Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thousands of Rwandans protest over Kabuye's arrest

By Etienne Ntawigra and Melanie Tomsons

After Rwandans heard that Rose Kabuye, director general of state protocol, was arrested at Frankfurt's airport on Sunday, thousands of Kigali city residents were gathered yesterday in streets in protest against the arrest.

Despite the heavy rains, protests took place in different corners throughout Kigali, Rwanda's capital, and met at the German Embassy in Kiyovu, a suburb of Kigali, where the demonstrators were chanting "Free Rose!", "Free Rose!", "We want our Rose back".

A French inquiry in 2006 alleged that aides to Kagame were involved in the assassination of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, although the identity of the assassins has never been determined. Kabuye is the first Rwandan official arrested on this warrant. The killing of the president quickly plunged Rwanda into the 1994 genocide. Kagame's government has denied involvement and countered with evidence that France itself was deeply involved in the genocide, as France at the time backed the majority Hutu party in power. Since then, Rwanda has ceased diplomatic relations with France and has issued warrants for French officials it believes are implicated in the genocide, including former President Francois Mitterand.

Protests have continued today in different regions of the country where thousands of people, including villagers, were walking in streets in demonstrations against Kabuye's arrest and gathered in public places such as stadiums where they listened to the words of their local leaders.

The demonstrators were also asserting Rose Kabuye's innocence and insisted that she is one of brave people who stopped the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, therefore there is no reason to arrest her.

"Rose is innocent; she is ready to prove it"; "Germany shame on you! 70 years after the Holocaust, you arrest a woman who stopped the genocide"; "Why don't you arrest genocidaires on your soil such as a priest Wensislas Munyeshyaka and Munyandekwe" demonstrators touted highly on their placards.

Protestors condemn Germany that is currently home for Ignace Murwanashyaka, the leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDRL), an outfit composed of perpetrators of the 1994 genocide of Tutsis.

Many of Kigali residents listened carefully to the news on Monday to hear that Kabuye was arrested in the German city of Frankfurt as she arrived at the airport on state duty on Sunday. People could be heard in the markets animatedly discussing Rose's arrest in different places on Monday. Restaurants and buses were filled with the buzz of some people asking "What does France really want?", "We support our leaders, we don't want France to disturb us."

Some citizens remembered the indictments issued in 2006 by French Judge, Jean Louis Bruguiere, against nine senior government officials and made comments on that.

"How can Bruguiere indict the former members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) that stopped the 1994 Tutsi genocide including Rose Kabuye?," wondered Alphonse Rukara a 47 year old as he got emerged from the Volcano bus park in central Kigali.

"We Rwandans strongly condemn the arrest of Rose Kabuye by the Germans; This shows the way those from the poor countries are humiliated by the so called rich countries," said Immaculate Ingabire, a veteran journalist who spoke on behalf of the citizens.

"Rose has no case to answer and she is ready to stand trial…all we ask is for her to get the justice she deserves because she is our hero," she added adamantly.

"What we request (is that) the French assure us of her security before they bring her back here," said Evanys Nyinawankusi, a 55-year old who said she had walked many kilometres in protest over Kabuye's arrest.

"Rose is a woman who deserves respect and honor, she has devoted her life to the restoration of the rights of Rwandans and women in particular; she is our leader and is really innocent… I can't imagine how those people arrested her over these erroneous and stupid allegations?" questioned Marie Louise Mukarutamu.

"Attacking our beloved leader means attacking all of us, we can't keep quiet as long as she is not back to our Rwanda. We believe and hope she will be free and sent to us as soon as possible," Mukarutamu added hopefully.

Rwandan Senator Aloysia Inyumba said that the arrest in Germany of Rwanda's Director of State Protocol, Rose Kayange Kabuye, is not about her alone but it is about Rwanda as a country.

"Rose is a hero and a liberator for this country so this is unfair. Again this does not end on an individual (Rose Kabuye) but it is about Rwanda as a country," Inyumba, who was part of the demonstrators at the German Embassy, underscored.

The peaceful demonstration, especially in Kigali, was held under a heavy deployment of riot police that controlled the masses. Protests that began on Monday in the afternoon are expected to continue and no one knows when they will stop. Some people think that they will end when she will be back to Rwanda.