, on December 1, 2020. – The Gatwaro Genocide Memorial has skulls, bones and belongings from hundreds of victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

Despite nights blighted by insomnia and chronic back pain, he is up at dawn for an invigorating milky ginger tea, before hitting the road again.

In the evening back at his modest hotel, he reads through his notes again, deep in concentration and often consternation, lost in survivors’ accounts.

“For the victims, it’s essential that those who killed their loved ones are held to account, it’s a way for them to rebuild their lives,” Gauthier says.

– Working through the list –

Searches often begin with a tipoff.

One came as an anonymous letter from students about a suspect in western France; another from a friend alerting them to a hospital co-worker.

When the Gauthiers have gathered evidence, they submit a lawsuit to judges in Paris.

A general view of skulls of victims of the Tutsi genocide stored in a showcase in Gatwaro Genocide Memorial in Kibuye, western province of Rwanda, on December 1, 2020. – The Gatwaro Genocide Memorial has skulls, bones and belongings from hundreds of victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. (Photo by Simon Wohlfahrt / AFP)

On the ground in Rwanda, a network of survivors helps out, as well as Gauthier’s former students, who look for witnesses, translate and draw up lists.

On his December visit, Gauthier had a list of witnesses in the case of a priest under investigation by French authorities since the end of 2019.

He gathered accounts about the suspect’s alleged actions in his church in April 1994, talking discreetly to people away from the public gaze.

In floods of tears, one of them, a woman who said she’d been just 10 years old at the time, told AFP how she had stayed in the church for two weeks, hidden and terrified, among her family’s corpses.

She only came out when bulldozers arrived to put the bodies in a communal grave, she said.

Appalled at what he hears, Gauthier asks two women to put their accounts into writing.

The following week he travels to the southern town of Nyanza to see around 15 people in a case against a former Rwandan policeman.

Philippe Hategekimana has been in provisional detention in France since 2019, suspected of involvement in the genocide.

This time, the task at hand is laborious but crucial — the filling in of documents necessary for submission to the French justice authorities.

To ensure they are accepted, he must check names, ages, witnesses’ relationships to victims — and the correct addresses, no easy matter faced with the reality of rural Rwanda.

Phone calls swiftly follow from hesitant husbands to their wives, checking on children’s ages.

And after a few hours, it’s all wrapped up over beers and goat meat kebabs.

– For critics, they’re too close –

“So, how’s the work going?” a well-known musician calls out to Gauthier in Kigali where he is often recognised in the street.

He regularly goes to the Rwandan public prosecutor’s offices and is in contact with Theoneste Karenzi, who heads the unit in charge of protecting victims and witnesses.

At the age of 16, Karenzi survived alone after his family’s massacre in the western city of Kibuye.

Describing the Gauthiers as “courageous people”, Karenzi said their “contribution is major” in initiating cases against suspects.

But the husband-and-wife team has critics, too.

Detractors claim they are a “network of informers” and criticise their ties with the Rwandan government, which is often accused of clamping down on dissent.

In 2017, President Paul Kagame awarded the couple the National Order for Exceptional Friendship in recognition of their work.

Philippe Meilhac, defence lawyer for about 10 Rwandans in the crosshairs of French justice including Muhayimana, condemns their closeness to the Kigali regime.

 

Clothes of victims of the Tutsi genocide stored in Gatwaro Genocide Memorial in Kibuye, western province of Rwanda, on December 1, 2020.

 

He claims that the Gauthiers’ association is “to a certain extent, a technical and political instrument for the Rwandan authorities”.

Canadian journalist Judi Rever, who wrote the controversial book “In Praise of Blood” about alleged crimes by forces of Rwanda’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party, is similarly critical.

Rever, who is accused by Kigali of promoting a revisionist version of the genocide, claims the Gauthiers are working for the RPF.

“In several cases of inquiry, it’s opponents of the RPF or witnesses of RPF crimes who are targeted,” she said in comments to AFP.

But Gauthier says their part is just to get the ball rolling. “We originate the proceedings, but it’s not us who convict, it’s juries made up of citizens,” he said.

“A legal truth emerges from it which corresponds to our expectations but which is not ours,” he added.

For now though, the couple are busy preparing for Muhayimana’s court case, for which no new date has yet been announced.

But afterwards, the Frenchman has promised to return to tell the Bisesero survivors all about the hearing half a world away.

AFP

Russia, Rwanda Send Troops To Central Africa Republic After Alleged Coup Bid

(Photo by ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP)

 

The Central African Republic said Monday that Russia and Rwanda had sent in hundreds of troops after an alleged attempted coup ahead of upcoming elections.

The government in CAR, one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, accused former president Francois Bozize on Saturday of fomenting a would-be putsch by three rebel groups.

The groups on Friday started to advance on the capital Bangui along key highways after declaring an alliance, the government said. The UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA announced on Sunday that the rebels had been stopped or pushed back and the situation was “under control”.

“Russia has sent several hundred soldiers and heavy weapons” under a bilateral cooperation agreement, government spokesman Ange Maxime Kazagui said.

“The Rwandans have also sent several hundred men who are on the ground and have started fighting.”

Rwanda’s defence ministry confirmed the deployment.

It said the move was in response to the targeting of its troops in the 11,500-strong MINUSCA by rebels supported by Bozize, who ruled the CAR from 2003 to 2013.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Atmosphere Tense For UK Passengers Held At German Airports

No details were given about the deployment, but the ministry said it would “also contribute to ensure a peaceful and secure general elections scheduled on Sunday”.

MINUSCA’s Rwandan contingent is notably in charge of the security of CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera and the presidential palace.

– Russian role –

There was no immediate confirmation from Moscow about the Russian deployment although the Kremlin said the situation in the country was of “serious concern”.

Moscow has been leading a vast diplomatic and financial offensive in the former French colony since 2018 in return for concessions to Russian firms to exploit minerals, particularly gold and diamonds.

Private security guards employed by Russian companies also provide protection for Touadera and are involved in training of local armed forces.

The alleged coup was mounted by three of the country’s most powerful militias.

They said they had merged into a single entity called “the Coalition for Patriots for Change” and invited all other groups to join.

MINUSCA spokesman Vladimir Monteiro said late Sunday they had been pushed back in several locations or blocked, and “the situation is under control.”

But security and humanitarian sources said some members of the armed groups were still on the ground around Bossembele, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Bangui.

The so-called G5+ group — France, Russia, the US, the EU and the World Bank — urged Bozize and allied armed groups to lay down their arms and called for Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections to go ahead.

A source at the French presidency said the priority “in the coming days is to stick to the date” for the elections and avoid fuelling dangerous uncertainty.

The source refused to comment on the dispatch of Russian and Rwandan troops, saying only that MINUSCA “has successfully carried out its mission in the last few days.”

– Shadow of Bozize –

Bozize, 74, who denies the coup plot allegations, has been a major figure in the country’s decades-long history of war and misery.

He slipped back into the country in December 2019 after years in exile, sparking fears of a comeback.

He retains a large following, especially among the Gbaya ethnic group, the country’s largest, and has many supporters in the army.

The former general came to power in a coup in 2003 before he himself was overthrown in 2013 by the Seleka, a rebel coalition drawn largely from the Muslim majority.

Christian and animist groups forged a so-called self-defence force called the anti-Balaka, and the country spiralled into conflict along largely sectarian lines before France intervened militarily.

After a transitional period, elections were staged in 2016 and won by Touadera.

Bozize has been barred from contesting the next elections by the CAR’s top court as he is the target of a 2014 arrest warrant for alleged murder and torture and is under UN sanctions.

– Weak government –

His absence from the poll has left Touadera the clear frontrunner in the 17-strong field of candidates.

But his government holds sway over only around a third of the CAR’s territory.

The rest is in the hands of militia groups that typically claim to defend the interests of a given ethnic group, and often fight with each other over resources.

The CAR has known little stability since gaining independence from France in 1960.

Thousands of people have died since the 2013 coup, and nearly a quarter of the population of 4.7 million have fled their homes.

AFP

France To Rule On Alleged Rwanda Genocide Financier’s Fate

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

A top French appeals court is to rule Wednesday on whether alleged Rwandan genocide financier Felicien Kabuga will stand trial in France or face a UN tribunal in Tanzania.

Kabuga, who is 84 according to officials but claims to be 87, was arrested in May at his home outside Paris after 25 years on the run.

The 1994 Rwanda genocide of some 800,000 people by Hutu extremists targeted rival Tutsis as well as also moderate Hutus.

Once one of Rwanda’s richest men, Kabuga is alleged to have funnelled money to militia groups as chairman of the national defence fund.

He is also accused of setting up the Interahamwe militia that carried out massacres as well as the Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines whose broadcasts incited people to murder.

A French court ruled in June that Kabuga should stand trial at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) based in Arusha, Tanzania.

But his lawyers appealed, citing frail health and fears the UN tribunal in Africa would be biased.

During a hearing at France’s supreme court for criminal cases, the Cour de Cassation, Kabuga’s lawyer Louis Bore also argued that his client could not receive proper medical treatment in Tanzania.

Kabuga has diabetes, high blood pressure and leukoaraiosis, an incurable illness that erodes physical and cognitive abilities, Bore said.

Kabuga was moved from his cell at the end of last week for “medical reasons,” several sources told AFP.

If the appeals court endorses his transfer, Kabuga would have one month to appear before the MICT, which took over the duties of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) when it formally closed in 2015.

The ICTR handed down dozens of prison sentences over the years on genocide and other charges, including life sentences. It also acquitted some suspects.

Kabuga was indicted by the tribunal in 1997 on seven counts, including genocide. He denies all the charges.

Rwanda has said it wants to see Kabuga tried by its own courts, but transferring jurisdiction away from the UN tribunal in Tanzania would require a decision by the UN Security Council, according to Serge Brammertz, a prosecutor for the MICT.

Rwanda itself carried out 22 executions of people convicted for their role in the conflict before abolishing the death penalty in 2007, a move that facilitated the extradition of suspects from other countries to Rwanda.

Between 2005 and 2012, some 12,000 popular tribunals know as “gacaca” tried close to two million people, convicting two-thirds of them.

European courts have also tried and sentenced Rwandan genocide suspects, notably Belgium and France.

-AFP

Arrested ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Duped Into Flying To Kigali

“Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina (C) is escorted by police officers to leave after his pre-trial court session at the Kicukiro Primary court in Kigali, Rwanda, on September 14, 2020. / AFP / STRINGER

 

 

Paul Rusesabagina, the polarising hero of the “Hotel Rwanda” film who was arrested last month in Kigali, was duped into boarding a jet he thought was flying to Burundi, a New York Times report said.

“How I got here — now that is a surprise,” he told the US daily in a jailhouse interview with two Rwandan officials in the room. “I was actually not coming here.”

Rusesabagina, a Hutu, became famous after the Hollywood film in which he is credited with saving the lives of more than 1,200 people as they sheltered in the hotel he ran during the country’s 1994 genocide.

Some 800,000 mostly Tutsi but also moderate Hutu were killed in the genocide.

The 66-year-old has lived in exile since 1996 and holds both Belgian citizenship and a US “green card”.

 

“Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina (C), wearing a mask, appears at the Kicukiro Primary court in Kigali, Rwanda, on September 14, 2020. / AFP / STRINGER

 

Over the years, he has become a staunch critic of leader Paul Kagame’s Tutsi-dominated government, accusing his ruling party of authoritarianism and anti-Hutu sentiment.

According to the NYT’s Friday report, Rusesabagina flew from the US to Dubai on August 26, before boarding a private jet he thought was heading to Bujumbura in Burundi which neighbours Rwanda.

The plane was operated by GainJet, a charter company based in Greece that is often used by Kagame, the report said.

But it landed in Kigali where Rusesabagina was arrested. The NYT quoted Rwanda’s spy chief as saying “he delivered himself here.”

He has since been charged with terrorism, financing and founding militant groups, murder, arson and conspiracy to involve children in armed groups.

Rusesabagina says he was heading to Burundi at the invitation of a pastor, to speak in his churches.

 

“Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina (C), wearing a mask, appears at the Kicukiro Primary court in Kigali, Rwanda, on September 14, 2020. AFP / STRINGER

 

But the NYT was not able to speak to the pastor and says Rwandan officials believe he was actually heading there to coordinate with armed groups based in Burundi and Congo.

In 2018, Rusesabagina co-founded an opposition group, the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), which is said to have an armed wing called the National Liberation Front (FLN).

In multiple speeches, Rusesabagina has expressed support for the FLN — which has carried out armed attacks and is described as a terrorist organisation by Rwanda — but the extent of his involvement in its actions is unclear.

He has denied forming the FLN.

AFP

US Demands Due Process For Detained ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero

FILE: Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame reacts in front of a wreath for the 25th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda, on April 7, 2019. Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

 

America’s top diplomat for Africa has urged a fair trial for “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina, as concern mounts over the mysterious circumstances of his arrest and return to his home country.

Rusesabagina, who saved more than 1,200 Rwandans during the 1994 genocide by sheltering them in a hotel, appeared in handcuffs in Kigali this week accused of serious charges including terrorism after a quarter century in exile abroad.

It remains unclear how the strident opponent of long-ruling President Paul Kagame, who had been living in the US and Belgium since leaving Rwanda in 1996, was extradited to his homeland.

Tibor Nagy, US assistant secretary for African Affairs, said he met Wednesday with Rwandan ambassador Mathilde Mukantabana to discuss the circumstances around Rusesabagina’s arrest.

“The United States expects the Rwandan government to provide humane treatment, adhere to the rule of law, and provide a fair and transparent legal process for Mr. Rusesabagina,” Nagy said in a statement.

Rwandan investigators say Rusesabagina, who was played by US actor Don Cheadle in the 2004 Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda”, was arrested “through international cooperation” but have refused to elaborate.

Rusesabagina’s family have said they cannot understand why their father, a high-profile regime target, would return by his own free will to Rwanda where almost certain prosecution would await.

Global accolades

“We believe he was kidnapped and taken by extraordinary rendition to Rwanda,” a spokesman for the family said in a statement Wednesday.

He “is being held by President Paul Kagame’s government on false charges”, added the statement shared by the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, a charity in his name.

Rusesabagina was hailed a hero over his actions during the genocide that killed some 800,000 Rwandans and he was awarded, among other global accolades, a US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 by then president George W Bush.

But inside Rwanda, the ruling party began to attack his motives and character in the years since as Rusesabagina’s attacks on Kagame hardened in exile.

Investigators say Rusesabagina was suspected of creating and financing “extremist terror outfits” in East Africa, including the FLN, the armed wing of a movement he founded abroad to bring about political change in Rwanda.

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau said Rusesabagina was the subject of an international arrest warrant over alleged crimes of terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder.

Supporters of the government in Kigali — including Ambassador Mukantabana — have been sharing videos on social media of Rusesabagina vowing to use “any means possible” to “liberate” Rwanda from Kagame’s rule.

The former military leader whose troops drove the genocidal regime from Rwanda in 1994 was once championed in Western capitals as a visionary reformer, lifting his country out of the devastation of the killings.

But he has ruled ever since and critics say he shows signs of autocratic leadership, overseeing constitutional changes to prolong his rule and targeting opponents both inside Rwanda and abroad.

 

AFP

Rwanda Arrests Hotelier From ‘Hotel Rwanda’ On ‘Terrorism’

hotel-rwanda
A Rwandan man reads an article from the French publication TV5 on his phone about Aloys Ntiwiragabo, a Rwandan Genocide suspect on August 26, 2020.  AFP

 

 

Rwandan investigators announced Monday they had arrested Paul Rusesabagina, whose heroic actions during the 1994 genocide were depicted in the Oscar-nominated movie “Hotel Rwanda”, accusing the high-profile government critic of terrorism.

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) said Rusesabagina, who lives in Belgium, had been detained “through international cooperation” and was being held at a police station in the capital on serious charges.

“With the cooperation of the international community, Paul Rusesabagina was arrested and he is now in the hands of RIB,” RIB acting spokesman Thierry Murangira told reporters in Kigali.

Murangira refused to detail how the arrest occurred or the extent of involvement of international authorities in detaining the outspoken critic of long-ruling President Paul Kagame, claiming doing so “could jeopardise investigations”.

Eric Van Duyse, spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, told AFP they were informed of Rusesabagina’s arrest by Rwandan authorities “but we have no details of the circumstances”.

Murangira said Rusesabagina, who has agitated for political change in Rwanda from abroad, was the subject of an international arrest warrant and “suspected of financing and creating terror groups” operating in East Africa and overseas.

He is accused by investigators of terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder, including against his own countrymen on Rwandan soil in two incidences in June and December 2018.

– Fierce critic –

During the 1994 genocide, as manager of the Hotel des Diplomates in Kigali, Rusesabagina used his influence and connections to shelter 1,268 Tutsis and moderate Hutus from being slaughtered by the Interahamwe militia.

American actor Don Cheadle played him in the 2004 Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda.”

From Belgium, where he sought asylum with his wife and children, Rusesabagina became a fierce critic of Kagame, who has been in power since 1994 when his forces overthrew the genocidal regime.

Rusesabagina has accused Kagame’s government of killing opposition figures and detaining and torturing activists both at home and abroad.

The RIB has said the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), which Rusesabagina co-founded abroad, and its armed wing, the FLN, are “extremist terror outfits”. Rwanda has also accused neighbours, including Burundi and Uganda, of harbouring the group.

Rusesabagina, in a video posted to YouTube in December 2018, said the FLN was seeking to “liberate” Rwanda from an oppressive government in Kigali.

Once championed in Western capitals as a reformer, Kagame has been criticised for overseeing constitutional changes to prolong his rule and cracking down on opposition voices.

AFP

 

Rwanda Issues Arrest Warrant For Genocide Suspect In France – Prosecutor

A file photo of a court gavel.

 

Rwanda has issued an international arrest warrant for a top former Rwandan military official, Aloys Ntiwiragabo, who is under investigation in France over his role in the country’s 1994 genocide which claimed 800,000 lives.

“We have issued an international arrest warrant against Aloys Ntiwiragabo, the genocide suspect. We have investigated his case and we are working with the French unit in charge of combating war crimes and crimes against humanity,” prosecutor-general Aimable Havugiyaremye told a press conference on Tuesday.

France opened a probe into alleged crimes against humanity by Ntiwiragabo after he was found in the suburbs of the city of Orleans, about 100 kilometres south-west of Paris.

French investigative news site Mediapart tracked down the former Rwandan spy chief, who had been identified by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as one of the architects of the genocide.

Neither the ICTR, Interpol, France nor Rwanda were actively seeking him now and had dropped arrest warrants years ago.

The revelation of his whereabouts came barely two months after another suspected genocide architect, Felicien Kabuga, was arrested on the fringes of Paris.

Kabuga, who evaded police in several countries for 25 years, is accused of financing the genocide.

Kabuga had asked for a trial in France, citing frail health and claiming the UN court in Africa would be biased against him, and possibly hand him over to Rwandan authorities.

A team of prosecutors and investigators from the international tribunal handling Rwanda genocide matters arrived in Kigali Tuesday for a two-week visit to investigate and gather evidence on Kabuga and other genocide suspects at large.

France has long been known as a hiding place for wanted genocide suspects and French investigators currently have dozens of cases underway.

A plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, from Rwanda’s Hutu majority, was shot down in Kigali on April 6, 1994, unleashing the killing spree that would leave mainly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus dead.

AFP

PHOTOS: 117 Stranded Nigerians Return From Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania

In this photo released by @AzmanAir on August 2, 2020, returnees disembark from an airplane following their evacuation from three East African countries.

 

A total of 117 Nigerians stranded in three East African countries as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have returned home.

They were brought back to the country on Sunday from Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania.

The airplane which evacuated the returnees from the three East African countries touched down at about 3am at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.

A Nigerian airline, Azman Air, which conducted the evacuation exercise, announced the arrival of the returnees in an early-morning tweet.

 

In line with the guidelines of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on evacuation, the returnees are expected to go into self-isolation for 14 days.

At the end of the isolation period, they are also expected to take another test to ascertain their COVID-19 status before reuniting with the society.

 

US Evacuees Now 1,430

Their return to the country came barely a day after the Nigeria Government evacuated 300 more Nigerians stranded in the United States.

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in a tweet on Saturday, confirmed that a total of 300 citizens were brought back to the country.

 

According to the agency, the evacuation of the new set of returnees who also arrived at the international airport in Lagos via Ethiopian Airlines is the fifth from the US since the government began the exercise.

All the returnees had tested negative to COVID-19 before boarding the flight and would also observe the mandatory 14-day self-isolation as directed by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.

The latest evacuation brings to 1,430 the total number of Nigerians who returned from the US.

Highpoints of the arrival of the stranded Nigerians from the three East African countries are captured in the photos below:

France Opens Probe Into Rwandan Genocide Suspect

A file photo of French President, Emmanuel Macron. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

France has opened a probe into alleged crimes against humanity by a top former Rwandan military official, Aloys Ntiwiragabo, during the country’s 1994 genocide which claimed 800,000 lives.

Anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP Saturday that a preliminary investigation was opened after Ntiwiragabo was found hiding in the suburbs of the city of Orleans, about 100 kilometres south-west of Paris.

French investigative news site Mediapart tracked down the former Rwandan spy chief, who was identified by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as one of the architects of the genocide.

Neither the ICTR, Interpol, France nor Rwanda were actively seeking him now and had dropped arrest warrants years ago.

The revelation of his whereabouts comes barely two months after another suspected genocide architect, Felicien Kabuga, was arrested on the fringes of Paris.

Kabuga, who evaded police in several countries for 25 years, is accused of financing the genocide.

Kabuga had asked for a trial in France, citing frail health and claiming the United Nations court in Africa would be biased against him, and possibly hand him over to Rwandan authorities.

France has long been known as a hiding place for wanted genocide suspects and French investigators currently have dozens of cases underway.

A plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, from Rwanda’s Hutu majority, was shot down in Kigali on April 6, 1994, unleashing the killing spree that would leave mainly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus dead.

 

AFP

Zambia Denies Accusations Its President Sponsored Rwandan Rebels

Zambia’s President, Edgar Lungu, (pictured) was accused of supporting “rebel attacks to remove Rwandan President Paul Kagame from power.

 

Zambia’s government on Tuesday rejected claims President Edgar Lungu had bankrolled a Rwandan rebel leader accused of orchestrating deadly attacks in his country’s border regions.

The claims were made by the rebel chief, Callixte Nsabimana, who is on trial for terrorism and other charges. He has already admitted to working with other foreign governments against Rwanda.

During his latest hearing on Monday, Nsabimana told a Rwandan High court that Lungu had promised his National Liberation Front (FLN) $1 million to help oust the administration in Kigali.

He said Lungu had made a down payment of $150,000 in support of “rebel attacks to remove President Paul Kagame from power”.

Zambia is surrounded by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Angola. It is 1,258 kilometres away from Rwanda. Image: www.distancefromto.net

In a statement Tuesday the Zambian presidency said it “would like to categorically refute these claims”.

It stated “unequivocally that these allegations are false and must be treated with the contempt they deserve”.

“The governments and peoples of Zambia and Rwanda continue to enjoy strong and fraternal relations founded on mutual respect,” said the statement from presidential spokesman Isaac Chipambe.

Nsabimana, also known as “Sankara” has in previous hearings named Burundi and Uganda as supporters of the rebel activities against Rwanda.

The rebel commander is charged with terrorism, treason, incitement violence, murder and kidnap among other charges.

AFP