President Paul Kagame warned this Friday that a letter by a group of British MPs demanding the release of two senior military officers now before court does not help them in any way.
Instead, he told journalists at a lengthy press conference today that, “They [MPs] are complicating the cases” of those they assume to be defending.
Ex-commander of the elite Presidential Guard Col Tom Byabagamba, who was Kagame’s personal bodyguard since the liberation war was convicted in March 2016 of various cases including disrespecting the national flag and inciting the public against an elected government.
Subsequently, Byabagamba was sentenced to 21years in prison while his co-accused and brother-in-law, Brig Gen (Rtd) Frank Rusagara was jailed for 20 years. They both appealed.
Besides inciting insurrection and tarnishing the government’s image, prosecution also accused the two of alleging state involvement in the assassinations of opponents, and, in one particular readout by the Military prosecutors, Rusagara apparently described Rwanda as a “banana republic” and said, referring to the President, “our guy is finished”.
Next week, on November 15, Rusagara and Byabagamba will return to the Court of Appeal, a civilian court, to challenge their imprisonment. However, 6 British lawmakers on November 4 released on social media a letter they say was addressed to Kagame. They want the two officers released.
Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye wrote back, in a letter, also released on social media, asserting that asking government to halt Byabagamba-Rusagara case will make government interfere in an “independent judicial process”.
Sounding clearly un-amused, Kagame said today that not only did he not receive the letter, but that he also doesn’t understand how UK parliamentarians can interfere in an internal matter or ask him to do things they [western powers] normally “accuse us of doing”.
Earlier in the interview, Kagame had stated: “By the way, I never received any letter” and “…it was wrongly addressed…Why would they ask me? …They find it easy to write to the president” but not to the Attorney General or their fellow MPs here because, he added, these MPs [from the UK] have no regard for the country’s institutions.
“If people had concern about justice, don’t you think they should have started with their own system? Are you aware of the case that has been going on [in the UK] for over 10 years about genocidaires? If they are concerned about justice they should be giving justice to Rwandans first…these perpetrators live freely in their country,” said Kagame, adding that the UK was actually “protecting them”.
Kagame said the MPs are acting out of their usual superiority complex they have for many of Africa’s leaders and their countries.
The genocide fugitives Kagame is referring to include five men whose case has dragged on without ever coming to court. UK government figures show that over $7m (Rwf 6.2billion) of taxpayers’ money has been spent so far by prosecutors yet the case hasn’t materialised.
“They don’t know how they are complicating things. I wish I could advise them how what they are doing actually complicates the case of those people they seem to be advocating for,” said Kagame.
In a wide ranging press conference, Kagame spoke about fake news and its effects, relations with neighbors like Burundi and Rwanda; the planned military offensive involving regional armies to beat rebel groups out of the DRC and its sovereignty to do so; the state of the EAC integration and allegations of Rwanda government spying on WhatsApp messages of Rwandan exiles as well as the country’s preference to use human intelligence rather than soft-wares to spy on its enemies.
Kagame confirmed that Rwanda, like every nation, spies on “our enemies”. He however refuted reports in the foreign media that government paid $10m for a WhatsApp monitoring software from an Israeli firm.
Kagame said the information he has is that such software is very expensive, and that he had pressing problems in Rwanda he can spend that money on.
“I wouldn’t spend my money over a-nobody,” he said, pointing out that “We are very good at human intelligence” and that the names cited in the Financial Times aren’t a threat to the country to warrant spending huge sums of money.
Instead, Kagame added, “I worry about these fellows who enter through Kinigi” to attack the country”; not those on the streets of London purporting to fight his government.
Kagame accused the Financial Times reporter who wrote the story about the country spying on its foreign enemies of being an agent paid by Dr David Himbara, who was the head of state’s aide before going to exile in Canada. The article was dictated to the reporter by that “fellow who used to work for me”, Kagame said.
On Rwanda-Uganda Peace Process:
Kagame also spent quite sometime on the Rwanda-Uganda conflict. He said the second meeting of ministers that was due on October 16 following the first one in Kigali never took place and Rwanda got the official letter about another date after the media reported it. Another meeting that was set for November 13 was also postponed to November 18; although he couldn’t confirm whether it will take place in the spirit of the Luanda MoU.
Once again, Kagame detailed his country’s problem with Uganda as, largely, the latter’s support for the country’s dissidents and arresting and torturing Rwandans who visit Uganda.
Despite postponements of meetings, Kagame stated: “…for sure, the meetings were supposed to resolve…problems….What remains an issue; the origin for us is having people whom we have tried with the judiciary and having connections with our otherwise brotherly neighbour…They always denied it [that they habour people who fight us]…now we have those in our custody giving evidence” that they are funded by Uganda.
Kagame also told journalists “After the meeting [with president Musevei], a number of people were released…but dumped at the [border] the same time others were [being] arrested. They don’t release them, they bring them
Uganda’s defense that arrested Rwandans are spies, Kagame clarified, wrongly insinuate that Uganda isn’t spying on Rwanda; which doesn’t have a basis in how nations relate.
Kagame also said a summit of East African Community (EAC) is scheduled later this month.