You would hate to be in Leon Mugesera's place. He ends the year with a horrifying note. Tail between his legs, Mugesera has lost his fight against deportation to Rwanda, where he faces prosecution and possible persecution. January 12th is the day that has been set for his removal from Canada. At this point, unless for a miracle (and they rarely happen), Mugesera's options have been thoroughly exhausted. But there are other questions to ask, such as, why is the Rwandan diaspora quiet, even as one of them is about to be delivered as a sacrifice to king Herod's table?
I have tortured myself reading through the rulings made in Mugesera's case, including the judgement of 2005, by the Canadian Supreme Court. That said, there are a lot of black spots that hover around Mugesera's past!
The heart of the case for the genocide charges he faces stem from a speech he made in Kabaya, Gisenyi on November 22nd 1992. Addressing a crowd of about a thousand people, Mugesera allegedly referred to the RPF as Inyenzi and insisted that they "must go away". Inyenzi is the derogatory name used for RPF and its sympathizers, which literally means cockroach.
Extracts from Mugesera's speech, seem to indicate that he supported the killing of Tutsi people are a self defense measure, at least if one accepts the official translation.
Throughout the trial, another smaller battle took the center stage. There was constant disagreement as to whether Mugesera's speeches were being translated accurately. Two individuals played a key role in this battle: Mr. Thomas Kamanzi, a Tutsi academic who has since passed away; and Mr. Eugene Shimamungu, a Hutu publisher based in France. In other words, the trial turned into an ethnic contest.
The case has seen a number of inconsistent rulings. In 1996, an immigration board concluded that his speech, "constituted an incitement to violence and ethnic hatred". However, this was reversed by a Federal ruling in 2001, which gave Mugesera the right to remain in Canada. The case went to the Federal Court of Appeal, which ruled that "Mugesera may have used colourful and even brutal language in the political speech he delivered, but was not responsible for genocide". Two years later, Mugesera's hope for staying in Canada was crushed by a ruling of the Canadian Supreme court, which also ordered for his deportation. The next day, Mugesera convened a press conference, begging that he be tried in Canada.
Taking a stand on Mugesera's case is a difficult matter since I do not have access to Mugesera's speech. Moreover, I am not a legal expert and would be incapable of deciphering whether the speech had any actual effect on the killings. Mugesera is a historian by training, and the killing militias in Rwanda were nothing but intellectuals. We also know that the courts in Canada have observed that the speech alone cannot prove responsibility for genocide. Since he wasn't living in Rwanda during the genocide, having left the country two years earlier, there is little that links him to the actual killings.
Is Mr. Mugesera going to be accorded a fair trial in Rwanda? The answer is a resounding "NO".
Already, a leading Rwandan activist, Dr. Nkiko Nsengimana has issued a statement, stating that, the decision "weighs serious harm of endangering [Mugesera's] life". The statement went further, "If the Canadian government considers to be credible the facts he is accused by the Rwandan authorities may, under its law on universal jurisdiction, judge Mugesera on its soil, and it would have the right to a fair trial."
Canada is right to be concerned with impunity. Having failed to intervene in order to stop the 1994 slaughter, the last thing that the country can do is give safe haven to the perpetrators. However, at the same time, Canada must ensure justice and fairness. Dr. Nsengimana is right that a trial in Canada would have satisfied all parties.
It is now an established fact that the government of Rwanda frequently uses bogus genocide charges as a way of silencing critics. This strategy is so unsparingly used that eve the Hotel Rwanda hero, Paul Rusesabagina, has become a victim. In fact, the government has opened up an entire organ to fulfill this task known as the "Genocide Tracking Unit". The result is that many Rwandan refugees live in fear of being persecuted by this branch of the government which is also an extension of the Rwandan intelligence service.
In the past, the government has been more interested in fighting potential rivals than tracking down 1994 killers. The fact is that, many well known genocidares have been given cushy jobs in Kigali as long as they accept to join hands with Paul Kagame. As it seems, to oppose Kagame, rather than to participate in genocide, is the biggest crime in Rwanda.
Three years ago, the same organization tried the trick on Goucher College professor Leopold Munyakazi. But the allegations hit rock bottom, after it emerged that Munyakazi had actually saved Tutsis during the genocide, including his own wife and of course children. The main contention, it emerged, was that Munyakazi had been a fierce critic of Kagame's regime both in speech and writing. The genocide card had to be pulled in order to finish him.
The collective incrimination of Hutu intellectuals aside, there is a more immediate concern. Many are rightly worried that the Rwandan judiciary, particularly the informal Gacaca courts are prone to severe political interference. The courts are an extension of Rwandan politics. They are a gladiator arena where Kagame's opponents are legally savaged . It is naive to expect any form of justice to come out of them.This, in my view, is the reason why Mugesera should be tried in Canada.
Lastly, there are some who think that Mugesera is the latest victim of Canada's ongoing immigration debate. A Canadian friend commented that, "the government in Canada has become more hardline on immigration. he [Mugesera] may be caught up in these domestic politics..."