KIGALI - President Paul Kagame has described the recent indictments issued by a Spanish judge against Rwandan military officers, as arrogance and a clear effort to target the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF).
"If you look at what is in that dossier, they are actually not indicting the individuals listed, they are indicting RPF. ….Just imagine the arrogance of it! How a Spanish judge sitting in a Spanish village feels a duty to indict a whole leadership of a country!" the President wondered yesterday.
He was addressing a routine news conference at Village Urugwiro.
In February, Judge Andreu Fernando Merrelles indicted forty officers all belonging to the former liberation army – the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) – for alleged human rights crimes largely after the 1994 Genocide, including the death of nine Spanish nationals.
He also claimed to be in possession of evidence implicating Kagame – former commander of RPA – but could not indict him since he enjoys immunity as a Head of State.
But the President, in his first public comments on the matter, rubbished the judge’s allegations tying them to the historical arrogant attitude the West has towards the developing world.
"The reason behind it (the issuance of indictments) has a connection to the relationship between the developed and developing world. Some people in the West put themselves in the place of God; they think they have authority over us. That is how a Spanish judge can sit in Spain and decides to indict Kagame because I lead RPF which stopped Genocide that they are part of;
"The same judge cannot indict people in Spain or in other countries who are linked with this crime (Genocide), and they feel they would hold us responsible!" wondered the Head of State.
Kagame also suggested that among other reasons behind Fernando’s act was the misleading feelings in some sections of the Western world that tend to think that nobody else outside their territory can do good.
"…..They think that Rwandans or Africans are all killers; (that) it’s only they who can (do good things). According to them, we are all the same," the President told journalists. "But are we really the same? No, I can’t accept that. The war we waged was to liberate our country. If I could meet him (Fernando), I would tell him to go to hell."
Kagame added: "They have no jurisdiction over us, over Rwanda, over me …."
The President also wondered why the judge decided to go after the soldiers who were all under his (Kagame’s) command, instead of issuing the indictments to him only, since he was responsible for the force.
"If you look at all the people indicted, they were all under my command; that must be having something to do with political responsibility. You can’t have forty people all killing those Spanish people. Why am I not the one to answer all these questions? I would gladly take all the blame. "They were all under my command; they should put all the responsibility on my shoulders, and wait until I am out of office. You see they (the judge and company) say I have immunity, but I also have the guts to tell them to go to hell," the President said.
The Rwandan Government, Parliament and political organizations have all in unison condemned Fernando’s indictments just as it was in 2006 when French judge Jean Louis Bruguière also indicted nine top Rwandan officials, blaming them for the downing of the April 6, 1994 of the plane which carried former president Juvenal Habyarimana.
They have all accused the Spanish judge of abusing international justice for among other things releasing a report accusing people whose side of the story he had never bothered to seek, and without visiting Rwanda and DR Congo –the purported scenes of the alleged crimes.
Kigali asked the international community to ignore Fernando’s "bogus and ridiculous indictments", and received assurance from the Spanish Government that it was equally shocked by the turn of events, and was thus not behind the indictments.That means Interpol cannot enforce those indictments since they lack the backing of a government.
Kagame said the witnesses mentioned in Fernando’s file simply showed the underlying intention of the purported investigations. "That judge comes from a certain school of thought; he belongs to a side; he serves a purpose. If you look at the witnesses and the content of the file, the whole introduction of the dossier…."
He said the judge dug into the history of RPF, intent on creating the impression that RPF was created to "kill Hutus" and avoided bringing out the real political problems that led to its (RPF’s) establishment, while exonerating colonialists and post-colonial governments from the troubles that would eventually plunge the nation into the Genocide.
At least a million Rwandans were killed during the April-July, 1994 Genocide, executed under the direct supervision of the then government, with backing from a section of the international community, and exacerbated by the indifference of the United Nations.
The Head of State, in his characteristic relaxed mood, urged Rwandans to be calm and ignore such distractive acts.
He said nobody has a right to stop RPF from propelling Rwanda to development as long as the political organization has the mandate won through a popular ballot.
The President went ahead to say that RPF was happy to be at the forefront of the country’s recovery and development process, and was looking forward to garnering even more support come the September 15 parliamentary election.
"I think RPF is prepared like other parties, or even better," he responded to a journalist who had sought to know how ready the ruling party was for the elections.
Kagame challenged Rwandans to stand up for their rights, and stop "accepting being put down and trampled upon"
In November 2006, Rwanda cut ties with France following Bruguière’s indictments but both countries are lately on course to mend their relations.