Amid twitter battles between President Paul Kagame and journalists, there are credible reports suggesting that the Rwandan leader is seeking to eliminate his opponents living in Britain. The report first surfaced during the British royal weeding when the Rwandan envoy was given a warning.
According to a letter sent to two individuals by the London Metropolitan Police the attacks “could come in any form” including, “unconventional means”. The police further warn them to “Take such remedial action as you see fit to increase your own safety measures, e.g. house burglar alarms, change of daily routines, always walk with an associate,” adding that, “It may even be that you decide that it is more appropriate for you to leave the area for the foreseeable future.”
Speculations about this event have dominated discussion on Rwanda. The speculations fall into twofold: (1) whether the threats are credible, (2) whether the Rwanda government would pursue such an agenda clearly putting at risk her excellent relation with Britain. In my view, both speculations seem naïve and fail to appreciate the complexity of the Rwandan crisis. On one hand the Rwandan leader has carefully cultivated a brilliant media image; on the other hand his heavy handedness and contempt for democratic procedure is nothing new.
A simple question that needs to be asked and answered is why some people are still unwilling to believe that Kagame is a brutal leader, despite overwhelming evidence. If, as the UN Mapping report posits, the man is suspected of having committed genocide, would any other crime be too monstrous in his view? Even if we are to argue that the Mapping report is speculative, are we short of examples in which he has ordered the assassination of opponents? Certainly no one would say so. Just within the last one year, there are horrifying reports of assassination. The first one is that of journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage, whose car was sprayed with bullets in the city of Kigali during the day light. Another one is Denis Semadingwa, a protégé of Laurent Nkunda assassinated in the town of Gisenyi. Lastly, the vice president of the green party was found beheaded just months prior to the general elections. In all the cases above, the families put the blame squarely on the Kagame regime.
The successful assassinations of Seth Sendashonga and Theoneste Lizinde both in the streets of Nairobi are examples where Rwanda jeopardized international cooperation to commit extrajudicial in a foreign country. Following the assassination of Sendashonga, the Rwandan ambassador in Kenya was expelled and the embassy closed. News has it that Lizinde, who had fallen out with Kagame was among the few people who attended Kagame’s high command meeting approving the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana. He was clearly a legitimate target in his view. Most recently, Rwanda has pursued Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa a major trade partner with Rwanda. Even more unthinkable is the timing: the fact that it was carried out during the world cup a time when South Africa was painfully trying to reassure the world of its ability to contain crime. South Africa would react by recalling its ambassador for “further consultations”.
Reacting to the news, Mathew Sinclair of the UK Tax Payers Alliance wrote, “What is really shocking though is that in a very real sense, our money is supporting the Government suspected of plotting murder in London.” My hope is that Britain will not merely terminate aid, which is sometimes easy and cowardly. I hope that they will use their aid as leverage for democratic progress including freedom of speech.