Rwanda spy chief release to defuse fragile Kigali, London relations

Tuesday August 11 2015

Diplomatic relations between London and Kigali are expected to improve following the decision by a UK court to dismiss a case seeking to have Rwanda's spy chief extradited to Spain to stand trial for his alleged role in massacres after the 1994 genocide.

The case against the head of the National Intelligence and Security Services Lt Gen Emmanuel Karenzi Karake was discharged after advice from the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPP).

“This was a complex case and we have worked swiftly to consider the UK law against the conduct alleged by the Spanish authorities in the [European arrest warrant],” said the CPP spokesman.

“After careful consideration we do not believe an extradition offence can be established under UK law. The main reason is that the relevant laws on the conduct alleged in this case do not cover the acts of non-UK nationals or residents abroad.

“We felt it important to bring our findings to the attention of the judge as soon as possible in order to allow him to make a decision ahead of the full hearing scheduled for September.”

READ: UK court dismisses Rwandan General's extradition case


Gen Karake was arrested in June in the UK on a European arrest warrant issued based on indictments of a Spanish Judge accusing the Rwandan General and 39 others of committing crimes against humanity.

The arrest of the intelligence chief while on a visit to the UK on an official mission with a diplomatic passport marked a new low point in relations between Kigali and London. President Paul Kagame strongly condemned Britain and Spain accusing them of working with exiled genocidaires to frustrate his regime’s peace efforts.

Senior politicians in the UK including a former International Development minister Andrew Mitchell also condemned the arrest.


The UK ruling has been welcomed by Rwanda’s Justice Minister Johnston Busingye who said General Karake had been the victim of "an unjust case.”

Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been an advisor to President Paul Kagame since 2008 and whose wife Cherie Booth leads Mr Karake’s defence team, is also likely to welcome the case dismissal.

Mr Blair’s charity, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), calls Rwanda one of Africa’s “success stories.”

Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said she was "delighted" that General Karake was returning to Rwanda saying the arrest was "an unnecessary and abusive process.”

The decision by the court means that Mr Karake is free to return to Rwanda and continue battling the charges from the country.

British aid to Kigali currently totals about £70 million ($109 million) and bilateral trade between the two countries is about £10 million ($15 million) per annum.

Backroom negotiations

According to sources, there have been ongoing negotiations between Rwanda and the UK to free Gen Karake.

He was scheduled to appear in court on September 26 and October 29 while the full extradition hearing was expected on October 30. However, there was no prior information that the hearing had been brought forward to August 10.

Sources further say there has been backdoor lobbying to have Gen Karake released after the arrest caught senior government officials off guard.

“Considering that courts in the UK work independently, this had to be done carefully to avoid any consequences not only on the justice system but also on the diplomacy of Britain,” the source further said.

Additional reporting by a Special Correspondent.