You can run. You can hide. But you won’t escape. Osama Bin Laden learnt the lesson of this simple truth, Sunday night. The world’s most famous terrorist was killed in his hideout in Pakistan last night after a decade on the run.
Osama bin Laden, leader of Al Qaeda, became the face, brain and soul of international terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York in which about three thousand people were killed.
Following that attack, the United States government mounted a hunt for bin Laden. He took to his heels, hid in the hills and caves of Afghanistan and behaved like all outlaws do. That run has now ended in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
Huge crowds came out in Washington and New York in the middle of the night to celebrate the death of a notorious terrorist. They came to express their delight that the author of one of the darkest chapters in American, and indeed, world history was no more.
And in that sense their euphoria is understandable. Equally understandable is the significance of his death.
However, as President Barrack Obama cautioned, people must not relax their vigilance because of the sense of accomplishment now felt in the United States. The death of bin Laden may have been a heavy blow to international terrorism, but it is not a knock-out punch.
There are many other smaller terrorist groups scattered across the world that are independent from Al Qaeda which will continue to pose a threat.
And we can expect some sort of response from Al Qaeda, if only to prove that it is still a potent force even without its head.
Still, Osama bin Laden’s death is very important and has lessons for other terrorists and criminals on the run or in hiding around the globe that their end will also come. Sure, they can run. And yes, they can hide.
But eventually they will be found and made to account.
In Rwanda we have our own criminals and terrorists sheltering in foreign countries. What has happened to Osama bin Laden should serve as notice to them that they cannot hide forever. Justice, in whatever form, will catch up with them.
Felicien Kabuga is one such criminal known to be hiding in the region. He went on the run after his role in the genocide in Rwanda – as planner and financier. He has a price on his head following his role in the murder of tourists in the Volcanoes Park.
Like Bin Laden, he has evaded capture because he has protectors in powerful places, whose protection he buys and renews constantly with his wealth.
Lest he forget, Osama bin Laden was also protected by powerful elements in Afghanistan and Pakistan, some with whom he shared the same ideology and others who wanted to use him in a power game with the Americans.
He had immense wealth. But all that did not stop his being eventually located and killed.
Then there is the FDLR terrorist group that continues to cause havoc in the D R Congo. They have virtually taken over part of that huge country.
They, too, have for the last seventeen years lived a lawless existence and thought they were out of reach of justice.
The FDLR have been led to this belief by a genocide ideology, their apologists in powerful places in foreign countries and international organisations. That support, as they must be finding out now, has its limits.
Their leaders like Ignace Murwanashyaka and Callixte Mbarushimana, who thought they enjoyed immunity from arrest and prosecution, face trial in European courts. Military commanders and ordinary fighters of the FDLR continue to lay down their arms and return home.
Soon it will be only the diehard genocidaire left to roam the forests of Congo.
Other politicians, like Victoire Ingabire and Deo Mushayidi, who have tried to use terrorism to get to power now know the perils of that route and, unless they are idiots, are unlikely to advise anyone to go the same way.
But there will always be idiots for whom history has no lessons. The group that is now known as the Gang of Four, all of whom have committed crimes ranging from abuse of office to treason are trying to reinvent themselves as political saviours of Rwandans.
Messrs Kayumba Nyamwasa, Patrick Karegeya, Gerald Gahima and Theogene Rudasingwa want to wipe away their sins and present themselves to Rwandans as impeccably clean, although what they really need most is confession and forgiveness.
The indication that they have learnt nothing is that they have chosen the terrorist route to political power. They think they have powerful godfathers who will protect them and lead them to their desired goal.
Some of the godfathers, however, do not appear to be so powerful. They are beginning to show signs of vulnerability and may soon have to be more preoccupied with watching their own backs and fending off opponents than sticking out their necks for opportunists and imposters.
The criminal quartet and other unsavoury characters to whom they are allied in a terrorist enterprise will soon find out that the jungles of foreign countries and villas in upmarket areas of foreign capitals are not very safe.
They can run and hide, but will run out of options and then their actions will catch up with them.
If Osama bin Laden could speak now, he would tell them that.