Leon Mugesera is sticking to his playbook never mind that it didn't work in Canada

Leon Mugesera, a genocide convict. File

Last week convicted genocide criminal, Leon Mugesera, was back in court this time appealing the life sentence he was handed in 2016.

The basis of the appeal, he says, is on account that the judge who presided over the case distorted the content of his infamous 1992 speech in Kabaya, Gisenyi, calling for the extermination of the Tutsi population in Rwanda.


His accusations against the judge bring to mind that professor who sticks to the same lesson plan which has failed time after time.


Mugesera spent seventeen years in Canadian courts challenging the Supreme Court’s ruling to have him deported to Rwanda to stand trial for genocide crimes and crimes against humanity.


His lawyers had come up with the bogus argument that their client would be tortured and killed if he was returned to Rwanda, which was ultimately rejected by the judges in Ottawa.

Some years before, as the supreme court of Canada was deciding on whether to remove him from the Canadian territory, his speech at Kabaya took center stage with Mugesera accusing the government's translator of distorting the speech.

As it turns, out he is sticking to the same playbook in the hope that it's going to help him evade accountability for his crimes, never mind that it didn't help his case in Canada in the first place.

However, a number of scholars have figured out why Mugesera has maintained a demonstrably failed strategy. In her article, Words That Kill, Narelle Fletcher, University of Technology Sydney, explains that; "since delivering the speech, Mugesera has relentlessly sought to attenuate his own personal responsibility in relation to the accusation of incitement to genocide by systematically obfuscating the meaning of his words".

In 2005 the Supreme court of Canada ruled that Mugesera, through his speech, had "incited to murder, genocide and hatred and had committed a crime against humanity. Mugesera, though, wasn't done.

He embarked on a desperate but cynical mission challenging the deportation order, nonetheless, his powerful team of lawyers failed to make the case that he faced any danger if he was deported.

Indeed the Canadian government cited Rwanda's good human rights record and went on to refer to other examples in the European Union and the United States, where similar fugitive perpetrators of the 1994 genocide the Tutsi had been sent back to Rwanda to stand trial for their crimes.

Meanwhile, during the course of his appeal and court appearances, Mugesera had revelled in the limelight, seeking out the cameras, routinely poking journalists to ask him questions.

He displayed the most arrogant attitude for the news media in Canada and his conduct was clearly calculated to send out a message to other genocide crimes fugitives that they were untouchable.

Finally in 2012, after he had exhausted all legal options, Mugesera found himself in handcuffs on a Canadian government jet bound for Kigali accompanied by that country's security agents.

Ottawa was relieved to have him removed from their territory and the then minister for Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenny, articulated the government's position; "Eventually we have to remove war criminals and stop talking about it... We are happy that we have finally managed to remove Mr Mugesera from Canada...

Everyone deserves their day in court. Mr Mugesera had 17 years in court. The people of Rwanda have the right to see this man tried before their own courts and brought to justice in their own country" Kenny said.

Leon Mugesera's protracted legal machinations if for nothing else, exposed to the Canadians the workings of a well-coordinated network of Rwandans and their foreign supporters determined to advance the denying of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

This had become all the more evident when Mugesera's Kabaya speech became the evidence upon which the judges would base their decision on whether to allow him to stay in Canada or order his deportation.

The original text was in Kinyarwanda and required translation into French. Mugesera's legal team and his supporters enlisted Eugen Shimamungu, a Rwandan linguist, while lawyers representing the government of Canada hired the late Thomas Kamanzi, an eminent Rwandan linguist.

According to Narelle Fletcher, "after careful scrutiny, Kamanzi's translation, not Shimamungu's was retained as the official version used in subsequent hearings in Canada".

A prominent genocide denier, Eugen Shimamungu's version of the translation was clouded by his toxic ideology and vicious partisan leanings as he sought to not help Mugesera, a fellow genocidaire win the case of his life before Canadian courts, but saw it as an opportunity to perpetuate the denying of the genocide against the Tutsi. 

Fletcher points out that Shimamungu deliberately mistranslated the speech to "attenuate the force of Mugesera's vilification of the Tutsi in order to minimize the risk of being interpreted as incitement to genocide...and to exaggerate the threat represented by the Tutsi…in order to bolster Mugesera's claims that he was simply advocating legitimate defence".

When politicians and prominent businessmen, as well as academics and intellectuals like Dr Leon Mugesera set out to exterminate the Tutsi population in Rwanda they believed they would never be called to account for their crimes.

Tutsi had been massacred in previous episodes in the 1960s, on such a large scale that Professor Bertrand Russell described the killings as "the most terrible and systematic genocide since the genocide of the Jews by Hitler", and the world had never bothered to find out what happened.

Mugesera and other leaders made sure that the people they were mobilizing to commit genocide knew they would never be held accountable.

Therefore, by 1994 when the regime launched the "final solution", older people who had taken part in previous pogroms, as well as younger generations who were brought on board, and did the greater part of the killing, had been taught that killing pays; killing the Tutsi.

While Mugesera used the news media in Canada during the course of his long and cynical litigation to send out defiant signals to other fugitives that they were home and dry, today his worst nightmare, is that the very people he thought were gullible, as he mobilized them to kill their next-door compatriots, are now testifying against him before the Rwandan courts of law, a turn of event Canada's Jason Kenny believed was the right thing to do.


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