Let’s get some very important things out of the way before diving deep into this story. It is a fact that opinions like this have gotten people killed, imprisoned, or exiled in and outside Rwanda. However, silence is not an option for the sake of millions of people who did not say a word of criticism of anyone or do anything, but were massacred in the war which resulted in the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the death of over 5 million Congolese and Rwandan refugees in neighboring country the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1996-2002 and beyond.
Rwandan General and chief of Intelligence Service, Mr. Karenzi Karake, wanted in Spain for war crimes, was arrested by the United Kingdom’s (UK) police on June 20th and released on bail without his passport to prevent him from leaving the country. On July 10th the UK justice system found no grounds to extradite him to Spain, thus let him go free.
General Karake is one of 40 current and former high ranking Rwandan officers indicted by a Spanish judge for war crimes and sought by the Spanish courts. His release is by no means a clearance from the allegations. It is important that other European nations bound by the arrest warrant Spain issued against the 40 individuals act on it. Spain has been one of the rare nations crying out for justice because the following Spanish citizens were allegedly murdered by Rwandan agents:
- Joaquim Vallmajó Sala (Byumba, Northern Rwanda, + April 26, 1994)
- Servando Mayor García, Jorge Julio Rodríguez, Miguel Angel Isla And Fernando Lucio De La Fuente De La Fuente (Bugobe / Bukavu, Eastern Drc, + October 31, 1996).
- Mª Flors Sirera Fortuny, Manuel Madrazo Osuna, Luis Valtueña Gallego (Ruhengeri, Northern Rwanda, +January 18, 1997)
- Isidro Uzcudun Pouso (Mugina, Gitarama, Central Rwanda, + June 10, 2000)
Far too many men, women, and children died in the power struggle between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda and neighboring country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), between 1990-2002.
Furthermore, millions of Congolese citizens also died in an economic and political war which Rwanda and Uganda waged against the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1996-2002. Some facts about the crimes committed during this invasion are found in the UN report known as the “Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003.” This report was released in June 2010 and it contains details about what happened to Rwandan refugees who fled the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and to Congolese people in their homeland.
This report is not the first UN attempt to shine light on what Rwandan forces did in DRC. The release of the report is evidence of the triumph of the truth over politics after many reports have been deemed too damaging to the Rwandan regime and have never been published. Obviously Rwandan forces put an end to the genocide, but also committed a lot of crime. If it was not for strong advocacy and media coverage of the report after it was leaked to a French newspaper, the world wouldn’t have any idea about what happened to so many people.
The responsibility for these crimes goes beyond the 40 Rwandan officials indicted by the Spanish court. War crimes, no matter who and where they are committed, must be condemned and prosecuted. General Kareka’s arrest and released by the British authorities is political, but it should serve as an energizing factor to continue seeking justice for the dead and their families be it for the Rwandan genocide or the crimes before or after it in Rwandan and DRC.