RWANDA President Paul Kagame on Monday dismissed ‘noise’ over the arrest and trial of his critic Paul Rusesabagina (pictured), who inspired the movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’, while defending the government’s role in tricking him into returning home.
Rusesabagina had been living in exile in Belgium until his arrest in August after he boarded a plane to Rwandan capital Kigali when he thought he was going to neighbouring Burundi.
The United States, the European parliament and Belgium have raised concerns about his transfer and the fairness of his trial on terrorism charges.
‘I don’t see why people make a lot of noise. He is in a court of law. He is not being hidden somewhere,’ Kagame told journalists from the France 24 television channel and RFI radio.
‘What’s wrong with tricking a criminal you are looking for? When you get him, where do you put him? If it is in a court of law, I think that’s ok,’ he added.
Rusesabagina has been charged with nine offences, including terrorism, for starting a group that is accused of staging deadly attacks within Rwanda in recent years.
He is credited with sheltering hundreds of Rwandans inside a hotel he managed during the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus were slaughtered.
But, in the years after Hollywood made him an international celebrity, a more complex image emerged of a staunch government critic, whose tirades against Kagame led him to be treated as an enemy of the state.
Kagame has been in power since 1994 and is accused by critics of crushing opponents and ruling through fear.
While defending legal process in Rwanda, he dismissed calls by Congolese activists, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege, for accountability for crimes committed by troops active in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo from the 1990s.
He called a UN investigation known as the Mapping Report into alleged war crimes, including by Rwandans, ‘extremely controversial’ and ‘highly disputed by people.’
‘It was highly politicised. Mukwege becomes a symbol or a tool of these forces you don’t get to see. He is made a Nobel laureate, he’s told what to say,’ he added.