In 2008, a Spanish magistrate, Fernando Andreu Merelles, issued an indictment against 40 current and former Rwandan officials (all previously members of the former Rwanda Patriotic Army), charging them with genocide, terrorism and war crimes — a laughable indictment that was quickly trashed by analysts, scholars and legal minds. Soon after, a UN investigation found that Merelles was in fact in cahoots with agencies that fund FDLR, the militia blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, that is still holed up in DR Congo to date.
It became all too obvious that the indictment had been instigated by individuals and groups linked the 1994 Genocide, which the RPA had courageously and singlehandedly stopped.
Therefore, when the UK went ahead and implemented the warrant against one of the forty Rwandans, in June, it left the world asking questions. Not Rwanda. Rwandans demanded answers. Within days, the UK realised it had picked on the wrong subject for its intimidation experiment. He was granted bail and later set free. But that was not the end.
The final nail on the travesty was hit home by Spanish Supreme Court recently with a verdict that the case against the Rwandans had no basis and should close. The court also ruled that the universal jurisdiction framework lacked basis because the alleged offences were neither committed in Spain nor were the accused resident in Europe. Importantly it reaffirmed Rwanda’s primary competence.
The verdict means the UK had ignored Rwanda’s sovereignty and sought to trample on the dignity of Rwandans by reducing them to pawns that could be played at will. The triumph is a testament that whenever there has been a need for Rwandans to stand up and defend their dignity, they have treated it like a calling, united like a people proud of their ancestry and motherland and showed the resilience that cools a molten rock.
This unity and the spirit of ‘Rwandaness’ is what has spurred the country to rise from the ashes of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and transform their identity to what it is today.
The lesson is that had Rwandans folded their arms around their chests and watched as the UK and Spain played their political gymnastics with Rwanda’s sovereignty, Europe’s so-called ‘universal court’ would have got its wish.
But in standing up to the oppressors, Rwandans proved that it is not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, but the size of the fight in the dog. Resilience and unity will always triumph in trying times.
While the case and arrest warrants were uncalled for in the first place, that this very unfortunate and regrettable episode has ended the way it should have ended is a welcome development.