By SCOTT A MORGAN
Published Nov. 1, 2010
It is apparent that one of the main issues that some activists in the United States had with the Rwandan presidential elections in July is not going away. In fact, this situation might reveal some deeply hidden concerns, which might complicate relations with the main American ally in Central Africa.
Earlier this year, Peter Erlinder, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law in Minnesota was held for more than a month by Rwandan authorities. He was one of the main defense attorneys at the United Nations tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. Prof. Erlinder entered Rwanda in May to assist a Rwandan opposition leader whose presidential candidature was being blocked by the incumbent leadership; Paul Kagame was reelected by a large margin in that election.
While Prof. Erlinder was in custody, there were questions about how the Rwandan authorities treated him. During that time, his health declined, and according to state authorities, he attempted suicide, which his family and supporters denied.
So why are the Rwandan authorities targeting Prof. Erlinder? Most critics believe Kagame did this to prevent opposition leader Victoire Ingabire from putting forth a vigorous defense that might have resulted in an acquittal. There is some merit to this belief. Secondly it appears that Kagame’s regime does not appreciate the efforts of Prof. Erlinder in Arusha, and the information he has divulged. This issue is tarnishing the hero image that Kagame has generated since his Rwanda Patriotic Front movement seized power after the 1994 genocide.
The US remained silent on Prof. Erlinder’s incarceration in Rwanda. Very little was mentioned about Prof. Erlinder’s welfare until reports of the botched suicide came to light. People, who were concerned about his plight, were shoo-shooed into silence. Prof. Erlinder returned to the US in June after his release from jail for medical reasons.
On Oct. 22, the Rwanda government announced that it would charge him with genocide denial based on some of his writings. In an interview with the Associated Press, Prof. Erlinder said he will be killed if he returns to Rwanda to face these charges. The professor has not been formally notified that an indictment has been filed in Rwanda, but he has “no doubt” that he will not leave Rwanda alive. Remember Mrs. Ingabire is currently facing terrorism charges – so much for a free and fair trial.
A few questions come to mind: What will the US do to ensure that one of her citizens receives a free and fair trial in a foreign country? What will the UN do to assist one of its employees? It is evident that some government officials in Kigali do not hold the UN highly for its actions in 1994, and the situation continues to muddle along
Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch
Welcome to Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net/gsdl/cgi-bin/library