26 Jun 2015

General Karenzi: bluster and fury won’t change the law

I have never heard President Kagame of Rwanda so angry. As he addressed parliament in Kigali yesterday his words dripped with fury and venom. The arrest in London of his Intelligence Chief, General Karenzi Karake, known popularly as KK, was, he said:

“A continuation of slavery, of colonialism, of arrogance, bigotry and telling the African, wagging a finger at them and saying, this is where you belong.” He drew out his words for maximum impact.

General Karenzi was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant issued by Spain.

The 185 long document accuses him of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, primarily in the murder of Hutus in the wake of the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994. Although the witness statements are precise, and there have long been reports of revenge killings, the document is couched in terms that suggest that the Tutsis not the Hutus were the prime instigators of killing in those dark days.

That’s what makes many Rwandans – especially Tutsis – so angry. General Karenzi was a leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the guerrilla army that put an end to the genocide and then formed a government.

“He was a hero. He stopped the genocide. Where was Spanish justice then?” asked a protestor outside Westminster Magistrates Court where General Karenzi appeared.

General Karenzi had come for a meeting with the head of Britain’s MI6, which was cancelled, presumably when they heard of the arrest warrant.

“If we arrested one of their chiefs of anything, even for a very good reason — is that even thinkable? Can you even imagine it?” asked President Kagame. “You know what would happen. But it is easy to do it to the Africans. I think they must have mistaken him, you know this problem they have for illegal immigrants, these fellows sinking in the Mediterranean. This is the way they treat that is the way they treat minister from Africa, head of intelligence.”

But bluster and fury don’t change the law. General Karenzi is accused of serious crimes. He was bailed for a million pounds. Today he should be staying at the house of a Rwandan diplomat in London, and reporting to a police station every day. It’s better than remaining in Belmarsh detention centre where he has been since his arrest on Saturday. But it’s still a humiliation for the Rwandan government.

Follow Lindsey Hilsum on Twitter: @lindseyhilsum

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