Rwandans working in different private and public institutions have reacted angrily to recent indictments issued by a Spanish judge against senior Rwandan military officials.
Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles of Spain Wednesday last week issued indictments against 40 senior officers of the Rwanda Defence Forces, (RDF) formerly of the Rwanda Patriotic Army, (RPA) on allegations of committing crimes against genocide after the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
Prof. Pierre Rwanyindo, the Director of the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace, (IRDP), yesterday wondered where Merelles got the authority to issue the indictments.
The IRDP is a think-tank group based in Kigali.
“It is very surprising for a judge to sit in his country and issue indictments without even bothering to come to Rwanda to find the truth on ground….It further shows how those so- called rich nations take developed countries for granted,” he said by telephone yesterday.
He added that at least the judge would have taken his time to talk to the accused to hear their side of the story.
“It is prejudice to the international law because Rwanda is a sovereign state,” he added.
For Sheikh Musa Fazil Harerimana, the President of the Ideal Democratic Party, (PDI), the Spanish judge’s indictments are meant to distract Rwandans’ unity and reconciliation process.
“They want to brainwash us into the culture of hatred and discrimination, which was the order of the day in the past. Although the warrants amount to nothing, they still have to be fought strongly,” Harerimana, also the Minister of Internal Security, said.
He said that Merelles’s aim is to stimulate what was initiated by his French counterpart Jean Louis Bruguiere.
Bruguiere made similar indictments in 2006 to nine RDF officers, which prompted Rwanda to cut diplomatic ties with France.
Harerimana called upon Rwandans to always watch out for such people “because there are many people out there who are not happy with what we have achieved.”
The PDI party also issued a communiqué condemning the indictments in the strongest terms.
The Executive Secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, (NURC), Fatuma Ndangiza, also denounced the Spanish judge’s actions.
“It all defeats logic when the people who stopped the Genocide are accused of committing it…I have not gone through the details of the indictment but at least I am sure that majority of those people spearheaded the struggle to stop the Genocide,” said Ndangiza.
She said that the least the judge and the Spanish judiciary would do was working together with the Rwandan judicial institutions if they had any claims to make.
“I appeal to all Rwandans to ignore and undermine these baseless indictments because they are only aimed at watering down what happened to our country,” she said in apparent reference to the Genocide, which claimed the lives of at least one million people.
President Paul Kagame led RPA in a four-year liberation struggle (October, 1990-July, 1994), a force that single-handedly stopped the Genocide and embarked on national reconstruction.
“Denial of the Genocide is a clear commitment to carry out Genocide. If they cannot help us in reconstruction of our country, they better leave us alone and take their rubbish,” she added.
Benoit Kaboyi, the Executive Secretary of IBUKA, a Genocide survivors’ umbrella organization, said that the indictments serve to take survivors back to where they came from.
“In my personal opinion it is devaluing those who died in the Genocide,” he said.
And Gatera Gashabana, the chairman of Kigali Bar Association, a body that brings together practicing lawyers in the country, said that they are still scrutinising the indictments and would soon come up with a position backed by relevant laws. “We are still scrutinising them; we have to see where the judge legally derives the powers to indict people from another country,” Gashabana said yesterday.
The Spanish judge’s indictment document targets almost all top former officers of RPA.
Merelles said he also has evidence implicating President Kagame in human rights crimes, but could not indict the Head of State because he has immunity.
He claimed to have gathered testimony from 22 people, most of them in exile and now in witness-protection programmes.
Kigali has also dismissed the indictments, saying that they are politically motivated. It also said that Spain had equally been perplexed by the judge’s indicting document.
The government has on several occasions said that a group of Genocide fugitives is at the centre of a coordinated campaign to tarnish its image, with intention to return to power and accomplish the Genocide.