US-Qatar-Rwanda: Rwandan Government Facing Economical Challenges and Pressure on Human Rights Releases Political Opponents.

Letter Paul Rusesabagina October 2022

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In late March 2023, the Rwandan government, under the pressure from the United States Government and the Qatar Emir, released political opponents held for more than two years. Among those released is the well known Paul Rusesabagina, a receiver of US Presidential Medal.  Following the release, many dynamics have been uncovered, including the pressure from US Government regarding human rights abuses and the role played by the commercial interests between the oligarchy ruling Rwanda and Qatar government.

Paul Rusesabagina has dual citizenship of Rwanda and Belgium and is a resident of US. The release of Paul Rusesabagina and other twenty political oppositions affiliated with him was first announced at the conclusion of a key cabinet meeting held in Kigali Rwanda, on Friday, March 24, 2023. In the announcement, Rwanda’s Minister of Justice, Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, stated that the convictions will remain while prison terms would be commuted. 

The release of Paul Rusesabagina was widely  hailed by human rights organizatons, world governments and Rwandan political opposition leaders around the World, especially given his age, his health conditions, and the fact that, finally, his family will have a relief and a chance to spend time with him in his old days. 

The Rwandan government released formal letters from the key imprisoned leaders, including Paul Rusesabagina, requesting a pardon from Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame.

In his letter, Paul Rusesabagine expressed “regret for any connection” between his work at a leader of a political organisation  and the acts of violence by its armed wing, as well as for “not taking more care to ensure that members” of his opposition coalition “fully adhered to the principles of non-violence in which I fully and deeply believe.

Similarly, the leader of  the armed wing, Nsabimana Callixte Alias Sankara, gave multiple reasons including having "been cooperative with the courts of justice", "admitting all the crimes", having "shown remorse and apologized in front of the court," and "need to start a family".

 Although the release was hailed as a success of a engaging peaceful negotiation, it was driven by more complex dynamics, including the following matters invoving the leaders of Qatar and Rwanda.


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 US Government Calls on Rwandan Leaders  Regading the Appalling Human Rights Abuses.

Following the release of the Rwandan political opposition leaders and members, the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken made a statement welcoming  the "release of Paul Rusesabagina" and thanking "the Government of Qatar for their valuable assistance that will enable Paul’s return to the United States." The statement confirmed that the Government of Qatar has played a critical role.

The statement by US President Joe Biden went into the same direction, saying that "I also thank the Government of Qatar for facilitating Paul’s release and return to the United States."

However, there is another catch. The Secretary of State pointed to the appalling human rights conditions in Rwanda.

"The United States believes in a Rwanda that is peaceful and prosperous. We reaffirm the principle of seeking political change in Rwanda and globally through peaceful means. There is simply no place for political violence. I thank those across the U.S. Government who have worked with the Rwandan Government to enable this outcome," Antony Blanken said.


Was Qatar involvement to protect business interests?

The statement by the US government confirms the information on the negotiations obtained by AfroAmerica Network correspondent close to the Rwandan government

In fact, since the kidnapping and detention of Paul Rusesabagina, Qatar has been in a constant spotlight, given that  it is the area  where the problem started, when in August 2020, the kidnapping happened at the Dubai airport. Dubai Airport, although in United Arab Emirates, is an international hub on which Qatar heavily relies. 

Hence, the flights from Doha, Quatar to and from Africa, especially Rwanda went into the spotlight. The moment was not good, as the Government of Qatar had developped strong business ties with the oligarchy ruling Rwanda. The business deals include exports of the minerals by Rwanda, including Coltan, gold, and cobalt, mostly looted from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to several independent sources, including the report of the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth. Coltan is used primarily for the production of tantalum capacitors, used in many electronic devices, including mobile phones. The market for cobalt, an essential metal for production of batteries of electric vehicles (EVs) has been facing high demand.

Doha in Qatar and Dubai in United Arab Emirates have been serving as  major hubs for the exportations of minerals from Rwanda , with both public and private jets serving as transportation tools. Hence, given such increasing businesses, Qatar decided to invest heavily in Rwanda. The government of Qatar and business people from Qatar acquired 49% of Rwandan government airline company, RwandAir, and  have been funding the building an major airport in Bugesera, in southern Rwanda. The airport will cost around $1.3 billion of dollars with Qatar owning 60% of the shares.

Unfortunately for Rwandan leaders, the war in DRC, with Rwandan military troops under the cover of M23,  has put a break on the  promised  experttations of Coltan, Cobalt and Gold  minerals from DRC to Qatar. Hence, the Rwandan government has been unable to fulfill its commitments to Qatar, despite major efforts.

Meanwhile, the Qatar government played major roles in such kinds of  negotiations, having facilitated the exchange of American basketball player Brittney Griner against Russian Viktor Bout in December 2022.  Hence, according to the sources, the US Government found in Qatar a good ally, with a strong leverage, in the negotiations with Rwandan leaders and Paul Kagame was caught in a net.

Using the business pressure on the government of Rwanda,  the Emir of Qatar was able to secure the release, when the US government officials had tried for months, without success to the point that Paul Kagame had publicly downplayed the pressure of the US government.

  After several months of pressure from the US government, and after Paul Rusesabagina, following the advice of his lawyers and key negotiators, he had already sent the letter to the Rwandan government,  by mid October 2023,  Paul Kagame was still believing in his own powers.  In December 2023, responding to media questions, Paul Kagame mocked the US leaders saying that they wanted the case of Paul Rusesabagina to be "nullified", just  because "Paul Rusesabagina is a celebrity". He then added that he was not afraid of the United States and challenging the US to invade Rwanda if they can, saying, “If we let him free, how about these other 20 who pointed him as even being their leader? We have made it clear, there isn’t anybody going to come from anywhere to bully us into something to do with our lives - you can maybe make an invasion and overrun the country.”  (see here:  USA-Africa: US-Africa Summit Highlights - People Ties, Global Governance, Democracy, Health, Food Security, Trade and Technology, and Rwanda's Paul Kagame Challenging the US Over the Case of Paul Rusesabagina). 

 The final decision was reached when Paul Kagame travelled to Doha, Qatar,  and met  Qatar Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al-hani, on March 21, 2023.   The trip has become the last resort,  driven by the fact that Rwanda oligarch was no longer able to meet the clauses in the commercial agreements with Qatar and has failed to deliver promised minerals and has helped deterirate the  security in the region, hence threating the RwandAir and the Bugesera Airport businesses.

Now, Qatar Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, with its economic leverage on Paul Kagame,  was able to achieve the goal of releasing Paul Rusesabagina.  

@AfroAmerica Network 2023