Kagame: Rwandan priest should have been allowed in

Saturday December 17 2016

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has said Thomas Nahimana, a controversial Catholic priest turned politician who was denied entry into the country, poses no political threat and cannot destabilise the country.

Addressing the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Inkotanyi political bureau meeting last Sunday, President Kagame said that he does not understand why Mr Nahimana was stopped from entering the country, even though he carried a foreign passport.

“He should have been allowed to return because he is wanted by judicial authorities, and be left to the law to deal with him,” the Rwandan leader said.

President Kagame said that while the cleric, a national of Rwanda has a right to return home, the country’s laws cannot tolerate anyone propagating the genocide ideology.

The prelate has publicly uttered ethnically charged comments which Rwanda considers as genocide denial and genocide ideology. The comments can earn the clergy years in jail under the country’s genocide laws.

The prelate fled the country in 2005 to France where he has been living. He was returning to reportedly register a political party and take part in the 2017 presidential elections. Mr Nahimana was supposed to arrive in Rwanda on November 23, but Kenyan authorities stopped him from proceeding to Kigali on the orders of Rwanda’s Immigration Directorate, according to Kenya Airways.


READ: Kenya forced to keep prelate as Rwanda denies him entry

In a statement he released on Friday, the defiant cleric said he welcomed President Kagame’s comments that he should be allowed to return. He said that he will be back on January 23 and was ready to begin the process of registering his party.

Mr Nahimana did not, however, comment on President Kagame’s allusion to possible charges against him.

The prelate, traveling on a French passport with an East African tourist visa, had vowed to remain at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi but was later granted entry into Europe after an understanding with Kenyan officials.

“It is in the interest of the Kenyan government that we leave Nairobi and return to our points of departure,” he said.

The Catholic Church in Rwanda has distanced itself from the clergyman.

Mr Nahimana, a Hutu, thrives on invoking ethnic sentiments, pitting Hutus against Tutsis yet the government in Rwanda banned ethnic groupings, which it says were the source of hate which metamorphosed into the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Genocide denier

Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, last week said Mr Nahimana is one of the renowned genocide deniers and revisionists, whose remarks are against the law. 

Speaking to Voice of America last week, Mr Nahimana denied claims that he is a genocide denier. 

“I am not a genocide denier. They know that. It is a tactic being used to deny us entry. I am innocent. If I was a criminal, it was a big opportunity to allow me back home and push me to face justice. My right to return home was denied,” Mr Nahimana said.