NAIROBI, Kenya — Paul Rusesabagina, whose bravery in saving more than 1,200 fellow Rwandans from genocide inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” has been arrested by the authorities in Rwanda who are holding him there on charges that include terrorism, arson and murder.
During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Mr. Rusesabagina, a Hutu who was working as a manager at a hotel in the capital, Kigali, helped shelter people fleeing the violence that eventually killed as many as one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Paul Rusesabagina, who was hailed as a hero for saving fellow Rwandans, was detained and paraded before the news media in handcuffs in Kigali on Monday. Picture Credit...Clement Uwiringiyimana/Reuters
But in recent years, Mr. Rusesabagina, 66, has become an opponent of the government of Rwanda’s long-serving president, Paul Kagame, who has kept the country politically and economically stable but is accused by human rights groups of brutally silencing his critics. Mr. Kagame’s government has alleged for years that Mr. Rusesabagina is supporting Rwandan rebels attacking the country from abroad.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau said in a statement on Twitter on Monday that Mr. Rusesabagina was suspected of being “the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits,” including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change and the Party for Democracy in Rwanda, both opposition parties. The Movement party has a militant wing, which operates in the region and which the Rwandan government considers a terrorist group.
The bureau also accused Mr. Rusesabagina of helping to carry out attacks in 2018 “against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory.”
The authorities did not provide any evidence of the charges against him.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau said he was arrested “through international cooperation,” but did not say which countries or agencies may have assisted, or where or when he was arrested.
Mr. Rusesabagina last spoke to his wife last Thursday from Dubai, and his whereabouts was unknown until he surfaced on Monday in Rwanda, according to Kitty Kurth, a spokeswoman for his Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, who is based in Chicago.
“We believe he was kidnapped and taken by extraordinary rendition to Rwanda,” Ms. Kurth said in a statement. “He is a regular critic of human rights violations in Rwanda, and the Rwandan government regularly brings false charges against all critics in order to try to silence them.”
He left Rwanda years ago, saying he was afraid to go back home, and has Belgian citizenship and an American green card, Ms. Kurth said in a telephone interview. He has homes in San Antonio, Texas, and Brussels, and the family is pleading with American officials to intervene.
The State Department said it was aware of the arrest and was monitoring the situation.
Officials in Kigali publicly led Mr. Rusesabagina — handcuffed, masked and dressed in a black suit and a red tie — into the offices of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau on Monday to hear the charges against him. Rwandan authorities said he was being held at a police station in Kigali.
Busingye Johnston, the Rwandan minister of justice and attorney general, said in a Twitter post: “Those suspected of killing and wreaking terror on Rwandans, those suspected of masterminding, sponsoring or financing terror against Rwandans, will be brought to justice.”
Mr. Kagame, who has presided over the country since 2000, has been lauded for ushering in progress and stability in Rwanda, which is in central Africa. But rights groups have accused his government of heavy-handedness, and say that executions, disappearances and torture are common.
In 2018, Diane Rwigara, a critic who sought to unseat Mr. Kagame in the 2017 elections, was imprisoned for more than a year, and then acquitted, along with her mother, of charges of forgery and inciting insurrection.
In February, Rwandan singer Kizito Mihigo was found dead in his cell, days after authorities arrested him on charges of trying to cross into Burundi and join terrorist groups. The authorities said he committed suicide, but rights groups called for further investigation.
Human Rights Watch said in April that the government was arbitrarily detaining people in stadiums as it enforced coronavirus restrictions.
“The growing list of human rights defenders, journalists, civic activists, opposition members and critics of Kagame, like Rusesabagina, who have been arrested, or otherwise killed or disappeared, is truly staggering,” said Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of Vanguard Africa, a nonprofit that advocates ethical leadership and democracy on the continent. “What Kagame and Rwanda’s ruling party have effectively done is to make the argument, both in rhetoric and in practice, that criticism, resistance or opposition to their rule amounts to terrorism.”
Mr. Rusesabagina rose to fame after his story was captured in the 2004 Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda,” which starred the actor Don Cheadle.
His story, showing how one man’s actions saved many who were facing death, helped to publicize the brutality of the genocide.
Mr. Rusesabagina confronted the Hutu militias, who repeatedly came to the hotel with orders to kill, by using a mixture of flattery, slyness and diplomacy — and when all else failed, by offering them alcoholic drinks and gifts. While some of his tactics were criticized, he has argued that his actions were only to save the lives of his fellow citizens.
“I still don’t understand why those men in the militias didn’t just put a bullet in my head and execute every last person in the rooms upstairs but they didn’t,” Mr. Rusesabagina recalled in his 2006 autobiography, “An Ordinary Man.”
“None of the refugees in my hotel were killed. Nobody was beaten. Nobody was taken away and made to disappear,” he wrote. “People were being hacked to death with machetes all over Rwanda, but that five-story building became a refuge for anyone who could make it to our doors.”
In 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Mr. Rusesabagina the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with the award citation saying he “demonstrated remarkable courage and compassion in the face of genocidal terror.”
“His life,” the citation said, “reminds us of our moral duty to confront evil in all its forms.”
Lara Jakes contributed reporting from Washington.
A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 1, 2020 , Section A, Page 9 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Hotel Rwanda’ Rescuer Held on Terrorism Charge.
By Samba Cyuzuzo - 17. September 2020
A Rwandan court has denied bail to Paul Rusesabagina, who was portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about the 1994 genocide.
Mr Rusesabagina, who was living in exile until he arrived in Rwanda under mysterious circumstances at the end of last month, is facing charges of terrorism among other crimes.
In court, the 66-year-old spoke for himself and appealed against the bail denial decision, an independent journalist told the BBC.
The judge said that there were concerns that, if released, Mr Rusesabagina "would disrupt the ongoing investigation".
The court decision means that he will now be moved from police custody to prison.
He is charged with crimes relating to the FLN rebel group's deadly attacks in south-western Rwanda in 2018 and 2019.
Mr Rusesabagina is a leader of the opposition MRCD group, and the FLN is thought to be the group's armed wing.
In a court appearance on Monday, he distanced himself from the FLN's violent attacks.
He became well known after the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda depicted his efforts a decade earlier during the genocide to save hundreds of Tutsis at a hotel where he was a manager.
Rwandan genocide survivors' group Ibuka has in the past said that he exaggerated his own role in helping hotel refugees escape the 100-day slaughter.
By Clement Uwiringiyimana - 14. September 2020
JEAN BIZIMANA Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda's 1994 genocide, stands inside the Kicyikuri primarily court in Kigali © Reuters
KIGALI (Reuters) - Paul Rusesabagina, portrayed as a hero in a Hollywood movie about Rwanda's 1994 genocide, faced 12 charges including terrorism in a Kigali court on Monday in a case shining a spotlight on opposition to President Paul Kagame.
Rusesabagina, who once called for armed resistance to the government in a YouTube video, was accused of terrorism, complicity in murder and forming or joining an irregular armed group, among the charges.
The 66-year-old former hotel manager was portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film "Hotel Rwanda" using his connections with the Hutu elite to protect Tutsis fleeing the slaughter.
Brought to court handcuffed in a van inscribed "RIB" for Rwanda Investigation Bureau, Rusesabagina wore an anti-coronavirus mask and sat pensively during the hearing.
He did not immediately offer a plea but one of his government-appointed lawyers, David Rugaza, said Rusesabagina was on trial for exercising freedom of speech.
After the genocide, Rusesabagina acquired Belgian citizenship and became resident in the United States, becoming a strong critic of Kagame whom he accused of stifling opposition.
"He got a Belgian citizenship in 1999 and therefore there is another key issue here where one might say that Rwanda is trying a foreign citizen on freedom of expression that he enjoyed while abroad," Rugaza told the one-judge hearing.
Some in Rwanda, including Kagame, have accused Rusesabagina of exaggerating his heroism, which he denies.
Kagame has ruled Rwanda since the end of the genocide and won the last elections - in 2017 - with nearly 99% of the vote.
Kagame has enjoyed widespread credit for restoring Rwanda to stability after the genocide and boosting economic growth. But international rights groups and political opponents say his rule is increasingly tainted by repression.
It is still unclear how Rusesabagina came to be in Rwanda, although Kagame hinted in an interview earlier this month that he may have been tricked into boarding a private jet.
Rwandan police have said that Rusesabagina was arrested on an international warrant. His family dispute that and say he was kidnapped from Dubai. [nL8N2FY3MG]
(Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Toby Chopra and Andrew Cawthorne)
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Paul Rusesabagina sounded strained. The man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda” for saving people from genocide but is now accused of terrorism in Rwanda was speaking to his family for the first time since being paraded in handcuffs on Aug. 31. But something was wrong.
With Rwandan authorities listening in, it was clear Rusesabagina wasn’t allowed to speak openly on the phone call, said Brian Endless, part of the international team trying to defend him.
It remains a mystery how Rusesabagina disappeared from a trip to Dubai late last month and appeared in custody in a country his family says he would never return to voluntarily.
“Paul briefly mentioned boarding a plane on the call, but this was strained and he cut off the discussion immediately after. We have no idea if this was Paul speaking freely or coerced,” Endless told The Associated Press. In comments to the BBC, he said Rusesabagina mentioned waking up on the plane to find himself in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
Endless said Rwandan officials also attended a meeting between Belgian officials and Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and U.S. permanent resident.
The uncertainties around his arrest have led Human Rights Watch to assert that the 66-year-old Rusesabagina, long an outspoken critic of the Rwandan government, was “forcibly disappeared.” In a statement released late Thursday, the organization said Rwandan authorities should urgently explain how he was apprehended and taken to the East African country.
“The fact that Rwanda did not pursue Rusesabagina through lawful extradition proceedings suggests the authorities do not believe their evidence or fair trial guarantees would stand up to scrutiny before an independent tribunal, and so opted to circumvent the rule of law,” the group’s Central Africa director, Lewis Mudge, said.
Rusesabagina’s legal team, which has not been able to speak with him, believes he boarded a private plane operated by GainJet, which has been used by the Rwandan government and has an office in the capital, Kigali. The legal team points to publicly available flight records.
It is not clear what the flight plan or passenger list say, and GainJet’s CEO Ramsey Shaban has not responded to a request for comment. Authorities in the United Arab Emirates, home of the Dubai city-state, have not responded to questions.
Human Rights Watch asserted that “Rusesabagina was in the custody of the Rwandans or their proxies as of the night of Aug. 27 but his detention was not acknowledged by the Rwandans until Aug. 31.”
Rwandan President Paul Kagame in a nationally televised interview Sunday indicated that Rusesabagina might have been tricked into boarding a plane to a country he hasn’t lived in since 1996. “It was actually flawless!” Kagame said, suggesting that “he brought himself — even if he may not have intended it.”
Rusesabagina became famous for protecting more than 1,000 people as a hotel manager during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. For his efforts he was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
But Rwandan authorities accuse him of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform, which has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks inside Rwanda. They point to a video posted online in 2018 in which he expresses support for the National Liberation Front and says “the time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda, as all political means have been tried and failed.”
Rusesabagina in the past has denied funding rebel groups and said he was being targeted over his criticism of Kagame’s government and alleged rights abuses.
Rwanda’s government has changed its account of Rusesabagina’s arrest and has not allowed him access to legal counsel of his choosing or any confidential consultations, Human Rights Watch said. The group for years has documented cases of critics of Rwanda’s government being killed overseas, apprehended under unclear circumstances or dying behind bars.
“In Rwanda, history over the past 20-plus years shows that there is unfortunately a wide variety of things that the Rwandan government can do beyond prison,” said Endless, a U.S.-based professor. “We are very concerned that Paul could be disappeared at any time or could suffer a health crisis manufactured by the Rwandan government.”
Rwanda’s government has long denied alleged abuses, and its supporters point to the country’s widely praised development and stability since the genocide.
Rusesabagina has not appeared in court. His file was handed over to prosecutors on Wednesday. Rwandan law says a suspect can be in provisional detention for 15 days, renewable for up to 90 days.
Rwanda’s prosecutor general, Aimable Havugiyaremye, told the AP that Rusesabagina is still being interrogated and a court date is yet to be announced.
Rusesabagina’s legal team has filed a complaint with the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, and the office is “moving forward with their procedures,” Endless said. The office told the AP it could not comment.
Ignatius Ssuuna in Kigali, Rwanda, contributed.
By Jason Burke
Until late August, there was nothing exceptional about Paul Rusesabagina’s summer. For months, the 66-year-old had done little more than sit on the porch of his home in Texas, water his plants, telephone his children and chat with neighbours. A cancer survivor, he worried about Covid-19 and carefully observed the measures recommended to avoid catching the virus. His weeks passed without incident.
Paul Rusesabagina is paraded in front of media in handcuffs at the headquarters of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau in Kigali. © Photograph: Clement Uwiringiyimana/Reuters
But on the other side of the world, in Rusesabagina’s native Rwanda, security agencies were formulating plans to bring the former businessman to the capital, Kigali, to face terrorism charges, a trial and jail.
The secret operation – described by Rusesabagina’s lawyers as an illegal “rendition” – has focused the world’s attention on the small country’s traumatic history, its veteran leader’s ruthless efforts to silence dissidents, a region teetering on the brink of catastrophic conflict, and a family in shock.
“We are under stress, we are worried but we are strong. Our dad raised us to be this way, to expect the unexpected all this time. He has a voice that they want to shut down,” said Rusesabagina’s son, Filston.
Rusesabagina had not set foot in Rwanda since the genocide there that killed about 800,000 people in 1994, but over the years had become increasingly involved in efforts to oust Paul Kagame, the president for 20 years.
For months, maybe years, Rusesabagina was being tracked by Rwandan security services, and his family have long expected harassment and surveillance. “We’ve been cautious all our lives … always aware that we might be followed or listened to,” said Filston Rusesabagina.
It therefore came as a surprise when, in mid-August, Rusesabagina told his family that he would be travelling to Dubai for “meetings”.
“It must have been incredibly important. He would never entertain the idea of going there otherwise. He hasn’t left the US for a long time,” said his son.
Flying on Emirates via Chicago on 26 August, Rusesabagina reached Dubai in the early evening of the 27th and called his family at about 11pm to tell them he had arrived safely.
What happened next is a mystery – which is how Rwandan authorities hope it will remain.
Flight logs have identified a private jet that took off from Dubai’s Al Maktoum airport at 12.55am on 28 August and landed at Kigali at 6am. Lawyers acting for his family said they believed it was “highly likely” that Rusesabagina was on the plane, a Bombardier Challenger that is operated by a company frequently used by the Rwandan government.
According to flight data obtained by the authoritative website Africa Confidential, planes used by the company have flown five round trips to the Rwandan capital since June. Authorities in the UAE have denied all knowledge of the incident.
Four days after Rusesabagina called his family, Rwandan authorities notified Belgium they had detained an unnamed Belgian citizen. Only when they paraded their captive in handcuffs in front of selected media in Kigali did his identity become known.
Rwandan authorities have said Rusesabagina is accused of being “the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits … operating out of various places in the region and abroad” and was arrested on what they described as “an international warrant”.
The Guardian Don Cheadle as Rusesabagina in the 2004 film Hotel Rwanda. Photograph: Allstar Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo
But Jeannot Ruhunga, head of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau, told a local news website Rusesabagina had been arrested on arrival in Kigali. Rwandan opposition sources said they believed that Rusesabagina was the victim of a deception.
Rusesabagina, who spoke out in 2010 against the jailing of an opposition leader and four years ago announced a political campaign against the government, which he called a dictatorship, was no ordinary critic.
As the manager of a luxury hotel in Kigali during the worst of the violence in 1994, he had sheltered more than 1,200 people, saving them from murder by machete. His actions were portrayed in the critically acclaimed Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, and won him the highest civilian honour in the US, awarded by the then president George W Bush in 2005.
US President George W. Bush presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Paul Rusesabagina in 2005. Photograph: Lawrence Jackson/AP
In late 2018, Rwandan authorities sent Belgian authorities a 14-page request to arrest Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen, at his other home in Brussels. The document blamed his movement for dozens of violent acts. But though the dissident’s residence was searched, nothing was found and there were no further investigations. Instead, a new plan was seemingly hatched by Rwandan security services.
Several senior figures in the Rwandan opposition are based in Dubai and some dissidents speculate that Rusesabagina may have been enticed to a meeting with someone he trusted, but who betrayed him.
“It’s what we are all most scared of … These people will abduct you, hide you, disappear you. Some are killed, some are told what to say and kept alive,” said one, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The security services are believed to be responsible for assassinating, abducting, attacking and threatening dozens of prominent Rwandans in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, the UK and elsewhere.
One of the most prominent cases was the killing of Patrick Karegeya, an outspoken critic and former spy chief, who was lured to a luxury hotel room in Johannesburg in January 2014 and strangled. “Any person still alive who may be plotting against Rwanda, whoever they are, will pay the price,” Kagame said after the murder.
Last year, Callixte Nsabimana, who led an armed group linked to the political organisation set up by Rusesabagina, went missing in the Comoros Islands and reappeared two weeks later in Kigali in police detention charged with terrorism offences. He had been flown there on a private jet, dissidents told the Guardian this week.
Nsabimana was a leader of the Forces for National Liberation (FLN), which has carried out a number deadly attacks in Rwanda in recent years. The FLN was the military wing of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) political party, which Rusesabagina helped to found.
Rwandan authorities allege Rusesabagina was funding some of the FLN’s operations through his charitable foundation. Relatives say the claim is groundless, and that the foundation has had no resources for many years.
Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, and first lady, Jeannette Kagame, light the flame of remembrance at Kigali Genocide Memorial. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Kagame was deliberately cryptic in an interview on Sunday, denying that Rusesabagina had been kidnapped, but suggesting he had been the victim of some kind of trick, describing how feeding someone a “false story that fits well in the narrative of what he wants to be” could be very effective.
“There was no wrongdoing in the process of him getting here. He got here on the basis of what he believed and wanted to do. It was like he called a wrong number … It was flawless,” Kagame said.
Kagame, who won a third term in power with 98% of the vote at elections in 2017, is a divisive figure. He is credited with the development and stability Rwanda has experienced since the genocide, but he is also accused of intolerance of any criticism, whether domestic or international.
Analysts said any trial could be a delicate exercise for the Rwandan government, as prosecutors would have to present convincing evidence to the international community without revealing too much about the methods of Rwanda’s security services.
The Rwandan government has long disputed Rusesabagina’s story about saving people during the genocide, and Ibuka, a Rwandan genocide survivors’ group, has said Rusesabagina exaggerated his own role.
Dino Mahtani, Africa Program deputy director of Crisis Group, said the episode revealed much bigger problems in Africa’s restive Great Lakes region as disputes between rival local powers become increasingly bitter.
“This is not just about Rusesabagina … It’s about the broader destabilisation of a region that is ongoing. The region is a tinderbox.”
The legal team for "Hotel Rwanda" hero Paul Rusesabagina has filed a complaint with the United Nations special rapporteur on torture asserting that Mr Rusesabagina faces an "immediate risk" of cruel treatment as he remains cut off from lawyers, consular officials and his family more than a week after he appeared in handcuffs in Rwanda.
The complaint filed on Monday with Nils Melzer asks for an immediate investigation to make sure Mr Rusesabagina, long an outspoken critic of Rwanda's government, "is still alive".
Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame on Sunday indicated that Mr Rusesabagina might have been tricked into boarding a plane to a country he hasn't lived in since 1996. "It was actually flawless!" Mr Kagame said in a national broadcast, suggesting that "he brought himself — even if he may not have intended it".
The president did not say how Mr Rusesabagina was taken from Dubai, where he last spoke with his family, to Rwanda. The family of 66-year-old Mr Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and US permanent resident, has said he would never knowingly board a plane for Rwanda and was "kidnapped".
Rwanda accuses Mr Rusesabagina of leading a terrorist group that has killed Rwandans. It points to a video posted online in late 2018 in which he expresses support for an armed wing of his opposition political platform and says: "The time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda, as all political means have been tried and failed."
Mr Rusesabagina in the past has denied accusations that he financially supports Rwandan rebels, saying he is being targeted for criticising Mr Kagame's administration over human rights abuses.
Mr Rusesabagina became famous for protecting more than 1,000 people as a hotel manager during Rwanda's 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. For his efforts he was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
Mr Rusesabagina's detention has prompted concern among human rights activists that this was the latest example of the Rwandan government targeting critics beyond its borders.
His lack of contact with the outside world helped to prompt the legal complaint. On Tuesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed it doesn't have access to visit Mr Rusesabagira in detention.
Mr Kagame on Sunday said Mr Rusesabagina "will have to pay for these crimes". The complaint filed with the UN special rapporteur says that "elevates the risk of Mr Rusesabagina being tortured or subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, as it provides police and prison authorities license to take justice into their own hands without the need for a legal process".
A Rwandan lawyer over the weekend asserted he was representing Mr Rusesabagina. The legal complaint rejects that, saying "it appears this lawyer was appointed without Mr Rusesabagina's consent — there is no way Mr Rusesabagina would interview and voluntarily hire a lawyer without consulting with his own family first".
It is not clear when Mr Rusesabagina will appear in court. Rwandan law says a suspect can be in provisional detention for 15 days, renewable for up to 90 days.
Earlier insights by Cara Anna and Jake Bleiberg:
Rusesabagina has denied the Rwandan government’s charges that he financially supports Rwandan rebels. In 2010, he told the AP that the government was conducting a smear campaign against him for opposing Kagame. He has called Kagame’s government a dictatorship and urged Western countries to press the government to respect human rights.
“I believe it is a travesty that a human rights champion like Paul Rusesabagina should be captured, detained and held in the way he is being held,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice. “This should raise a lot of deep concern and skepticism.”
It was not clear when Rusesabagina would appear in court. Police called him the suspected “founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD).”
The MRCD condemned the arrest and called Rusesabagina one of its leaders. The group, which describes itself as an opposition political platform, did not respond to a request for comment.
An armed wing of the MRCD, the National Liberation Front, was accused of clashing with Rwandan soldiers in 2018 and 2019, and Rwanda arrested NLF spokesman Callixte Nsabimana last year.
In the video shared by Rwandan authorities, Rusesabagina said “it is imperative that in 2019 we speed up the liberation struggle of the Rwandan people ... the time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda, as all political means have been tried and failed.” He expressed support for the NLF.
The video appeared to be a clip from one posted online in late 2018 as a New Year's message.
But Kitty Kurth, spokeswoman for the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, asserted that the video appeared to be staged. Rusesabagina was wearing the same jacket and tie he was photographed in on Monday, she said, and the video was not filmed at Rusesabagina’s homes in Texas or Belgium. She said he exclusively speaks off-the-cuff in recorded speeches, whereas in the video he seems to be reading from a script.
“It’s been recorded within the last couple days and, obviously, they made him read something,” Kurth told the AP.
Michela Wrong, a British journalist researching a book about Rwanda, told the AP that Rusesabagina’s group posed no real danger to Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s rule.
“When you have a country where no genuine opposition is tolerated, there’s no freedom of speech and elections are routinely rigged, challenges to the status quo inevitably end up taking guerrilla form,” she said. “Rwanda may be a donor darling, but it is probably the most repressive country in Africa today.”
Rwanda’s government has been accused of previously hunting down dissidents overseas. South African investigators have said Rwanda was directly involved in the killing of Col. Patrick Karegeya, an outspoken critic, in Johannesburg in 2014.
Interpol declined to comment on Rusesabagina's arrest, saying it does not discuss its “red notices” for people wanted for prosecution unless they are public.
Police and authorities in Dubai, a city-state in the United Arab Emirates, did not respond to a request for comment. Kagame maintains a close relationship with Dubai.
In Belgium, authorities said they had no information about Rusesabagina’s arrest and were not involved. The U.S. State Department said it was monitoring the situation and referred questions to the Rwandan government.
“No country has broadly conceded that it arrested and handed over Mr. Rusesabagina to the Rwandan authorities. This is a clear indication that whatever happened was illegal and nobody wants to take responsibility for blatant illegal action,” said Etienne Mutabazi, spokesman for the Washington-based opposition Rwanda National Congress.
Paul Rusesabagina is detained and paraded in front of media in handcuffs in Rwandan capital, Kigali, on 31 August. Photograph: Clement Uwiringiyimana/Reuters
Lawyers for Paul Rusesabagina have called on a UN investigator to immediately intervene in the case of the human rights activist – and inspiration behind the film Hotel Rwanda – who is being detained in Rwanda and is alleged to face a “serious risk of torture”.
The letter to Nils Melzer, the special rapporteur on torture, comes one week after Rusesabagina, a prominent critic of the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, was revealed to have been brought to Kigali from Dubai in what his lawyers have calledan illegal rendition.
Rusesabagina is a Belgian citizen and a permanent US resident, but his lawyer, Jared Genser, said he had not had contact with any of his own approved lawyers, Belgian diplomats, or his family since he was last seen paraded before television cameras last Monday in handcuffs and accused of terrorism-related offences.
“Given these serious human rights violations, and the Rwandan government’s long-standing prior persecution of Mr Rusesabagina, he is at immediate and serious risk of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” the letter said.
“We respectfully request that … you investigate the situation and immediately reach out to the government of Rwanda, urging it to provide proof that Mr Rusesabagina is still alive.”
At a press conference aired on national Rwandan TV, Kagame denied that Rusesabagina had been kidnapped and insisted that there had been “no wrongdoing in the process of his getting here”.
Suggesting that Rusesabagina had willingly gone to Rwanda, Kagame added: “He got here on the basis of what he believed he wanted to do and he found himself here.”
On Monday, Rusesabagina’s lawyers portrayed a far different series of events.
In a letter to the UN special rapporteur, Genser and Brian Tronic said the Kagame government had sought to “discredit, smear, and silence” Rusesabagina for decades because of his outspoken criticism of Kagame.
Rusesabagina gained international acclaim after he was credited with saving the lives of 1,268 Rwandans during the country’s genocide as the manager of one of Kigali’s luxury hotels, after he turned the Hotel Milles Collines into a safe haven for those seeking shelter from the slaughter. The story was later captured in the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda.
Since then, his lawyers claim, Kagame’s government has sought to discredit Rusesabagina’s “acts of heroism” and has accused him of being a genocide denier, a claim his legal team denies. The persecution, they say, is part of a pattern of Rwanda’s aggressive pursuit of Kagame’s detractors, an assessment that is shared by human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, which has documented forced disappearances and mysterious deaths of journalists and government critics.
On 26 August, Rusesabagina flew from Chicago to Dubai on an Emirates flight for a short trip – he was intending to go to meetings – and arrived in Dubai shortly after 7pm, his lawyers said. Later that night, at 11pm, he called his family to tell them he had arrived safely. It was the last time they heard from him.
Flight logs examined by the lawyers have identified a private jet that took off from Dubai’s Al Maktoum airport a few hours later – at 12.55am. They have said they believed it was “highly likely” that Rusesabagina was on the plane, a Bombardier Challenger that is operated by a company used by the Rwandan government.
Four days later, on 30 August, Rwandan authorities notified Belgium that it had detained a Belgian citizen but did not specify the person’s identity.
The lawyers for the dissident also strenuously denied allegations aired by Kagame that Rusesabagina was the head of a “group of terrorists” who have killed Rwandans. While a Rwandan lawyer, David Rugaza, has appeared in press conferences and claimed to represent Rusesabagina, his children have referred to him as a “fake lawyer” who had been chosen by Kagame’s people.
The case has highlighted what lawyer Jared Genser called the story of “two Rwandas”: the Rwanda that Kagame would like to “show the world”, which has made strides in the rights of women and girls, attracted foreign direct investment, and is supported by international figures like the former UK prime minister Tony Blair, and the “other” Rwanda that aggressively stamps out any challenge to Kagame.
In an interview with the Guardian, Genser – who is based in Washington DC – pointed to Blair’s longstanding public support of Kagame, and his heralding of Rwanda as a major African success story, saying such bolstering of the Rwandan president was “very, very helpful to tamp down criticism” of his alleged abuses of dissenters.
Blair’s organisation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, devotes a page of its website to its work in Rwanda, and says the country has been built upon “visionary leadership” since the 1994 genocide, in which up to a million Tutsis, and moderate Hutus, were killed in violence largely carried out by the Hutu majority.
“Rwanda today is a nation on the rise, powered by resilience, shared values of solidarity, and a purposeful government,” the website states. It also says Kagame’s government sets “bold ambitions to improve the lives and livelihoods of Rwandans”.
The institute did not respond to a Guardian request for comment on its support of Kagame or of Rusesabagina’s detention and alleged rendition.
Nils Melzer, the UN rapporteur, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Rwanda's Kagame denies Paul Rusesabagina was kidnapped
President says detained government critic 'led himself' to Rwanda, accuses him of of being a 'terrorist' leader.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame denies that a detained opposition figure who inspired the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda was kidnapped in order to be brought back to the country, saying he was responsible for his own arrest.
Paul Rusesabagina is credited for saving 1,200 lives during the country's 1994 genocide by letting people shelter in the hotel he was managing during the mass killings.
The outspoken government critic is now accused of supporting rebel violence in Rwanda. His family and supporters say they have not been able to speak to him and that he has not had access to a lawyer nearly a week after he was paraded in front of the media in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, in handcuffs.
Appearing on national television on Sunday, Kagame did not explain how Rusesabagina - who had lived outside Rwanda since 1996 and is a citizen of Belgium and has a US permanent residence permit - was brought back.
The 66-year-old's family has said they believe he was "kidnapped" during a visit to Dubai and that he would never knowingly have boarded a plane to Kigali.
But Kagame suggested that Rusesabagina came of his own accord.
"With kidnap, that was not the case, and he will attest that to himself. There was no kidnap. There was no wrongdoing in the process of his getting here," Kagame said, describing the handling of the case as "flawless".
The president suggested that Rusesabagina was told a story that fit into his expectations and ended up in Rwanda.
"How he got here was more to do with himself than anybody else," Kagame said. "And he will say it; when the time comes, he will the people what happened."
The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation said Rusesabagina has had no consular visits, and it rejected the Rwandan government's statement that it had talked to his sons about a potential visit as "not true".
"Paul's wife has called the jail and has not been allowed to talk to him," it said on Saturday.
The Rwandan government has said it issued an arrest warrant for Rusesabagina to answer charges of serious crimes including "terrorism", arson, kidnap, and murder perpetrated against unarmed civilians. Police called him the suspected "founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change" (MRCD).
The MRCD has an armed wing, the National Liberation Front, that has been accused of attacks in 2018 and 2019. Rwanda arrested NLF spokesman Callixte Nsabimana last year.
"Rusesabagina heads a group of terrorists that have killed Rwandans. He will have to pay for these crimes," Kagame said on Sunday. "Rusesabagina has the blood of Rwandans on his hands."
Rusesabagina in the past has denied the charges that he financially supports Rwandan rebels, saying he is being targeted for criticising the Kagame government over human rights abuses.
Rwandan authorities have not publicly shared any international arrest warrant. They have referred to "international cooperation" but given no details.
No trial date set
Rusesabagina's detention has prompted concern among human rights activists that this was the latest example of the Rwandan government targeting critics beyond its borders.
Rusesabagina has received several international honours, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, for helping to save lives during Rwanda's genocide, in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.
The US government has said it expects the Rwandan government to provide "humane treatment, adhere to the rule of law and provide a fair and transparent legal process" for Rusesabagina.
It is not clear when Rusesabagina will appear in court. Rwandan law says a suspect can be in provisional detention for 15 days, renewable for up to 90 days.
Kagame said Rusesabagina's trial will be held openly and conducted fairly.
"We are obligated to do this," he said. "We want to do things in a right way."
NAIROBI, Kenya — Breaking his silence on the dramatic arrest of a prominent dissident, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda insisted on Sunday that his government had not forced Paul Rusesabagina, who is famed for his portrayal in the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” to return from exile to face charges of terrorism and murder.
Instead, Mr. Kagame hinted, he had been tricked into coming back.
“There was no kidnap,” Mr. Kagame said during a live television call-in on state television. “He got here on the basis of what he believed and wanted to do.”
Mr. Rusesabagina, best known for the story of how he saved 1,268 people during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, vanished from Dubai soon after he arrived there last week on a flight from Chicago. Days later he re-emerged, wearing handcuffs, in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where he faces a raft of charges, including terrorism, arson and murder.
Mr. Rusesabagina’s family, which insists he would never have voluntarily returned to Rwanda, has accused the Kagame government of kidnapping him from Dubai, and demanded to know more about the circumstances of his transfer.
Until Sunday, Rwandan officials would say only that Mr. Rusesabagina had voluntarily departed the United Arab Emirates on a private jet. Mr. Kagame, in the interview, remained coy about how Mr. Rusesabagina had been persuaded to board the plane, but suggested he had fallen for an unspecified ruse and had only himself to blame.
“It was actually flawless,” Mr. Kagame said. “It’s like if you fed somebody with a false story that fits well in his narrative of what he wants to be and he follows it and then finds himself in a place like that.”
Mr. Kagame’s government has been trying for at least a decade to apprehend Mr. Rusesabagina, 66, who was catapulted to fame by the 2004 movie, in which he was played by the actor Don Cheadle.
The movie tells how Mr. Rusesabagina, an Oscar Schindler-type hotel manager, sheltered and saved 1,268 people at the luxurious Milles Collines hotel in Kigali during the 1994 genocide, which killed as many as one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Lauded globally for his bravery, Mr. Rusesabagina received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005.
The Rwandan government, though, calls him a dangerous subversive who has frequently denied the truth about the genocide. Mr. Rusesabagina’s supporters say that Mr. Kagame, who brooks virtually no dissent inside his country, is seeking to sideline a potential political rival.
Kitty Kurth, a family spokeswoman, said Mr. Kagame’s comments were “shocking” and amounted to a breach of international law.
Since 2010, Rwanda has appealed to the American and Belgian authorities for help in capturing Mr. Rusesabagina, without success.
The charges he now faces center on his leadership of the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change, an opposition coalition whose armed wing, the National Liberation Front, has been accused of carrying out attacks in Rwanda.
An arrest warrant seen by The New York Times details episodes in June and July 2018 along Rwanda’s border with Burundi in which at least three people were killed and property was looted or burned.
Mr. Rusesabagina’s family insists he does not support violence and says it believes he was kidnapped and taken against his will to Rwanda.
Ms. Kurth, the spokeswoman, said a family-appointed lawyer had twice been denied permission to visit Mr. Rusesabagina, who is a Belgian citizen and an American permanent resident. He has not been granted any consular visits, she added.
On Sunday Mr. Kagame redoubled his assault on Mr. Rusesabagina’s reputation, saying that other survivors from the Hotel Milles Collines dispute his depiction as a hero. Previously, Rwandan officials have dismissed “Hotel Rwanda” as “pure fiction” and accused Mr. Rusesabagina of “propagating lies and misinformation” about the genocide.
Mr. Kagame also pointed to Mr. Rusesabagina’s involvement with opposition groups, claiming there were records showing him “bragging” about committing violence. Mr. Kagame was possibly pointing to a 2018 video circulating on social media in which Mr. Rusesabagina called for armed resistance against the government.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau, which is holding Mr. Rusesabagina, said he had chosen two lawyers. In an interview, David Rugaza, one of the lawyers, said his client was doing well and had been given access to a doctor. He was not aware that the family had appointed another lawyer to represent Mr. Rusesabagina.
Mr. Rusesabagina has long been one of Mr. Kagame’s most trenchant critics, writing in a 2006 autobiography, “An Ordinary Man,” that he “exhibited many characteristics of the classic African strongman.”
Numerous critics of Mr. Kagame have disappeared or been killed in recent years, including in 2013, when Patrick Karegeya, a former Rwandan spy chief, was found dead in a hotel room in South Africa.
Ms. Kurth said that Mr. Rusesabagina had been in danger for at least 15 years, and that he knew “if he went to Kigali he would end up dead, disappeared or in prison.”
His arrest has drawn international concern and calls for his release. Tibor Nagy, the State Department’s top official for Africa, and Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia have called on Rwanda to ensure he receives a fair trial.
On Sunday, Mr. Kagame said there was no cause for concern, insisting the trial would be conducted fairly and in the open.
“We want to also get things right,” he added.
Declan Walsh contributed reporting from Cairo.
Paul Rusesabagina in handcuffs at the Rwanda Investigation Bureau, Kigali, Rwanda, on 31 August 2020. Photograph: Clement Uwiringiyimana/Reuters
Rwandan dissidents say they suspect that Paul Rusesabagina, the inspiration behind the film Hotel Rwanda, was hacked or otherwise tracked using surveillance technology in the days before his arrest this week by the Rwandan government, raising questions about the country’s alleged use of spyware.
Rusesabagina, 66, who won international acclaim for saving 1,200 Rwandans during the country’s genocide – who has been more recently a prominent critic of Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, appears to have been apprehended by authorities while he was on a trip to Dubai and reportedly left the United Arab Emirates on a private jet last week.
Days later he was seen in handcuffs in Rwanda, where he has been arrested on terrorism-related charges.
The circumstances around the arrest are still a mystery and have prompted suspicion among dissidents that Rusesabagina – who holds EU citizenship, living in Belgium, and also the US as a green-card holder – was kidnapped after being closely surveilled and his location tracked.
CNN reported on Wednesday that the UAE had denied involvement in the arrest. Citing an unnamed official, the media outlet said Rusesabagina had arrived in Dubai on Thursday, that he went to a hotel then left for Rwanda five hours later in a private jet, shortly after midnight.
“You cannot just show up and kidnap somebody. You must know the plan,” said Faustin Rukundo, a British citizen who lives in Leeds and is a member of a Rwandan opposition group in exile. “I strongly believe there is hacking somewhere because even his inner circle did not know he was there in Dubai and even some family members did not know he was travelling. It was really kept tight.”
Rukundo said the episode reminded him of an incident last year in which he received a phone call from an anonymous number telling him, “we know that you are travelling to Nairobi”, shortly after he bought a ticket to Kenya. He believed the information had been gleaned from a hacker monitoring his phone or computer, and he decided not to travel.
He said Rwandan dissidents in exile, and even allies of the government, operated under the assumption that they were under constant surveillance.
“We know there are hacks and surveillance. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you have information and you oppose Kigali, that is it, if you make a mistake you are finished,” he said.
The account was backed by Faustin Twagiramungu, a former Rwandan prime minister who has opposed Kagame’s government and lives in exile in Belgium.
“We know they [the Kagame government] have the methods to follow us, but we don’t know how they use it. We sometimes have to change our telephones, either by week or by month,” Twagiramungu said.
Twagiranungu said he had not known that Rusesabagina was going to Dubai, but that he had since heard that his fellow dissident, with whom he had regular contact, had been in touch with his children over his mobile phone once he arrived.
Kagame, Rwanda’s veteran leader, has won praise for the economic development and stability that his country has experienced since the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people were killed. The 62-year-old has also spearheaded gender equality, and dramatically boosted literacy
But Kagame, who has been president since 2000 and won his most recent election in 2017 with 99% of the vote, is also accused of authoritarianism and extreme intolerance of any critical voices or threats to his political dominance.
The Rwandan government has also been repeatedly accused of targeting dissidents overseas.
A 2014 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report detailed 13 cases of former RPF politicians, military figures, intelligence agents and journalists who had fled Rwanda and been assassinated, abducted or attacked in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa or the UK.
“The government dominated by the Rwandan Patriotic Front – a former rebel movement that ended the genocide – does not tolerate opposition, challenge, or criticism,” the campaign group said.
The Kagame government has more recently faced scrutiny for allegedly using spyware to monitor political dissidents living in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
In 2019 at least six dissidents connected to Rwanda were warned by WhatsApp that they had been targeted by spyware made by the NSO Group, the Israeli surveillance company that sells its software to governments, in a targeted attack that affected hundreds of users around the world over a two-week period from April to May that year.
The Rwandans, including Rukundo in Leeds, were among those who were warned that their accounts had been targeted fafter the discovery of a vulnerability in the popular messaging service.
According to the Financial Times, which first reported the news in October 2019, other alleged targets connected to Rwanda have included a journalist living in exile in Uganda, who petitioned the government in Kampala to help protect Rwandans in the country from assassination.
There was also a senior member of the Rwanda National Congress, an opposition group in exile, and an army officer who fled the country in 2008 and testified against members of the Rwandan government in a French court in 2017. The Rwandan government declined to comment on those allegations at the time.
The NSO Group, which does not reveal the names of its clients, has said it has no knowledge of how governments use its spyware, meant for tracking terrorists and criminals. It has also denied allegations raised in a lawsuit by WhatsApp in the US that it played any role in carrying out the attempted infiltrations in 2019.
The company has declined to comment on the case of Rusesabagina and on questions about whether it highlighted the possible abuse of spyware by the Kagame government. There is no evidence that the NSO Group’s software was used to monitor Rusesabagina.
Some experts said they believed that Rwanda probably used a host of surveillance techniques to monitor dissidents.
John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, who closely monitors the use of spyware, said the Rwandan case suggested that there was a “troubling nexus” between the use of spyware and targeted violence.
He said: “In Rwanda the use of spyware technology, like in many other cases, is a way for states to extend the threat that they pose to dissenters outside of their borders. It used to be you could be a dissenter and put some physical distance between yourself and a government. You wouldn’t face the same threat. Well, there’s a lot of talk that Rwanda is conducting operations outside of its borders and that there have been assassinations and assassination attempts.”
A spokesman for the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), Thierry Murangira, told CNN that he would not go into details about how and where Rusesabagina was apprehended. “This was done with international cooperation subject to an international arrest warrant.”
However, a UAE official told the broadcaster that there was no extradition agreement between the Gulf state and Rwanda.
Rusesabagina’s family told CNN that they believed he was kidnapped, but did not have proof. His son, Trésor, said they had last heard from their father on Thursday, after his arrival in the UAE.
The Rwandan government has always denied accusations of involvement in extra-judicial killings or abductions overseas.
Paul Rusesabagina is detained in front of media in handcuffs in Kigali, Rwanda. Photograph: Clement Uwiringiyimana / Reuters
The family of Paul Rusesabagina, a businessman whose role in saving more than 1,000 lives inspired the film Hotel Rwanda, have accused the east African country’s authorities of kidnapping the 66-year-old from Dubai.
On Monday, Rusesabagina, who is an outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame, was paraded in handcuffs by Rwandan investigators before media in the capital, Kigali, accused of terrorism-related crimes.
Rusesabagina was the general manager of a luxury hotel in Kigali during the 1994 genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed with knives, clubs and other weapons. The vast majority of the victims were from the Tutsi minority, though some Hutu moderates also died.
The 2004 film told the story of how Rusesabagina, a middle-class Hutu married to a Tutsi, used both his influence and bribe ry to save the lives of 1,200 people who sheltered at the Mille Collines hotel in the capital during the worst of the massacres.
Rwand an authorities have said Rusesabagina was arrested on what they described as “an international warrant” and is accused of being “the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits … operating out of various places in the region and abroad.”
Rusesabagina’s adopted daughter, Carine Kanimba, said she last spoke with him before he flew to Dubai last week but she did not know the exact nature of his trip.
Kanimba said his family was informed early on Monday that he was being held in Rwanda but they had not been able to speak to him.
“We’re hoping to secure his release quickly and safely,” she said. “What they’re accusing him of is all made up. There is no evidence to what they’re claiming. We know this is a wrongful arrest.”
Another daughter, Anaise, told BBC World Service radio that her father had last called them on Thursday from Dubai.
“I believe he was kidnapped because he would never go to Rwanda of his own will,” Anaise told the BBC.
Rusesabagina lives in Belgium and the US, where he was honoured by a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, by the then president George W Bush in 2005.
He has been an increasingly outspoken critic of Kagame, and has been accused by Rwandan prosecutors of having links to rebel groups in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo which have been blamed by officials for cross-border attacks.
In 2010, Rusesabagina spoke out against the jailing of the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, and four years ago he announced a political campaign against the government, which he called a dictatorship.
A statement from investigators described charges against him including terrorism, arson, kidnap and “murder perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory”. The details of his detention remain unclear.
Kagame maintains a close relationship with Dubai .
The government has previously been accused of hunting down dissidents overseas. South African investigators have said the government was directly involved in the killing of Patrick Karegeya, an outspoken critic, in Johannesburg in 2014.
Kagame said afterwards: “Any person still alive who may be plotting against Rwanda, whoever they are, will pay the price.”
Rusesabagina has previously denied the government’s claims that he funds Rwandan rebels, and has urged western countries to press the government to respect human rights.
Kagame is largely credited with the development and stability Rwanda has experienced since the genocide, but he is also accused of extreme authoritarianism .
In 2017, Kagame won a landslide victory in a presidential election, securing a third term in office with almost 99% of votes cast.
The Rwandan government disputes Rusesabagina’s story about saving people during the genocide, and Ibuka, a Rwandan genocide survivors’ group, has in the past said Rusesabagina, who runs a humanitarian foundation, exaggerated his own role in helping people escape the genocide.
Katrina Lantos Swett, the president of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, said: “I believe it is a travesty that a human rights champion like Paul Rusesabagina should be captured, detained and held in the way he is being held. This should raise a lot of deep concern and scepticism on behalf of a lot of people.”
NAIROBI, Kenya — When Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who saved more than 1,200 Rwandans during the 1994 genocide, landed in Dubai last Thursday, he texted his family members on the messaging application WhatsApp to assure them he had arrived safely.
That was the last the family said they heard of him until Monday, when authorities in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, paraded him in handcuffs in front of the media, and said he was being held oncharges including terrorism, arson and murder.
“We were shocked and surprised,” Carine Kanimba, one of his daughters, said in a telephone interview from Washington on Tuesday.
The case of Mr. Rusesabagina has caused consternation in the United States and Belgium, where he has lived in exile over many years, and in Rwanda, where residents debate his international reputation as a human-rights activist. In Rwanda, he is known as a fierce opponent of the country’s president — Paul Kagame — who has clamped down hard on dissent.
It is still unclear how Mr. Rusesabagina got from Dubai to Rwanda. The Rwandan government said Mr. Rusesabagina was arrested through an “international arrest warrant” but did not specify when or what country might have helped.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau said on Monday that Mr. Rusesabagina, 66, was suspected of being “the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits,” including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change, or M.R.C.D., and the Party for Democracy in Rwanda, or P.D.R.-Ihumure, both opposition parties.
The M.R.C.D. has a militant wing known as the National Liberation Forces, which operates in the region and has been linked to attacks in Rwanda.
Rwandan officials said on Tuesday that they could not release any more information about the case at this time, and that investigations were ongoing. The minister of justice did not respond to interview requests.
Ms. Kanimba said that her father had gone from the United States to Dubai for what he said was a short meeting, and that he was to return on Tuesday to the United States, where he lives. But instead, she said, Mr. Rusesabagina was “kidnapped” and arrested on “false charges” for his criticism of the Rwandan government and Mr. Kagame.
“He wanted to speak for the people whose voices were suppressed,” said Ms. Kanimba, 27, who works in impact investing. “It’s time for the world and international community to speak up for him.”
Mr. Rusesabagina became known after the 1994 genocide, in which, according to many accounts, he sheltered more than 1,200 people in the Milles Collines hotel in Kigali, where he worked as a manager. A trained hotelier who studied in both Kenya and Switzerland, he was said to have risked his life to shelter both Hutus and Tutsis from the genocide that killed as many as one million Rwandans in 100 days.
His story was captured in the 2004 Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda,” which starred Don Cheadle as Mr. Rusesabagina. In 2006, he published an autobiography, “An Ordinary Man,” which detailed the tumultuous days when he held off killers who were targeting those who had sought his protection.
Mr. Rusesabagina received international recognition, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005.
In recent years, Mr. Rusesabagina became a central figure in various movements that were trying to unseat Mr. Kagame’s government. In 2010, Rwandan authorities accused him of helping to fund the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, which is active in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and includes members who are accused of having links to the Rwandan genocide.
Mr. Rusesabagina also joined forces with the first prime minister of Rwanda, Faustin Twagiramungu, to create a diaspora-based opposition coalition.
“His story shows the volatility of Rwandan politics and the unpredictable choices many actors from the genocide have made since,” said Phil Clark, a professor of international politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, whose research focuses on the African Great Lakes region.
“Rusesabagina’s alleged links to armed groups in eastern Congohave made him a target for prosecution,” he added.
Over the years, some have raised questions about the account of Mr. Rusesabagina’s heroism during the genocide, Mr. Clark said.
“It’s well known in Kigali that Rusesabagina handed over some Tutsi to the Hutu militias and made a considerable profit by demanding protection money from some survivors,” Mr. Clark noted, adding, “His role during the genocide was much less heroic than widely assumed.”
A Belgian citizen and an American resident, Mr. Rusesabagina lives in exile in San Antonio. He is the father of six children and seven grandchildren, said Ms. Kanimba. As the coronavirus pandemic limited travel, he continued to advocate “peace and change” in Rwanda, she said.
Officials in the United States and Belgium have given no “substantive response” to requests from his family to intervene, said Kitty Kurthy, a spokeswoman for the family and the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, which says it works on issues related to genocide and conflict worldwide.
The businessman whose heroic work during the Rwandan genocide was portrayed in Hollywood’s Hotel Rwanda has been arrested by the Rwandan government on terror charges.
Paul Rusesabagina was a hotel manager in Rwanda’s capital Kibali during the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people were killed.
The 2004 film, starring Don Cheadle, told how Mr Rusesabagina gave shelter to more than 1,200 Tutsis and used his wealth and influence to secure their safety by persuading members of the Hutu elite to arrange their escape. Mr Rusesabagina was awarded by George W Bush the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the US in the year after the film’s release.
Mr Rusesabagina has been a critic of Paul Kagame, who led the Rwandan Patriotic Front to defeat government forces and end the genocide and has served as president of Rwanda ever since. According to critics, Mr Kagame has stifled independent media, particularly those critical of his government and has been accused of jailing dissenters.
The Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) said in a statement on Monday that Mr Rusesabagina had been arrested and was being held in custody.
“Rusesabagina is suspected of being a founder or a leader or sponsor or member of violent armed extremist terror outfits ... operating out of various places in the region and abroad,” spokesperson Thierry Murangira said on Monday.
There was an international arrest warrant for Mr Rusesabagina to answer charges of serious crimes including terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder, perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory, police said.
Mr Rusesabagina left Rwanda after the genocide and had been living abroad in Belgium and in Texas in the US. Authorities did not say where he was arrested or name who was involved with the international effort to arrest him.
In 2010, Mr Rusesabagina was deemed an enemy of the state by the Kagame government. The following year he was accused of funding subversion in Rwanda, but no charges were brought.
He has more recently been accused of playing a role in a string of alleged attacks by rebels in southern Rwanda in 2018.
Mr Rusesabagina has previously denied the government’s charges that he financially supports Rwandan rebels.
Speaking to The Independent in 2010, Mr Rusesabagina said: “They are coming after me, while I’m in Brussels I remain in danger, they’re following my every step.”
Paul Rusesabagina with his wife Tatiana at the White House in 2005 after meeting President Bush. Photograph: Susan Walsh/AP
A businessman whose role in saving more than a thousand lives inspired the film Hotel Rwanda has been arrested on terrorism-related charges in the small east African country.
Paul Rusesabagina, 66, was the general manager of a luxury hotel in Kigali, the capital, during the 1994 genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed with knives, clubs and other weapons.
The 2004 film told the story of how Rusesabagina, a middle-class Hutu married to a Tutsi, used his influence and bribes to save the lives of more than 1,200 people who sheltered at the Mille Collines hotel in the capital during the worst of the massacres.
The vast majority of the victims of the genocide were from Rwanda’s Tutsi minority, though some Hutu moderates also died.
Rusesabagina was paraded by the authorities at a press conference in Kigali on Monday after his arrest under an international warrant. The authorities said he was being held at a police station in the city and gave only minimal details of the accusations against him.
“Rusesabagina is suspected to be the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits … operating out of various places in the region and abroad,” the Rwanda Investigation Bureau said in a statement.
The statement described charges including terrorism, arson, kidnap and “murder perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory”.
Rusesabagina lives in Belgium and the US, where he was honoured by a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, by the then president George W Bush in 2005.
He has been an increasingly outspoken critic of Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, and has been accused by Rwandan prosecutors of links to rebel groups based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, blamed by officials for cross-border attacks.
In 2010, Rusesabagina spoke out against the jailing of the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, and four years ago announced a political campaign against the Rwandan government, which he called a dictatorship.
Ibuka, a Rwandan genocide survivors’ group, has in the past said that Rusesabagina, who runs a humanitarian foundation, exaggerated his own role in helping hotel refugees escape the genocide. The 2004 film was nominated for several top awards.
Kagame is largely credited with the development and stability that Rwanda has experienced since the 1994 genocide. But he is also accused of extreme authoritarianism, including pursuing dissidents who have fled the country.
In 2017, Kagame won a landslide victory in a presidential election, securing a third term in office with almost 99% of votes cast.
Prologue: What author Linda Mavern here (conveniently?) forgets to mention is the proven fact that the U.S. government had started to train Tutsi units of commando-soldiers in Uganda already long before the 1994 events and had brought a massive weapons cache across the border into Rwanda to be ready. When the events unfolded with the killing of the president by downing his plane, the Tutsi units were ready, prepared and equipped to then cross into Rwanda. It is (still) all about the natural resources (Diamonds, Coltan, Gold, Timber) from the DRC.
Nyaza cemetery outside Kigali, Rwanda, where thousands of victims of the genocide are buried. Photograph: Ricardo Mazalán/AP
As the bodies piled up in the streets of Rwanda 26 years ago, no amount of spin could disguise the crime. There were no sealed camps; the massacres were in broad daylight. Yet in the UN security council the UK and US governments avoided the question of mass killing and saw only a civil war.
This bolstered arguments that nothing – they thought – could be done. It was scandalous, the Czech Republic’s ambassador Karel Kovanda told them, not to recognise that a genocide reminiscent of the Nazi Holocaust was under way. Kovanda remembers a friendly arm taking him aside as UK diplomats told him such inflammatory language outside the council would be “unhelpful”.
At the end of April 1994, with the death toll estimated at 200,000 people the US insisted the UN’s mission in Rwanda be withdrawn, while the UK suggested a token force could remain. Their focus was on former Yugoslavia, where UN troops were recently reinforced and where more peacekeepers served than in the rest of the world. The force commander of the UN mission for Rwanda, lieutenant general Roméo Dallaire, concluded that by their selfish actions in the council, the UK and US had aided and abetted genocide.
That the genocide of the Tutsi proceeded unhindered, accompanied by near universal indifference, is a scandal largely ignored. But it is worth recalling today because, all these years later, the US and UK are again at odds over the word genocide and this time with the membership of the general assembly.
In a resolution (74/273), adopted by consensus in the general assembly on 20 April, the wording to enshrine an international day to commemorate the victims of the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi was changed. The International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Rwandan Genocide became more specific, and 7 April became a day to commemorate the genocide “against the Tutsi” in Rwanda.
Afterwards, the UK and US expressed reservations in letters to the president of the general assembly. The phrase “genocide against the Tutsi”, the US ambassador Kelly Craft complained, failed to capture “the magnitude” of the violence against “other groups” and left “an incomplete picture of this dark part of history”. She wrote: “Many Hutu and others were also killed during the genocide, including those murdered for their opposition to the atrocities that were being committed.”
A letter from the UK chargé d’affaires, Jonathan Allen, objected to the “framing of the genocide purely as the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi”, seemingly hinting at two genocides. One sentence avoided the word genocide: “The UK remembers the tragic events in April 1994 and is firmly committed to ensuring that such atrocities never happen again.”
An angry response from the Rwandan ambassador to the UN, Valentine Rugwabiza, accused them of distorting historical facts. While both pointed to other victims, these people were not killed in a genocide. Only one group was the target of extermination. This was the case when past genocides in history were commemorated.
The UN had officially recognised the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi, she reminded them, and the council had established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to prosecute those responsible. The tribunal’s appeals chamber had affirmed that genocide committed against the Tutsi was “beyond any dispute and not requiring any proof”.
As the Rwandan ambassador predicted, and unusually for internal UN correspondence, there was interest in the UK and US letters from outside the secretariat. They circulated among genocide deniers, their supporters and acolytes, who claimed misgivings clearly existed at the highest levels, throwing into doubt the “official narrative”. The Hutu Power movement had for years tried to prove moral equivalence – that all sides were guilty in a bloody civil war, and the killing of Tutsi resulted from a spontaneous uprising of angry Hutu.
In their trials at the ICTR, the perpetrators had claimed a second genocide of Hutu happened and was the subject of an international cover-up. One of the oldest claims in the Hutu Power disinformation handbook, it was dismissed by Human Rights Watch in 1994 as a smokescreen to distract foreign attention from the genocide of the Tutsi. Today, the Hutu Power movement still tries to prove that each “side” was as murderous as the other and that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) had slaughtered “hundreds of thousands of Hutu”.
No doubts exist that there were thousands of Hutu deaths. At the outset, Hutu Power eliminated the political opposition, killing all those against their racist anti-Tutsi ideology. Hutu were killed in the civil war and no one ever denied retributive killings by soldiers of Paul Kagame’s RPF who defeated the army of the genocidal Hutu Power government. Many RPF soldiers had entered the country to find the bodies of their Tutsi families.
For those who liberated their country 26 years ago, the attitudes in the letters were reminiscent of those on display in 1994. The council had fixated on the civil war taking place simultaneously with the genocide of the Tutsi. But continually calling for a ceasefire, ambassador Kovanda told them, was like wanting Hitler to reach a ceasefire with the Jews.
The 1948 Genocide Convention provides a legal requirement to prevent and punish the crime and enshrines the “never again” promise. After the Holocaust there was a realisation that state-sanctioned racist policies against specific groups inevitably led to mass slaughter, the victims chosen purely because they were members of the target group.
No greater example exists of the discrepancy between promise and performance, between abiding by an international treaty and ignoring it. In three terrible months in Rwanda, more than one million people were murdered. That Britain and the United States continue to find it difficult to commemorate a clear case of genocide has inevitably led to speculation they find it difficult to acknowledge their own past error.
Linda Melvern is a British investigative journalist. Her latest book is Intent to Deceive: Denying the Genocide of the Tutsi
Thousands gathered in Kigali on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, April 11, 2014. Credit:Chip Somodevilla
Witnesses say the men spoke to Gafirita in a language they didn’t recognize, neither Swahili nor English.
Gafirita, whose real name is Emmanuel Mughisa, was due to give evidence in December before a French inquiry into the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential plane 20 years ago.
The death of President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, was the spark for three months of genocidal killing that left at least 800,000 people dead, mostly ethnic Tutsis. The slaughter was ended by Tutsi rebel leader Paul Kagame who has been in charge ever since.
Gafirita is a former soldier who claims to have evidence that Kagame ordered the plane to be shot down. This has led some to suspect that his is just the latest in a long list of disappearances and deaths carried out at the behest of the Rwandan government in its efforts to silence critics, dissidents and traitors.
“The Kenyan police have denied he was arrested, so he has clearly been kidnapped,” said Gafirita’s French lawyer Francois Cantier. The lawyer said he had spoken to Gafirita on the day he disappeared to inform him of the date of his scheduled appearance before the inquiry.
“This man is not a fantasist. If [the judges] decided to listen to him, to reopen the investigation, it's because they considered his testimony to be interesting,” Cantier told AFP.
Mystery still shrouds the downing of the plane. It is important because whoever shot down the plane bears a large share of responsibility for the slaughter that followed.
Over the years competing inquiries have drawn opposing conclusions. A 2006 inquiry by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière accused Kagame and his close associates of plotting the attack. (France got involved because the three crewmembers were all French.)
Then in 2010, Rwandan judge Jean Mutsinzi rebutted the French inquiry saying that Hutu extremists were to blame, eager to get the moderate president out of the way in order to begin the killing.
The to-and-fro has continued. In 2012 another French investigation led by Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux inspected the crash site and agreed that Hutu extremists were the likely culprits. But soon after announcing the conclusion of their inquiry earlier this year Trévidic and Poux reopened the inquest in order to hear Gafirita’s evidence, and now he has disappeared.
Alongside Rwanda’s post-genocide reputation for domestic peace and stability, law and order, cleanliness and tech-savvy economic growth co-exists a body of evidence pointing to internal oppression, external brutality, illegal renditions and assassinations.
The most high profile killing was that of Patrick Karegeya, a former spy chief strangled in a Johannesburg hotel in January. Karegaya’s political allies blamed “agents of Kagame” for his murder. No one has yet been arrested.
In August a South African judge found four men, including two Rwandans, guilty of the attempted murder of Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, a friend of Karegeya’s and co-founder of opposition-party-in-exile the Rwandan National Congress.
According to research by Human Rights Watch there have been at least 10 assassinations, attempted assassinations, disappearances or attacks on Rwandan government opponents and critics abroad since 1996. One of the earliest was the killing in Nairobi in 1998 of former minister Seth Sendashonga
More recently Joel Mutabuzi, a former member of Kagame presidential guard living as a refugee in Uganda, disappeared in October 2013 only to resurface in Rwanda days later.
Rwanda says Mutabuzi was extradited by the UN refugee agency decried his removal as an illegal “forced return.” A court in Rwanda found Mutabuzi guilty of terrorism and in October sentenced him to life in prison.
In 2011 British police warned two dissidents living in exile in London of an assassination plot against them. “Reliable intelligence states that the Rwandan Government poses an imminent threat to your life,” detectives wrote to Jonathan Musonera and Rene Mugenzi.
Rwanda denies involvement in the string of disappearances, threats and killings but Kagame shows no regret for the demise of his opponents. Days after Karegeya’s death Kagame addressed a prayer meeting in Kigali. “You cannot betray Rwanda and get away with it. There are consequences,” he said.