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Rwanda denies prominent opposition figure was kidnapped

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Sunday refuted media reports that dissident Paul Rusesabagina had been kidnapped in order to bring him back to Rwanda, saying he was responsible for his own arrest.

Rusesabagina, who inspired the 2004 Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda,” has been the subject of an international arrest warrant and faces a number of charges including terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder perpetrated against unarmed, innocent Rwandan civilians on Rwandan territory, including in Nyaruguru district in June 2018 and in Nyungwe, Nyamagabe district in December 2018, according to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB).

Without divulging details, the bureau said last week that Rusesabagina, who was living in exile, was arrested through “international cooperation,” prompting claims of kidnap by some international rights activists.

Rusesabagina, 66, had reportedly been in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last Thursday, where he departed legally the next day on a private jet, according to CNN.

The UAE has denied any involvement in the arrest.

“With kidnap, that was not the case, and he will attest to that himself. There was no kidnap. There was no wrongdoing in the process of his getting here,” Kagame said in an interview with Rwanda Television.

“Those who are looking into problems around how he got here, [claiming] the government must have done this or that which you can hold them responsible for — you will be surprised that you will have Rusesabagina to hold responsible for his own being here. I’m saying it as a matter of fact,” he added.

Rusesabagina was depicted in Hotel Rwanda as a hotelier who sheltered people during the Rwandan genocide.

The film told the story of how Rusesabagina used his influence as manager to bribe and convince military officials to secure a safe escape for about 1,200 people who had sought refuge at the Mille Collines Hotel in the capital city Kigali.

But IBUKA, an umbrella organization for genocide survivor associations in Rwanda, said he had exaggerated his own role in helping refugees escape the massacre.

In a tweet last Thursday, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy said he had discussed the arrest with Rwandan ambassador to the US Mathilde Mukantabana and expects the Rwandan government to “provide a fair and transparent legal process for Rusesabagina.”

Kagame on Sunday gave assurances of the transparency in the prosecution of the suspect.

“We know how to deal with that. It will be done in the open for those who are interested in transparency, fairness, and so on and so forth. We really feel obligated to do that as well. I don’t think people should have any worries about that.”

The Rwandan genocide in 1994 involved the mass slaughter of rebel Tutsi and Hutu forces by the Rwandan government. It spawned a civil war that killed an estimated half to one million people.

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