Ihave always suspected that there was a big difference between Justice and the Law. A Spanish judge whose name is impossible for me to pronounce (the judge’s name is Fernando Andreu Merelles for those who want to try pronouncing it - Ed) has just confirmed my suspicions. On February 6, based on a nebulous concept of Universal justice, this judge issued arrest warrants for 40 Rwandan military officers for, among other things, genocide!
Even Theoneste Bagosora, the architect of the 1994 Genocide, could not have done better. The judge has certainly borrowed heavily from his "apologia" for Genocide, written in Yaounde in 1995, including quoting a fictitious meeting of all the Tutsis in the world in Bobo Diallasso, Burkina Faso, in the 1990s, to plan the domination of the world.
I have to confess that nobody can accuse this Spanish judge of being in bed with the truth. Consider the main reason he gives for indicting the officers: That they were associated with a criminal and terrorist organization, to wit, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), an entity which the judge claims was founded in order to eliminate the majority Hutu group, dominant in their country of origin, acquire power by force, and build a strategic alliance of the Tutsi ethnic group with allies in the Western world to terrify the population of Rwanda first, and then the rest of the Great Lakes Region in order to increase access to power, control, influence, and natural resources.
Were it not so tragic, it would be laughable. This is the infamous Tutsi-Hamitic empire theory couched in judicial language. It is the alternative narrative on the Rwandan history currently propagated by Pierre Pean, Filip Reyntjens, the RDR, FDLR, and other apologists, negationists, and revisionists of genocide. Some like Pean and the FDLR do it crudely, others, like Reyntjens, with intellectual finesse, this Spanish judge, with blatant abuse of the law and judicial process.
From this very flawed premise, the judge indicts those who stopped the genocide with its perpetration. A more cynical manipulation of the law it would be hard to find in the annals of legal history, but that is a story for another day.
I do not intend to come to the defense of the RPF or those who have been so crudely defamed. I suspect they are more than able to defend themselves. I just wonder what notion of justice drives a judge to imagine that condemning people he has never bothered to listen to, in a language they do not understand, for acts they are ignorant of, and instructing them to report to a prison thousands of kilometers away, whose location they do not know, in a country they have never visited, within 10 days, or else face international warrants, advances the cause of International Law or natural justice.
We all know a Spanish omellette is made partly by breaking eggs without consulting the chicken. Is Spanish justice made by breaking all standards of common sense, natural justice, and basic rights? Do Spanish judges have the freedom to revise and negate genocide, invent history and dismiss other countries’ sovereignty in a cavalier fashion? I do not think so, and in this column, for what it is, worth, I shall be holding a lengthy series of conversation with this Spanish judge once I have learnt how to pronounce his name, on this and other matters.
For now, I simply wish to record my opposition to the very notion of unlimited universal jurisdiction European Parliaments have decided to endow their national jurisdictions with. I am convinced this notion is simply the return of empire. In days past, European powers abrogated for themselves the right to partition the world and police it in a manner of their choosing.
Imperium was a national project and it involved the secular powers, including civil society, and the church (es). In the recent past, I have been intrigued by the vision of a Christian, and presumably white Europe suavely promoted by Pope Benedict and President Sarkozy of France, and also reflected in the increasing mainstreaming of the agenda of the extreme right in European politics.
It is a vision that informs Africans that Europe is not for them and asks them to stay home (which I support), and also demands that they succumb to the dictates of European law and practice or face European law ( couched in universalizing terms) , which I abhor.
Forget that the Spanish judge who issued the Rwanda indictments may be an active member of the Spanish extreme right, and consider the facts. European courts have, in the last few years, issued indictments for Fidel Castro of Cuba, the King of Morocco, and the President of Equatorial Guinea. They have threatened to indict Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazzaville, Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, and Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon. Spain has indicted Augusto Pinochet of Argentina. Notice the trend? European, American, and Asian leaders seem to be immune. As a matter of fact, when Ariel Sharon was indicted by a Belgian judge, the resulting International furore forced Belgium to modify their law on Universal jurisdiction in a manner that protects the Western world but still targets the "third" world, especially Africans. The reported threat by the United States of America to move NATO headquarters from Brussels unless the law was amended may have had something to do with the Belgian decision.
Africa does not have the leverage the United States has to force change in Europe’s very unjust laws, and demand respect. This however, does not mean that she must accept injustice; it must be resisted even when it has the veneer of legality. When French citizens commit crimes in Chad, are arrested and judged by a Chadian court, there is uproar. Politicians rush to Ndjamena. The criminals are whisked off to Paris, ostensibly to serve their terms, but in reality to evade justice.
When a Belgian priest, Father Guy Theunis is arrested in Rwanda, for crimes allegedly committed on Rwandan soil against Rwandans, immense political pressure is applied on the Government of Rwanda and he is released into the hands of Belgian justice, where, I predict, not only will he be acquitted, but he will be feted as a martyr. Maybe the Rwandan Prosecutor General will one day be indicted by a judge somewhere in Europe for besmirching the integrity of a European. A priest to boot!
The International Crimes Tribunal, a body staffed mainly by Belgian and French lawyers, practicing European law, has carefully examined the events in the DRC and they, in their wisdom, chose to indict Thomas Lubanga as the key human rights violator in that country. What farce!
Now they have belatedly arrested Germain Katanga and Ngudjolo, a former Ituri militiaman. What criteria do these people use, you may legitimately ask, when they leave alone Ignace Murwanashyaka, the leader of the FDLR, a group that committed genocide in Rwanda and caused the chaos in the DRC to begin with?
Is it because he has a German wife and is therefore a notch above mere African mortals? What then about Padiri Bulenga, the former Mai mai now commanding Kabila’s armies, or General Mbuza Mabe, he of the Gatumba massacre fame? What about Masunzu, he of Makobola notoriety? Oh, I should have asked, what about Yerodia Ndombasi, the valiant mobilizer against Tutsi "vermin"? Will the ICC ever indict them?
And if they do, what difference will it make to the millions of poor Africans who will only see them in apparent luxury at the Hague? Thousands of impoverished Africans die in rickety boats in the Atlantic trying to achieve the mirage of Europe. They would be glad to be airlifted to Europe even in chains, I suspect. For the rest of us, we look at the proceedings with sublime indifference, and sometimes, disdain.
And so, disdained or not, a Spanish right wing judge has chosen to give lessons to an African leader he clearly hates. I am in deep mourning. Not because he has threatened to indict Rwandan leaders, but because my name is not among those indicted.
An indictment by this Spanish judge should be worn as a badge of honor. I would have loved to be in the camp of the RPF and those gallant sons of Rwanda who stopped the genocide. I would have loved to appear in this judge’s court room and told him how proud I was to have removed the dictatorial and genocidal regime of Habyarimana from power.
I would have loved to proclaim how proud I was to have resisted the diabolical alliance of the ideologues of genocide with some Western powers, their network of supporters among the clergy, including western clergy in order to stop the slaughter of innocents.
I would have loved to stand tall in Spain and say that the DRC now has a chance to rebuild because of the role I played in removing Mubutu Sese Seko, who for too long had been an albatross around that country’s neck. And after my learned submission, I would have proudly walked out and taken my flight back to Kigali because, his illusions of grandeur notwithstanding, I refuse to believe that a Spanish judge, in Madrid, who has never stepped in Rwanda and cannot even say "muraho", has either the moral or legal right to stand in judgment of Rwandans who stopped genocide, what ever crimes he may think they committed.
Yes, Mr. Spanish Judge whose name I cannot pronounce, the people you intend to indict for genocide stopped it. They did not commit it. And your countrymen, for whatever reason they died, by whomever they were killed - and mourn them we do - were not the victims of genocide. For failing to understand this simple fact, I suggest a Spanish judge worth his salt prosecutes you. In the meantime, please indict me and a multitude of Rwandans in the manner you have indicted the RPF.
I want to wear your indictment as a badge of honor.