UK approves Rwandan envoy ahead of Commonwealth meet

Friday March 18 2022
Rwanda Justice minister Johnston Busingye.

Long-serving Justice minister, Johnston Busingye was named Rwanda's ambassador to the UK in August 2021. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

By Ange Iliza

The United Kingdom has approved Rwanda’s new envoy to the country, Johnston Busingye, despite calls from critics to London to reject the nomination.

The approval comes three months before Kigali hosts the Commonwealth Head of Governments meeting slated on June 20.

The former Minister of Justice and Attorney General was appointed to represent Rwanda in the UK on August 31, but the post remained vacant. Activists in the UK and the US were calling on London to reject his credentials and instead place him on the Magnitsky Sanctions list, which targets individuals responsible for human rights violations or corruption.

In an exclusive interview with The EastAfrican, the British High Commissioner to Rwanda, Omar Daair, said the appointment has been approved and that Rwanda’s High Commissioner to the UK is expected to arrive in London soon as both countries prepare for CHOGM.

“Some of these processes take time; different countries take different amounts of time to deal with these things. I won’t comment on details of that process, but the result is the appointment has been approved. We are looking forward to having the high commissioner arrive in the UK, and my colleagues are looking forward to working with him and the government of Rwanda ahead of CHOGM,” Mr Daair said.

‘Hotel Rwanda’ trial


Rwandan government critics accuse Mr Busingye to have had a part in the trial of “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina, who was jailed for 25 years. The 7-month trial attracted global attention and was deemed “illegal” by Rusesabagina’s family.

He was found guilty by a Rwandan court of backing a rebel group behind deadly attacks in 2018 and 2019 in northern and southern parts of Rwanda.

Rwanda maintained Mr Busingye’s nomination and responded that the criticism was being pushed out by those who are “desperate to salvage the reputation of Paul Rusesabagina”.


Asked whether the UK considered concerns regarding the Rusesabagina trial, the British High Commissioner said that the UK considered the totality of the picture of both countries’ relations and discussed with the government of Rwanda concerns raised over the trial.

“Amnesty for Africa has said publicly that in the case of Paul Rusesabagina, there had to be accountability for attacks on civilians in 2018 and 2019. We, like other partners, had some concerns about the due process in that case, and we have raised those with the government and discussed them,” Mr Daair explained.

Mr Busingye replaces Yamina Karitanyi, who has since taken office in Kigali as head of the Rwanda Mines, Gas and Petroleum Board.

Before he was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr Busingye held many positions in the Rwandan government and judiciary, including a resident judge of the High Court of Rwanda and principal judge of the East African Court of Justice.

Rwanda is preparing to host CHOGM, which will be attended by Prince Charles and his wife, Duchess Camilla. The meeting will also mark the beginning of Rwanda’s journey as chair of the Commonwealth.

Read: Prince Charles to attend CHOGM in Rwanda