Opinion: Partisan views on Rwanda: Who is the real culprit?

Rusesabagina interacts with his lawyers David Rugaza and Emelyne Nyumbo at Kicukiro Primary Court on 17 September, 2020. Sam Ngendahimana

In a letter published by The Guardian on September 16th, 2020, Martin Plaut - who presents himself as a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London- accused Andrew Mitchell of expressing partisan views on Rwanda as the British MP argued that, if his terrorism were against Britain, Rusesabagina would certainly be charged under anti-terrorism laws in Britain.

Unsurprisingly, and like almost all the “critics” of the Rwandan government, Plaut fails to address the substance of the letter issued by the British MP.  For instance, Plaut cannot dispute the fact that Rusesabagina, in his capacity as both the leader and the founder of his political organization MRCD, expressed his “unreserved support” for the terrorist grouping FLN – the armed wing of MRCD – which claimed responsibility for attacks on Rwanda’s territory that left scores of innocent civilians dead.


Therefore, any objective view on Rusesabagina’s case would factor in the indisputable facts that demonstrate Rusesabagina links to these attacks and to the terror outfit that conducted them. The failure to counter-argue on the substance of Mitchell’s letter leaves no other choice to Plaut than to resort to character assassination and justification of terrorism.


First, the character assassination is meant to question the credibility of the British MP without having to bear the brunt of addressing, in substance, the concern for truth and justice as expressed by Andrew Mitchell.


Moreover, Plaut chooses to deflect by recalling that, in his capacity as the Africa editor for BBC World Service News, he approached Andrew Mitchell and explained what he “knew” of the situation of human rights in Rwanda.

In Plaut’s view, the fact that Andrew Mitchell was less than convinced by the usual unfounded allegations against Rwanda proves Mitchell’s partisanship. If anyone is partisan, it is Plaut who is fond of peddling rumours.

It didn’t occur to Plaut that his organizations’ failure to bring the needed evidence that would back their accusations against the Rwandan government are the cause of this scepticism from fair minded people, like Mitchell.

Plaut’s partisanship is in similar fashion as the smearing campaigns of Human Right Watch; an organization whose corruption was documented by The Intercept and which Richard Johnson, a former Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Department of State, denounced for its unscrupulous advocacy. “What Human Rights Watch (HRW) does on Rwanda is not human rights advocacy.  It is political advocacy which has become profoundly unscrupulous in both its means and its ends,” Johnson wrote.

Second, it is remarkable that critics insist on the unfounded allegations of gross human rights violations against Rwanda, which is entirely unrelated to the issue at hand, while refusing to acknowledge Rusesabagina’s own admission to be the leader behind terror attacks that left innocent Rwandan civilians dead.

Plaut is no different from most “critics” on this aspect. It is not that Plaut doesn’t believe Rusesabagina was the leader behind these terror attacks; it is that he believes that the call for war was justified, not least by his (Plaut’s) allegations of human rights violations in Rwanda. Plaut sees Rusesabagina as a hero for “doing something” about these violations, let alone their unfounded nature.

In other words, in the view of “critics” like Plaut, Rusesabagina’s innocence is not grounded in the absence of evidence of his involvement in terror activities; it is rather grounded in the “justness” of his cause regardless of the criminality it involves.

Indeed, the loss of innocent Rwandan lives - which were not even what western journalists usually refer to as “collateral damages” in their dehumanization campaigns around the world but the primary targets of the attacks - is acceptable as long as it leads to the overthrow of a government that they despise. Obviously, this is the correct definition of partisanship, uh, extremism.  

People like Mitchell and Johnson are targeted for character assassination for showing scepticism when those who should be journalists and human rights activists turn the standards of their professions upside down to push a political agenda or to seek publicity at the cost of a government that is focused on transforming the lives of its people.


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