Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Leon Mugesera Deportation: A Notice to Impunity

Mugesera: The end of the road? Photo courtesy
When Rwanda faced genocide in 1994, it was betrayed and forgotten by the international community. However, Rwanda emerged from the ash, true to what Joseph Sebarenzi wrote in his piece God Sleeps in Rwanda, when he quoted 1 Samuel 2:8, “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the need from heaps of ash…..”

Leon Mugesera, a long time Rwandan fugitive, was recently extradited from Canada after losing a lengthy legal battle to stay in Canada. A former linguistic professor at Laval University in Quebec, Mugesera is a very controversial figure. Educated as he is, many thought his knowledge would be the fountain of humanity and justice. Unfortunately though, he allegedly made a speech that acted as a precursor of Genocide.

Mugesera was able to juggle the law his way for 16 years before the long arm of justice caught up with him. Mugesera’s legal acrobatics created a headache for Canadian and Rwandan governments. He lost the battle when the government of Canada, after exhausting all legal venues and options, decided that the game was over and time up for Mugesera to be deported and face justice back home. At Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport where Canadian authorities saw Mugesera off, his family and friends wept.

Mugesera’s deportation was not an easy stuff for the government to chew. On the one hand, Rwandan authorities asked Canada to deport Mugesara so that he could be tried back home where he allegedly committed the offences he is charged with. On the other hand, Canadian authorities were under pressure from Human Rights activists, Mugesera’s friends and sympathizers not to let him be deported. The weak reasons the pro-Mugeseras gave is that he would be tortured.

Mugesera’s ordeal stated in 1992, when he gave the hate speech to his party’s members that later acted as a button that triggered genocide in Rwanda a year after Mugesera fled Rwanda. Addressing 1,000 party members, Mugesera allegedly told the crowd to kill Tutsis and "dump their bodies into the rivers of Rwanda." And truly this happened in the shortest time so as to go even beyond Rwanda. Refer to how Tanzanian authorities became aware of the pogrom after people in Rwanda’s neighboring region of Kagera reported to have spotted so many corpses floating in the river.

When the father of five arrived in Canada, he concealed his past so as to be issued with a permanent residence status on top of securing a teaching job at Laval University. After two years, Canadian authorities got wind of Mugesera’s lies and henceforth stripped his permanent resident status off. His tribulations started right away thence so as to cost Canadian taxpayers’ money for 16 years.

Mugesera’s deportation though was received with mixed reactions by Canadians. Those who thought Mugesera deserved to answer his call congratulated their government for doing justice for the people of Rwanda. This was seen on the responses online when Yahoo reported the last ditch for Mugesera. Some Canadians who don’t know what actually transpired in Rwanda in 1994 are blaming their government for deporting Mugesera. Those in Quebec where he used to attend mass and sing in the church think Mugesera was an innocent and ideal person. “I personally think that it’s very unfortunate that Canada appears to have washed its hands and is sending Mr. Mugesera to a country which, according to the United Nations and the United States, practices torture,” said Allison Turner, a Montreal lawyer and former defence lawyer at the United Nation’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Ironically, the pro-Mugeseras seem careless about the rights of those that were butchered in 1994. Instead they care a lot more for the rights of Mugesera. To them, Rwanda is not mature enough to try a fugitive! Again, such people do not dispute the fact that Rwanda has proved many wrong after emerging from genocide to become one of the fastest developing countries in the world! Let us face it. Rwandan government, if anything, has won international recognition after deciding to forge ahead instead of living in the past. Therefore, this can assure us that justice is going to be done in Rwanda as far as Mugesera’s allegations are concerned.

What is interesting is the fact that neither Mugesera nor his lawyers have ever disputed the charges he is facing. Instead their concerns have always been that Mugesera is going to be tortured. Apart from this, Rwandan authorities assured Canada that they will treat Mugesera according to the letter of the law. Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga says: “We are prepared to follow the law to the letter and honour the guarantees we gave the Canadian government.” Ngoga continues, “Everyone is welcome (to observe).” To show how prepared and just the government is, Ngoga assured the international community of due diligence and accountability in dealing with this high profile case.

At last justice is closing in on Mugesera. Those who commit heinous crimes against humanity with impunity in Africa ought to be put on notice. Justice will one day close in on them.

Source: The African Executive Magazine Feb., 1, 2012.

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