What can Velmis do in Kigali for the “Hero of Hotel Rwanda”?

Foreign Minister Sophie Villemis will visit Rwanda in the next two days. This gives the entourage of the Belgian Rwandan opponent Paul Rossabagina a ray of hope. “Every day we fear that we will receive a phone call that he has died in prison,” his daughter, Karen Kanimba, said.

Will there be a meeting with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Perrota or not? Foreign Minister Sophie Velmis traveled to Rwanda on Monday for a summit between the European Union and the African Union, but that question remained unanswered.

the essence

  • Foreign Minister Sophie Velmis (MR) is in Rwanda for an EU-African Union summit.
  • The big question is whether she will discuss the fate of Rwandan-Belgian rival Paul Rusabagina, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in September after a show trial.
  • Although Rwanda’s importance to Belgium is limited, our country usually avoids taking a hard line against the Rwandan regime.

Since the Rwandan court sentenced Paul Rusabagina, the Rwandan-Belgian dissident who saved more than 1,000 people during the 1994 genocide, to 25 years in prison at the end of September, diplomatic relations have been strained. Soon after the conviction, Berta canceled another meeting with Velmis because she called Rossapgina’s trial unfair. Our country is hoping for a new dialogue on Tuesday, but is careful not to blow bridges.

Rosabagina’s entourage fears there is no time to lose as his health deteriorates. The 67-year-old ex-cancer patient has heart problems, but he has not received the proper medications or medical tests on the cell. “When my father dies, a lot of people are responsible or at least complicit,” says his daughter Karen Kanimba. Willems has criticized this process, but I hope that words will also follow actions. If you don’t talk about my father’s case, it will leave much of the international community out in the cold.

Rusesabagina gained international fame for saving more than 1,000 Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide as manager of the luxury Hôtel des Mille Collines, a feat immortalized in the Hollywood movie Hotel Rwanda. In 1996 he left Rwanda due to dissatisfaction with the regime of President Paul Kagame, who came to power after the genocide and set up an oppressive police state as well as a thriving economy.

Rosabagina was granted asylum in Belgium and later moved with his family to the United States because the threats in our country increased a lot after the publication of his autobiography in 2006. He was very critical of Kagame.

Kidnapping in Dubai

His activism made Russabjina one of the most famous Rwandans in the world, although some question his story and point to his links with armed rebel groups. In recent years, the opponent has given speeches all over the world and made plans when he traveled from Texas to Dubai at the end of August last year. There he thought he would board a plane to Burundi, following a chaplain he trusted. But the trip went to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, where he was handcuffed and tortured.


When my father dies, many people are responsible or at least complicit.

Karen Kanemba

Daughter of Paul Rossapgina

After a trial that Russabjina deemed a show trial, the opponent was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his involvement with the National Liberation Front, the military wing of a Rwandan opposition group that committed deadly attacks in Rwanda. It was announced last week that the Rwandan prosecutor’s office would appeal. want life.

“It shows this is a political process,” said Kanimba, who herself was spied on and fears for her safety. 25 years is already a lot for a sick 67-year-old man who still thinks his sentence is too light. This process should serve as a signal to anyone who dares to oppose the regime.

Suspension of development aid

Rosabagina’s vocal entourage has raised his case at the highest levels, from the European Parliament to the US State Department. It demands governments to impose sanctions or suspend development aid in order to release or extradite Rosabagina. Belgian government circles heard that our country does not intend to be heavy on the table. “We think it’s best to keep all channels open, because we need the Rwandans if we want something to happen,” it seems.


It’s always the same story. Apart from the historical ties, Rwanda has little importance to Belgium. But our country is always going backwards.

Philip Rentgens

Africa expert

“It’s always the same story,” says Africa expert Philip Reingens. Apart from historical ties, Rwanda has little significance to Belgium. It has a small economy and few active Belgian companies. But our country is always going backwards. The world is now turning a blind eye to this one case, but both within and outside of Rwanda there are far worse stories of people being killed or imprisoned. In addition, the regime killed hundreds of thousands of people in 1994 in Rwanda and in 1996 in Congo. Belgium tolerates that.

According to Kanimba, this is partly due to the good relations between Kagame and the Michel family, which to this day define Belgian policy towards Rwanda. “He has a great responsibility,” she says. My father’s illegal detention lasted more than 420 days. Every day it hurts. They can use that tape to bring my parents home.”

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