Why is Malawi shielding Genocide fugitives?

Vincent Murekezi, who has previously used several aliases was in March this year awarded a Malawian passport, having been naturalized as a citizen of the southern African country back in 2013.

Vincent Murekezi, who has previously used several aliases was in March this year awarded a Malawian passport, having been naturalized as a citizen of the southern African country back in 2013.

The problem is, he is a Genocide fugitive with an outstanding indictment for his well-documented role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

 

In the Malawian passport, he is called Vincent M Banda, and purports to have been born in Tanzania, despite his initial documents, which Malawian authorities are most likely in possession of, showing that he was born in the former Ngoma Commune, which is currently in Huye District, Southern Province.

 

It is in the same district where a Gacaca court tried and convicted him in absentia, handing him a life sentence.

 

And, when he was recently busted, Malawian media jumped on the story. 

To the shock of many, he was released shortly after being arrested. 

In an interview with local media in the country, the Malawian Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security confirmed knowing the suspect. 

“I know Murekezi as one of the successful businesspersons in the country,” Minister Grace Chiumia is quoted as saying.

Being a successful businessman, however, does not exonerate Murekezi from being a Genocide perpetrator. The onus is on Malawian officials to verify the charges, should they have doubt.

This is not the first time a Genocide suspect in Malawi is held and released under mysterious circumstances. 

In 2010, another fugitive at the time, Charles Bandora, was arrested in Malawi over an outstanding indictment pinning him on the Genocide against the Tutsi, but released after a fortnight in custody. 

Bandora later resurfaced in Sweden from where he was arrested and extradited to Rwanda the following year. He was tried and last year sentenced to 30 years by the specialized chamber for international crimes at the High Court.

In addition to Bandora, several Genocide fugitives have for the past decade been extradited or deported to Rwanda from either European countries, or other countries like the United States and Canada.

Other countries in the West have opted to try them within their jurisdictions and some convictions have been secured while other trials are still on course.

In the last few months alone, Genocide fugitives who have been deported to Rwanda include Henri Jean-Claude Seyoboka from Canada, Jean-Claude Iyamuremye and Jean-Baptiste Mugimba who were extradited from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and Leopold Munyakazi from the United States. 

The Global understanding is that Genocide is a crime against humanity therefore bringing perpetrators to book is every country’s responsibility. 

No pan African spirit 

Speaking to The New Times yesterday, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye said that Malawi being an African country, they would have expected better, adding that Rwanda has received inconsequential  cooperation regarding arresting of Genocide fugitives.

At least seven known indicted fugitives are said to be living in Malawi, where most have gone on to become successful business magnates.

“We have received very little cooperation from African countries when compared to elsewhere and I say, this is worrying; we would expect more and when they do get back to us on these indictments, we get excuses like lack of extradition treaties which by the way we have been ready to negotiate since 2005,” Busingye said.

He said that the other issue they continue to bring up is the demands to have indictments translated to different languages, a request he said they received from other countries like Mozambique among others.

According to Busingye, such issues should be considered as trivial compared to having in their midst a person charged with committing an atrocious crime as Genocide.

“I believe if these people indeed are up to the occasion, there are other mechanisms through which they can be deported to Rwanda to face trial if not tried in those countries. 

“For example, all these fugitives are known to use fabricated documents or gave wrong information  to be granted status, they can be held and deported on immigration fraud like we have seen other countries do,” said Busingye.

Immigration fraud

At least four Genocide fugitives have been extradited from the United States over cases arising from immigration fraud, where authorities there used the indictments against the suspects to check with the information they provided to enter the country and this has led to deportations.

Canada has also done the same.

Indeed, according to available evidence, Murekezi used a number of fabricated documents, including a passport purported to have been issued by Rwandan authorities.

The Rwandan passport whose copy The New Times has seen, is numbered PC939663, which we checked for authenticity with the Directorate General for Immigration and Emigration.

The office said that going by the passport number, it was never issued by their office – a clear case of forgery.

“Referring to the copy of the passport bearing the number PC939663; we can say that this passport has never been issued by the Rwandan Immigration Service, which has the mandate to issue passports among other services. 

“We cross-checked that passport number (PC 939663) in our systems. There was no match,” said Yves Butera, the head of communication and customer care at the immigration directorate.

He added that examination of some features of the passport copy further indicated falsification.

What next?

As a way forward, Justice Minister Busingye said Rwanda may consider tabling their concerns before the African Union, if it could trigger any positive response by African countries towards arresting and extraditing, or trying fugitives responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, who are on African soil.

According to figures from National Public Prosecutions Authority, majority of the indicted fugitives live in African countries. 

In Malawi alone, at least seven indictments have been sent to authorities there, according to Richard Muhumuza the Prosecutor General.

Speaking about the way forward, Muhumuza said that the slow response by African countries will not deter them, saying that every time they get an opportunity; they make their case to their counterparts across the continent to push for action. 

The push will have to be intensified and the campaign for justice must show that being a successful business person is not immunity. 

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

 

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