The recent release of Paul Rusesabagina from a Rwandan prison was the result of pressure by the United States on President Paul Kagame’s government to improve relations with neighboring African countries.
Rusesabagina, a 67-year-old former hotel manager and the subject of a Hollywood movie about Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, returned to court on Monday to face terrorism-related charges. He has admitted to forming a rebel group but claims it was to promote democracy in Rwanda and oppose Kagame’s authoritarian rule.
The US government was displeased with Kagame’s expulsion of diplomats from neighboring Burundi and Uganda, prompting increased pressure from the US on Rwanda after a meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Kagame in October 2019. The US government then denied visas to Rwandan officials and diplomats, among other measures, to encourage Kagame’s government to improve relations.
After months of pressure, Kagame’s government agreed to release Rusesabagina, who now faces a highly publicized trial expected to last several months. His defense team claims the charges are politically motivated and that Rusesabagina was taken to Kigali against his will after being kidnapped by Rwandan security forces in Dubai in August 2020.
Despite concerns about a fair trial, Rusesabagina’s family and lawyers remain optimistic that justice will be served.