Rwanda, UK relationship on the line over spy’s arrest

IN CUSTODY:General Karenzi Karake aka KK, Head of Rwanda's National Intelligence and Security Services, was arrested IN London, Saturday 20.

IN CUSTODY:General Karenzi Karake aka KK, Head of Rwanda’sNational Intelligence and Security Services, was arrested in London, Saturday 20.

The arrest of Rwanda’s Head of the National Intelligence and Security Services, General Karenzi Karake by UK authorities is threatening the already fragile ties between the two nations.

General Karenzi was arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police at Heathrow Airport Saturday 20, as he tried to board a Kigali-bound flight. He was in the UK on an official visit.

The Met Police was acting in accordance with the European Arrest Warrants issued by the Spanish Authorities in 2008 against General Karenzi and 39 other current and former high ranking officers of the Rwandan military.

In 2008, a Spanish judge Andreu Merelles indicted General Karake and other officers for alleged war crimes in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide.

The 2008 indictment singles out Karake for masterminding the 1997 killing of three Spanish medical personnel working for Medicos del Mundo in Rwanda.

In the wake of Karenzi’s arrest Kigali has reacted angrily protesting the “politically motivated arrest”.

Via her twitter feed, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo dubbed the arrest “preposterous” as she went on to tweet that “Western solidarity in demeaning Africans is unacceptable!!”

General Karake, 54 has already appeared in the Westminster magistrates court and is due to reappear Thursday.

Rwanda’s Justice Minister Johnston Busingye told Rwanda’s The New Times, “I would be surprised if it is one (Spanish Judge Indictment) the UK is acting on. We will contest in the courts. We have sought explanation from the UK on this matter as well.”

WE WILL VIGOROUSLY CONTEST: Rwanda's Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye has said they will strongly contest the general's arrest in the courts of law

WE WILL VIGOROUSLY CONTEST: Rwanda’s Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye has said they will strongly contest the general’s arrest in the courts of law

The United Kingdom, Rwanda’s second biggest donor, next to the United States, has said the Chief Spy’s arrest was an “operational matter” honouring valid European arrest warrants.

Rwanda’s High Commissioner the UK, Williams Nkurunziza told the BBC the arrest was “an insult to our collective conscience”.

Kigali authorities are questioning the timing of the arrest given the fact that General Karenzi has visited the UK several times on official duties without any trouble, but analysts say organisations like the New York-based Human Rights Watch and Amnesty have in the past criticized UK authorities for not acting on the warrants.

These same organizations, and Rwanda’s opposition groups in exile were vehemently opposed to Karake’s appointment as Deputy Commander, UN Mission in Darfur, Sudan in January 2008.

‘BBC ban link’

Several voices in Rwanda view General Karenzi’s detention as London retaliation against Rwanda’s decision to ban Kinyarwanda programs of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the central African nation.

Kigali has revoked BBC’s broadcasting license following last year’s production and publication of Rwanda’s Untold Story documentary that challenge’s Rwandan official account of the 1994 Genocide, and alleges the current Rwandan leader Paul Kagame and his then rebel group Rwandese Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) played a significant role in the Genocide by targeting and killing Hutus en mass.

Kigali authorities were appalled by BBC’s “genocide revisionist” documentary, and they have indicated they will pursue international legal channels to have the BBC and the documentary narrator/Report Jane Corbin

Although there are members in the British Parliament who were “dismayed” by BBC editorial decision to air the controversial documentary, the British Government has expressed concerns over the banning of BBC operations a move they described as “disappointing”.

“We are disappointed by RURA’s (Rwanda’s utilities regulatory body) decision but we expect due process to be followed,” said the British High Commission in Rwanda in May.

The arrest of General Karenzi Karake, is likely to affect yet again Kigali and London’s bilateral cooperation.

In 2012, the British government suspended £21m aid funds to the Central African nation following a UN Report that linked Rwanda to M23 rebels in Eastern Congo, aid was later reinstated but reprogrammed and disbursed directly to beneficiaries, not through the Rwandan government.

Social media outcry and celebrations, protests

Immediately after news of Karenzi’s arrest broke, Rwandans took to social media to condemn his arrest and call for his release as other Rwandans in the diaspora celebrated the wanted General’s long awaited capture.

“We say no , don’t touch our Dignity, Our Hero’s who stopped the Genocide against the Tusi In1994, UK Government we ask immediate release of Our Lt. Gen Karake. Go and find Kabuga (Genocide fugitive) and his clique. Stop pushing us please! !!!” one Bebe posted on her Facebook page.

WE CONDEMN: Protestors in Kigali marching for the general's release

WE CONDEMN: Protestors in Kigali marching for the general’s release

Rwandan protestors have been marching to the British High Commission in Kigali demonstrating against the arrest and urging his release.

Opposition groups in the Diaspora are taking to social media and various opposition fora to not only celebrate Karenzi’s arrest but also to condemn Rwanda’s “hypocrisy” in allowing and “organizing” pro government protests and stifling anti-government ones.

“The Kigali regime does not tolerate any freedom of expression, such as demonstrations. In fact any assembly of more than three people is a taboo in Kagame’s iron-fisted totalitarian state,” Dr. David Himbara, a former aide to the Rwandan President Paul Kagame told this website adding “Suddenly, massive demonstrations are taking place in Kigali. The regime would have you believe that these demonstrations are spontaneous outrage by the Rwandan people in support of General Karenzi Karake yet in reality they are nothing but confirmation of the fact that the regime controls society through fear and intimidation. The demonstrations are mere rented crowds unleashed on the streets of Kigali by the regime. Sad!.”

‘Genocide agenda’

Many Rwandans have also labelled the arrest of the general by the UK as an endorsement to the groups like the FDLR, that committed Genocide in Rwanda and whose members are still at large.

“Instead of arresting Genocide suspects who are still roaming Europe, they arresting people who stopped the Genocide,” Eunice Murekatete wrote on her Facebook.

Rwandan authorities also point to the fact that the 2009 UN Panel of Experts Report on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that indicated Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles (Spanish Judge who indicted Karenzi and 39 other current and former military officers) received support to work on the indictment from the same NGOs that had extended support to FDLR group in the DRC.