Truss urged to block diplomat over kidnap of Hotel Rwanda hero
Published by The Mail on Sunday (12th December, 2021)
Foreign secretary Liz Truss is being urged to block the appointment of Rwanda’s top diplomat in London over his central role in the kidnap and detention of the country’s most famous human rights activist.
Senior MPs from both main parties are calling on Ms Truss to impose urgent sanctions on Johnston Busingye, Rwanda’s former justice secretary, to prevent his instalment as the central African regime’s next high commissioner.
Mr Busingye was demoted by Rwandan President Paul Kagame after admitting that their government chartered a flight that led to the seizure of Paul Rusesabagina, the real-life hero of the film Hotel Rwanda who saved more than 1,200 lives in the 1994 genocide.
Mr Rusesabagina – a critic of the dictatorship – was duped into flying to Rwanda after boarding a private jet in Dubai he thought was flying to a neighbouring country. The 67-year-old was jailed for ‘terrorism’ in September.
Last week, Mr Busingye was named in Parliament by former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith alongside Chinese Communist bosses involved in crimes against humanity, Iranian torturers and Sudanese militia leaders in a debate on sanctions.
Mr Duncan Smith queried why Mr Kagame was proposing to send ‘that abusive individual’ to represent his nation. ‘Do they think the UK is a soft touch?’ he asked.
‘This man should be sanctioned, not sent as their bloody ambassador,’ he told The Mail on Sunday. ‘It is a disgrace that the Government has not yet made it clear we will reject his credentials. We must make a very strong statement.’
Labour’s Chris Bryant said it was ‘inconceivable’ that Ministers might accept the appointment. ‘Instead of sending a coach to take him to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, they should bar him from entering the country.’
The MPs are co-chairmen of the All-Party Group on Magnitsky Sanctions, which aims to target those responsible for corruption or human rights violations.
Bill Browder, the financier who pushed for such laws around the world after his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was murdered in Russia, said Rusesabagina was a hero, adding: ‘His only real crime was to be critical of Kagame.’
Mr Rusesabagina was manager of Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali when he saved the lives of 1,268 people who sought sanctuary there amid the horrors of the genocide.
Fearing for his safety, he later fled to the US where he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A fierce critic of Mr Kagame, he co-founded the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change, a coalition of opposition groups.
The Rwandan regime, which has a history of smearing its enemies, accused him of being ‘the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits’. He denied all charges.
Human rights groups condemned his unlawful seizure and criticised the trial as a charade. Rusesabagina was sentenced in September to 25 years in prison.
Mr Busingye’s admission of his government’s role came after a video was inadvertently sent to al-Jazeera. It showed him being coached for an interview with the broadcaster by Chelgate, a London specialist in ‘reputation management’.
In the footage, he admitted prison authorities intercepted confidential correspondence between Mr Rusesabagina and his lawyers, which he denied in the interview.
In a second interview, he confirmed the regime paid for the plane that took Mr Rusesabagina to Kigali and for the individual who tricked him on to the plane.
‘This man oversaw the kidnapping and torture of my father,’ said his daughter Carine Kanimba. ‘He should be disqualified from a role that requires the holder to be a person of integrity.’
The Foreign Office, which can veto ambassadors and high commissioners, declined to comment, and the Rwandan government did not respond to a request for comment last night.