US leaves Rusesabagina in Rwanda’s hands, Belgium is silent

Monday September 07 2020

US actor Don Cheadle (right) acted as Paul Rusesabagina (left) in the 2004 Holywood movie Hotel Rwanda. PHOTO | AFP


The US, where Paul Rusesabagina has a residence, has declined to respond to questions by The EastAfrican seeking comment on his arrest and impending prosecution.

Belgium, whose citizenship the Hotel Rwanda film hero holds, has remained tight-lipped on the matter and only issued a statement stating that it was not involved in his arrest.

Mr Rusesabagina’s fate seems to be in the hands of the Rwandan justice system.

“We are aware of the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina, and we are monitoring the situation. We refer you to the Rwandan government for additional information,” US Embassy spokesperson Janet Deutsch told The EastAfrican, in response to questions on the matter.

In Washington, US assistant secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagi met Rwanda’s ambassador to the US Mathilde Mukantabana to discuss Mr Rusesabagina’s arrest.

Shortly after the meeting, Mr Nagi released a statement noting that “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".


On Thursday, US Senator, Tim Kaine sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling for the government to communicate with Rwanda to ensure Mr Rusesabagina’s safety and fair treatment.

“The US should also insist that any charges brought forward against Mr Rusesabagina be presented in an open and transparent manner, and any trial be conducted fairly. Rwanda’s treatment of Mr Rusesabagina will be a measure of its own commitment to justice, the rule of law, and the democratic principles the country has sought to emulate since the 1994 genocide,” he said.

Unclear circumstances

“While the circumstances surrounding the arrest are currently unclear, what is certain is the government of Rwanda’s mistreatment of its political opponents, like Mr Rusesabagina. Rwanda has been frequently cited by the Department of State, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights organisations for arbitrary detention, torture, repression of political opponents, and unexplained deaths of individuals held in custody.”

Belgium, which provided Mr Rusesabagina and his family asylum and citizenship, has been tight-lipped about his arrest.

The Belgian embassy in Kigali told The EastAfrican that the country had nothing to do with his arrest, and also ruled out suspicions that he may have been deported from Belgium.

Mr Rusesabagina’s arrest has drawn international attention, with no country so far coming forth to admit to having co-operated with Rwanda to service an international warrant issued for his arrest.

Rwanda says he was arrested on the international warrant with the co-operation of other countries, but declined to provide more details on grounds that doing so may jeopardise ongoing investigations.

Mr Rusesabagina, 66, gained international fame in 2004 after the release of the Hollywood movie Hotel Rwanda, which depicts his heroic acts in providing shelter and protection to over 1,200 people inside a hotel he managed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

He was paraded in handcuffs before the press on Monday in Kigali, where he had not set foot in almost two decades, on charges related to terrorism, murder and arson.

Rwanda issued an international arrest warrant for Mr Rusesabagina in November 2018, when he veered from verbal criticism of President Paul Kagame's government and openly declared an armed resistance.

In 2018, Mr Rusesabagina formed an opposition group with its military wing called FLN, based in eastern DRC.