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'Black People Have Become Targets for Shooting Practice': Rwandan President Hits Out at UK

Rwanda's spy chief Karenzi Karake was arrested for war crimes at London's Heathrow Airport on Saturday, and Rwanda are being forced to pay $1.5 million to bail him out.
June 25, 2015, 5:42pm
Photo by Mark Lennihan/AP

Rwanda's spy chief has today been granted conditional bail days after he was arrested in London, on the basis of a 2008 Spanish indictment for war crimes.

This comes as Rwandan President Paul Kagame lashed out at an arrest that he said was based on nothing but "absolute arrogance and contempt," before saying that the West needed to examine their own behavior, given that western countries have killed "millions of Africans."

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Karenzi Karake, 54, was arrested at Heathrow Airport on Saturday on the back of a European Arrest Warrant. He stands accused of ordering massacres in the years following Rwanda's 1994 genocide, and also of ordering the murders of three Spanish nationals.

On Thursday, a London court ruled that the Rwandan High Commission must pay bail of 1 million pounds ($1.57m), while Karake must stay on the commission's property and report daily to the police. The Rwandan government had initially offered 200,000 pounds as bail.

Related: Rwanda's Intelligence Chief Arrested in London, Wanted for War Crimes in Spain

Hundreds of Rwandans have been protesting outside the British High Commission in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, with the British government warning visitors to call ahead before facing the crowds. It was also reported that schoolchildren were being encouraged to join the demonstrations.

Meanwhile,— Dan Ngabonziza (@deave204)June 25, 2015

Earlier on Thursday, Kagame spoke at a ceremony to welcome the East African country's new minister of education, members of parliament and new judges. The president — who led the Rwandan Patriotic Front forces who took control of Rwanda and has also previously been accused of war crimes — said Karake had been a "freedom fighter" who fought to liberate the country, and said the arrest "reminds us how hard it is to travel on the journey for us to be able to make choices for our future."

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He pointed to Rwanda's fraught relationship with other countries, continuing: "First was France, then Spain, then UK. I don't know who is next. It is all directed to inconvenience, to destabilize and show absolute contempt they have for Rwanda and for the African.

"Any decent Rwandan, any decent African, any decent person from these countries cannot accept this. When you are pushed against the wall and left with nothing else, building on that spirit, you come back in full strength.

'We have the power from the anger of the attempt of history to wipe us of the surface of the earth and we refused to go. Those who try to wipe us out did not give up because they forgave us, they gave up because they failed to achieve it."

Related: 'They Want Someone To Blame': Speaking With Former Rwandan Genocidaires

Kagame went on: "It is history repeating itself in a different form. It is a continuation of slavery, of colonialism, of violence, and bigotry. It is wagging a finger at the African and telling him this is where you belong… This is the African they prefer.

He added: "[The] real untold story is they want to change the narrative of what has happened in Rwanda that they were so deeply involved in. They want to mask their responsibility by saying it's not us, it is savages of Africa who killed each other. Since when did we become killers? Who has killed more Africans than they have. They have killed millions of Africans.

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President — Presidency | Rwanda (@UrugwiroVillage)June 25, 2015

President — Presidency | Rwanda (@UrugwiroVillage)June 25, 2015

President — Presidency | Rwanda (@UrugwiroVillage)June 25, 2015

After saying that the UK had no right to arrest Karake, Kagame added: "They must have mistaken him for an illegal immigrant. The way they treat illegal immigrants is the way they treat all of us. Black people have become targets for shooting practice. We cannot accept that people treat us this way just because they can. In the end, we must and will prevail."

— Samuel Ouga - NV (@Ougasam)June 25, 2015

Cherie Booth — the wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair — is one of the lawyers defending Karake.

The arrest will certainly strain the relationship between the UK and Rwanda further. The former Belgian colony switched their education system from French to English in 2008, and has been a member of the Commonwealth since 2009.

The diplomatic situation between the UK and Rwanda was already inflamed, however, over the BBC's documentary Rwanda's Untold Story, which aired in October 2014.

The documentary suggested that Kagame may have played a role in the shooting down of the then-president Juvénal Habyarimana's plane, the act which started the genocide, and suggested that more Hutus than Tutsis may have been killed during the period of violence that followed.

Rwanda has since considered taking criminal action, while BBC broadcasts have been banned in the country.

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd