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‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero faces trial as family fears for his life

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KIGALI — As the terrorism trial for Paul Rusesabagina, whose story inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” is set to start on Wednesday, his family says the critic of longtime Rwandan President Paul Kagame has no chance at a fair trial and might die from poor health behind bars.

Rusesabagina, praised for saving ethnic Tutsis during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, was arrested last year in Rwanda after mysteriously disappearing during a visit to Dubai. Rwanda accuses him of supporting the armed wing of his opposition political platform, which has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks.

The circumstances around the 66-year-old Rusesabagina’s arrest, his limited access to an independent legal team and his reported worsening health have drawn international concern for the Belgian citizen and U.S. resident. His family this month said they spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a conversation the State Department described as one with “families of Americans held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad.”

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“This is a charade,” one of Rusesabagina’s daughters, Carine Kanimba, told The Associated Press ahead of the trial. “They kidnapped him. It is the violation of due process and international law. He should be released immediately and unconditionally.” She alleged that Rwanda has fabricated evidence against her father.

Rwanda’s president after Rusesabagina’s arrest hinted during a national address that he may have been tricked into boarding a private plane in August to Rwanda, where he was paraded in handcuffs in a country where his family said he would never voluntarily visit again.

The Rwandan court has contradicted the original police account that said Rusesabagina was arrested with “international cooperation,” instead saying he was arrested at Kigali International Airport in the capital.

The family also worries about what they call Rusesabagina’s weakening condition. His outside legal team late last month asserted that his prescribed medication for a heart disorder was being withheld, and his locally provided lawyer has said Rusesabagina told him he fears he will die of a stroke.

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The European Parliament last week adopted a resolution calling for Rwanda to give Rusesabagina a fair trial and condemning what it called his enforced disappearance, illegal rendition to Rwanda and incommunicado detention.

Rwanda’s justice minister, Johnston Busingye, described the resolution as “meddling in an ongoing judicial process in Rwanda, a sovereign state with independent courts.”

Rusesabagina faces 13 charges including terrorism, complicity in murder and forming an armed rebel group. He will face trial with 20 alleged rebel fighters. Rwanda asserts that civilians in the country’s southwest died in 2018 and 2019 because of groundwork planned by Rusesabagina.

It is not clear how long Rusesabagina would stay in prison if convicted.

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Yolande Makolo, a presidential adviser on communications, tweeted last week that victims and survivors “need justice done” and asserted that Rusesabagina and the others will have a fair trial.

It is a dramatic turnaround for Rusesabagina, who is credited with saving more than 1,000 people by sheltering them at the hotel he managed during the genocide in which more than 800,000 Tutsi and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed.

Rwanda’s government has long asserted that Rusesabagina’s role in the genocide was exaggerated.

After leaving Rwanda in 1996, Rusesabagina became an outspoken opponent of the government, which he accuses of numerous human rights violations.

Rusesabagina in the past has denied funding rebel groups and said he was being targeted over his criticism of Kagame’s government.

Africa

UN offers to help catch Mali jihadists behind amputations

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UN peacekeepers in Mali on Thursday offered to help bring to justice jihadists behind the amputation of suspected thieves’ hands and feet, an apparent revival of a practice that had all but vanished.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, local sources in Tin-Hama in eastern Mali said armed men drummed up a crowd on May 2, a market day, and cut the right hands and left feet off three men they paraded as thieves.

The gunmen are believed to have belonged to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), one of the main jihadist groups active in the Sahel region, the UN’s Minusma force said in a statement.

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“This kind of corporal punishment carried out by armed groups outside of any legal order is a serious infringement of human rights,” Minusma chief El-Ghassim Wade said.

UN forces stand ready to “support continuing enquiries by Malian authorities to fight impunity and ensure that the perpetrators of these acts are brought to justice,” he added.

Minusma also said it was deploying “significant security resources in the affected areas to step up protection of populations”.

The amputations “recall the horrors of the 2012 crisis” when jihadists and Touareg rebels took control of much of Mali’s north, the UN statement added.

At the time, various jihadist groups conducted public amputations, stonings, floggings and executions in major northern cities under their hardline interpretation of Islamic law.

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Since 2012, jihadist insurgents have spread across Mali’s centre and into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, with thousands killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the violence.

UN, African and French forces have failed to put an end to the insurgency.

Unidentified men killed one soldier when they attacked a Malian anti-terrorist unit near Tominian in the country’s centre late Wednesday, while the troops killed three of the assailants, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

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IPOB backs new directive by Cameroon’s Anglophone separatist leader

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PHOTO: Protesters with the flag of "Ambazonia"

Nigerian Biafra separatist group— Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), has backed the May 20 directive to “stay at home” from Cameroon’s Anglophone separatist leader, Dr Cho Ayaba.

Ayaba, the leader of Ambazonia, ordered a lockdown on May 20, 2021 in the English-speaking region of Cameroon, saying it was to mark the day that Cameroonian government forces began killing civilians in the region.

“The Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, under the global command of our Leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, hereby, directs all Biafrans living in Ambazobia to fully comply with the directive. Biafra and Ambazobia share a lot in common, and we are prepared to give them all the necessary support and solidarity in their struggle for independence,” said IPOB in a statement issued on Monday.

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The Biafra group, in the statement signed by its spokesperson, Emma Powerful, further said, it “urge all Biafrans living in Ambazobia to close shop on May 20, and remain indoors in full compliance with the sit-at-home order by the leader of our sister country. We equally advise all Biafrans intending to travel to Ambazonia on that day to shelve the trip until after the exercise. Biafra and Ambazobia have enjoyed a robust relationship in our struggle for self determination.

“Ambazobia has adopted 20th of May every year in honour of the victims of the genocidal killings in Ambazonia by the terrorist Republic of Cameroun. This was the day the Paul Biya-led murderous regime in Camaroun launched military onslaught and occupation of Ambazonia.

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“The genocidal killing was however, challenged four years ago through stiff resistance and great sacrifices by patriotic Ambazonians. Consequently, the people of Ambazonia have decided to henceforth, observe 20th of May as a day to commemorate the Resistance and defeat of their enemy, the Cameroonian forces.

“We equally note with delight, the directive by the leadership of the Ambazonian liberation movement to all Ambazonians, to observe May 31 Biafra Remembrance Day sit-at-home order in honour of our fallen heroes. This show of solidarity between both countries is amazing, and will be sustained until and even after our independence is realised. Both countries shall continue to explore other opportunities to promote peaceful cooperation and regional security and economic advancement.”

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Eid: Buhari asks Nigerians to pray against insecurity

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Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday called on citizens to unite and pray against the insecurity ravaging the country.

The president made the appeal in a message to Muslims around the world as they marked Eid Al Fitr after the completion of a month of fasting.

According to Garba Shehu, the president’s senior special assistant on media and publicity, he said;“Unity and solidarity among all citizens, Muslims and Christians are imperative especially at a time when our country is faced with multiple challenges which are surmountable only when we come together as one.

“It is important that we remember how we share, through our faiths, common bonds that should serve to unite us and not allow ourselves to succumb to those who seek to divide us, using our two great religions, for their own selfish advantages.

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“We should jointly pray against the tragic incidents of kidnapping and banditry and the desperate quest for political power expressed through blackmail against the existence of our country as a united entity.

“We must resist the temptation to retreat into our communities. I urge our political and religious leaders as well as traditional rulers to encourage our citizens to turn towards one another in love and compassion.”

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