One Year, 365 whole days, of false charges and illegal imprisonment in Kagame’s crooked Rwanda.
You’re reading this, so you will most likely have followed the story that has been covered by broadcast and print media around the world for the past year and we thank you for doing so.
For merely by viewing and reading the reports of the plight of world-recognized hero and humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina, and then talking about it to your friends and family, maybe even supporting him through social media likes and follows, you are helping to achieve the aims of his family. You are keeping his appalling situation in the public eye.
You are doing the very thing that current Rwandan President Paul Kagame really doesn’t want. You are ensuring that Paul Rusesabagina is not forgotten. You are helping to keep him alive and in the spotlight while Kagame — who prefers to commit his travesties of law, democracy and human rights unseen and away from public scrutiny — wants the story, and likely Paul Rusesabagina himself, to die.
You are doing your bit and we, the small, dedicated and committed team of lawyers, academics, writers, activists and commentators, who are assisting Paul’s family to ensure the safe release and return of Paul, are so very grateful to you.
So, given the coverage, given the appalling truths we all now know of how Kagame is running the country that he treats as his own private fiefdom, given the terrifying and ever growing numbers of silenced, disappeared and murdered Kagame critics and given so many more awful facts about the atrocious healthcare provision, the poverty and the starvation within Rwanda, why is the “international community” not doing more to prevent this ongoing situation?
It’s a good and relevant question to ask, but answers are harder to come by.
You might wonder why, for example, the Commonwealth of Nations, an organization that supposedly has democracy, justice and human rights freedoms enshrined in its very reason for being, hasn’t said a word about Kagame’s appalling transgressions of its core beliefs and principles, let alone Paul Rusesabagina’s terrible plight.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. For despite Rwanda now having almost no free press and certainly few rights for its citizens to exercise freedom of speech, the Commonwealth persists in cozying up to Kagame. It is still going to reward him with hosting the twice-delayed Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and still sends Commonwealth dignitaries to Kigali for meetings that allow Kagame to make great play of them shaking his hand, making him look like the reputable world statesman we know he is not. And in so doing it degrades the reputation of an admired and laudable institution.
You might also wonder why the Belgian Government has been remarkably silent on Paul’s plight when, as a Belgian passport holder, he has the right to expect the full weight of Governmental and diplomatic efforts to release him. It is indeed curious, given the long history of Belgian-Rwandan relations that, although complicated, should allow Belgium to bring pressure to bear to protect one of its own.
You might even wonder why, as a resident of the USA and holder of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Paul Rusesabagina hasn’t had the full support of the USA, with all its power and diplomatic weight, clamouring for his immediate release and repatriation.
Of course, there are no simple paths for Governments and organizations to take in situations like this. They cannot meddle in the internal politics of a sovereign nation. They cannot interfere with the course of an ongoing trial, even when that trial breaks international rules and codes of due process and is the result of an illegal kidnapping that the Minister of Justice admitted to in a TV interview on Al Jazeera and Kagame himself bragged about being a perfect operation.
But the “international community” are not powerless, especially when it comes to Rwanda, a nation that is almost entirely dependent on aid and financial support to prop up its failed economy. A nation where over 90% of the population survives on less a day than you might spend on a coffee.
Kagame chooses to spend vast amounts of the hundreds of millions that Rwanda is given or loaned (and it has just been lent a huge amount more to pay previous loans it cannot afford to manage) on expensive showcase sponsorship of Arsenal Football Club, and on the eye-watering cost of Pegasus software to spy on Kagame critics and anyone else he doesn’t much like, including presidents and politicians of neighboring nations.
That he does so, rather than ensure that the population of Rwanda thrives with enough work, food and healthcare, should be of enormous concern to donor nations. But here’s where there may be hope.
Kagame is running a failed state, a dictatorship defined by illegality. He thinks that he is untouchable. He thumbs his nose at those in the west who provide the economic support that keeps him in power, with crazed comments about justice and democracy being what he decides they are, not what international rules and conventions agree them to be.
But he is completely reliant on aid to do what he does. He is supported by your money, the hard earned cash that you pay in taxes. And when what he does goes against your principles, you have the right to demand of your representatives, your politicians, those that send him your money, that they hold him to account.
Edmund Burke is often misquoted as saying “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” While we watch and read about the wicked malevolence of Kagame’s actions and wonder why more isn’t being done to help Paul Rusesabagina, don’t forget that your letter or email to your President, Secretary of State, Congressperson, Senator, Belgian or British Prime Minister and Member of Parliament can and will make a difference.
Each and every letter in support of Paul Rusesabagina counts. Your politicians rely on your vote. If they don’t stand up to tyrants they can be held accountable, and by insisting that they do so, you make you voice heard, your vote count.
Paul Rusesabagina has now been held in a cell in a Kigali prison for a whole year. 365 days cut off from his family, his friends, from the right even to choose his own lawyers or to speak for himself. He is even cut off from the medications he sorely needs. He is not, nor ever has been, a terrorist, as Kagame would like you to believe and spends money with expensive PR companies to make you believe. He is a man that stood up for others when they most needed it, at great cost to himself and his family. He is a true hero and proven humanitarian.
Please now stand up for Paul Rusesabagina and do what he cannot do. Please help ensure that he doesn’t spend another year locked in a cell at the whim of a bullying tyrant.
We know that it takes a little effort, but please, write to your local and national politicians and insist that they work for his release and return to his family, before they send another cent or penny of your money to support Kagame’s crooked Rwanda, where heroes are imprisoned for speaking the truth.