Kagame hints at tricking 'Hotel Rwanda' hero into flying to Kigali
President Paul Kagame has dismissed allegations that the Hotel Rwanda hero, Paul Rusesabagina, was kidnapped by his government and forced back to the country to face charges on terror, murder, and arson.
In an interview that lasted more than two hours on Sunday, President Kagame alluded to trickery as the means in which Mr Rusesabagina took a flight that eventually led him to Rwanda in handcuffs as a wanted criminal.
"I wish some in the media would go by facts and investigate and find the truth. It would be helpful, rather than just playing the same type of story and way of thinking almost forever," he said.
“Let me eliminate the word kidnap because that was not the case. Rusesabagina will attest to that himself. There was no kidnap, there was no wrongdoing in the process of his getting here,” Mr Kagame said during the interview on Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA).
“In fact, how he got here was more to do with himself than anybody else. It is as if you feed somebody a false story that fits well into his narrative of what he wants to be and he follows it and then finds himself in a place like that.”
Mr Kagame also hinted at the charges Rusesabagina faces, noting that regardless of his fame and stature across the world, he must answer questions related to the activities of rebel groups that attacked Rwanda and killed civilians in three districts.
“How did he become an associate or even a leader of these rebel groups? It is not so long ago; it is this year and slightly before the end of last year that these groups FLN and MRCD - that Rusesabagina was leading or is one of their leaders - killed people in the southwestern part of our country in three districts,” Mr Kagame said.
“There are victims. There is information known by local people. Rusesabagina himself knows it and he tells the story. He even told the story before he came here and there are many recordings about that, he himself bragging about it.”
“Again even if you wanted to ignore what other people are saying, I think you need to pay attention to what he himself has said that really brings him into this kind of picture that we have to deal with.”
He added: "There is one group called FLN, you know it, which is affiliated to MRCD, and he is called their leader. And the actions of those groups are praised by him. People were killed in Nyaruguru, in Nyamagabe, in the forest of Nyungwe, and attackers came from Burundi and they went back, and he bragged about these attacks personally and praised them. There lies a question he has to answer."
"Whether he has people using him in Europe or America, whatever way they help him or call him a hero and star, there is no problem with that. But things to do with killing Rwandans and taking away their peace; the blood of the Rwandans he has on his hands because of the actions of these rebel groups, he has to answer."
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 had said 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.
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.
While he waits to be arraigned, Mr Rusesabagina is expected to prepare his defence team.
David Rugaza, a Rwandan lawyer, told The EastAfrican on Sunday that he had been picked by Mr Rusesabagina to represent him as his attorney.
“I met my client on Saturday and will meet him again on Monday. Mr Rusesabagina selected me to represent him, from a list of lawyers that was provided to him,” he told The EastAfrican.
His trial is expected to attract international attention due to his celebrity status. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President George Bush in 2005, and was also the recipient of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize from The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice.
Mr Rusesabagina, 66, shot to international fame when he was depicted as a hero in the film Hotel Rwanda, for his role in saving more than a thousand people from being killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.
But President Kagame questioned the narrative.
“If you asked the Rwandans here and those who were in the hotel that is talked about, where Rusesabagina was working before and is said to have started the journey of being a hero, every one of these people will tell you a different story from what Rusesabagina is saying,” President Kagame said.
“The UN mission during that period also gives a different story from what Rusesabagina says. In fact, the way people were saved from that hotel was on the hands of many other things that happened including the UN and our own forces because there was interest in exchanging some of the people that had been captured on the government side.”