AFRICANGLOBE – The decision by the United Kingdom to arrest the head of Rwanda’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) is likely to spark a diplomatic row between Kigali and London.
Lt Gen Emmanuel Karenzi Karake’s arrest on Saturday at Heathrow Airport as he prepared to board a plane back home from an official mission was based on indictments on war crimes issued by a Spanish Judge in 2008 on 40 senior Rwandan army officers.
On Tuesday, the British High Commission in Kigali issued a statement confirming the arrest by UK’s Metropolitan Police on June 20 on behalf of the authorities in Spain.
“This was a legal obligation, following the issue of a valid European arrest warrant,” the statement reads in part.
Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo has already arrived in London for talks with UK authorities over the arrest of the 54-year old General, who had reportedly travelled to London to attend an international meeting on security.
In a post on her official twitter account Tuesday, Ms. Mushikiwabo decried the action by the UK government as based on “lunacy”.
“Western solidarity in demeaning Africans is unacceptable!! It is an outrage to arrest #Rwandan official based on pro-genocidaires lunacy!”
Rwanda’s Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye confirmed on Monday night that Gen Karake was prevented from boarding a flight home, detained and arraigned before a magistrate’s court in Westminster, with another appearance scheduled for Thursday.
‘Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity’
Gen Karake, who has served in different high ranking army and UN Peacekeeping positions, was arrested on a European Arrest Warrant based on the 2008 indictments by Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles.
The judge accused 40 Rwandan military and political leaders of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army of allegedly engaging in reprisal killings and mass massacres in the years that followed the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Mr. Merelles indicted the officials for genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism which allegedly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, including eight Spaniards. The Rwandan government vehemently denied the accusations.
Over the years, Kigali dismissed the indictments and questioned their credibility, labelling them “politically motivated”. President Paul Kagame has also on many occasions spoken out against the indictments.
“The Bruguière (French Judge Jean Louis) and Spanish indictments were created to merely inconvenience Rwandans because they are hinged on no genuine legal premise and are not meant to serve any justice or cause.
“For universal jurisdictions to be credible, it has to go both ways and not the situation where we only have some powerful nations having jurisdictions over less powerful ones,” President Kagame said in 2012.
The arrest of one of Rwanda’s most senior military men is likely to spark diplomatic tension between the two countries that have been good allies over the last 21 years. UK has been Rwanda’s biggest foreign donor for over a decade now.
Kigali is also questioning the motive and timing of the arrest.
“Gen Karake has travelled to the UK on many occasions on official duty. There are questions as to why the arrest happened now and not on the many times he has travelled there before,” a military source revealed.
The incident is reminiscent of 2008 when German authorities arrested Rose Kabuye, then head of President Kagame’s Protocol, and handed her over to French authorities.
The arrest of Ms. Kabuye further strained already tense diplomatic ties between Rwanda and France. In 2006, Rwanda expelled the French and closed their embassy in Kigali after a French Judge issued indictments against senior RPF officials.
While Ms. Mushikiwabo is in the UK to try diffuse the situation, it is not yet clear what measures Rwanda would take if the UK decides to hand him over to Spanish authorities.
By: Edmund Kagire