from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE human rights fraternity is upset angered at the arrest and possible extradition of a prominent Rwandan refugee in Zambia.
Fears are that he could be the latest individual to fall victim to the Rwandan government’s control, surveillance and intimidation of Rwandan refugees as well as Diaspora communities and others abroad. Several critics of the government have been harassed or assassinated in the countries where they have sought refuge or upon their extradition to Rwanda.
In the latest episode, last Thursday, Zambian security forces arrested Rwandan, Apollinaire Nsengiyumva, a refugee in Zambia since 2009.
Nsengiyumva is renowned for his humanitarianism, having been responsible for Rwandan refugees in the South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo for some time, helping them in accordance with international human rights standards governing refugees.
Rights groups allege he has been arrested on false accusations fabricated by the government of the Rwandan Patriotic Front of President Paul Kagame.
In a court testimony in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, rebel leader Maj Nsabimana Sankara Callixte, described Nsengiyumva as his “link” in Zambia.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned Zambia was in violation of the State Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
In a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security, UNHCR expressed its “serious concerns” regarding the detention or risk of deportation procedures around Nsengiyumva.
The International Civil Society of Rwandan Refugees (SOCIR) has appealed to Zambian president, Haikande Hichilema, against extraditing the refugee.
“We ask you not to extradite the person concerned into the clutches of the killers, but rather to seek out all the necessary information for this gentleman, if possible to try him on the spot, since he cannot find independent justice in Kigali,” COSIR stated.
In addition, the organisation has sounded the alarm to the international community and human rights organisations to “intervene as soon as possible so that this gentleman can be saved before it is too late.”
COSIR mentioned a list of exiled critics of Kagame’s government that had been harassed and assassinated in the countries where they have sought safe haven or upon their extradition to Rwanda.
Among those are “Hotel Rwanda” hero Paul Rusesabagina, jailed on terrorism charges. This year, Malawi extradited Rwandan Vincent Ngendahimana Kanyoni on charges critics say are fabricated. His fate is said to remain unknown.
“No doubt he is in Kigali’s torture surgery,” COSIR alleged.
In Mozambique, Revocat Karemangingo, formerly a lieutenant in the Rwandan army that was overthrown in 1994, was gunned down in 2021.
That year, journalist Cassien Ntamuhanga was kidnapped in Mozambique, allegedly by Rwandan intelligence in Mozambique and has never been heard of.
It is believed he was assassinated. In 2014, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a Rwandan former lieutenant general, survived an assassination attempt in South Africa. In October this year, Human Rights Watch released a report, “Join us or Die: Rwanda’s Extraterritorial Repression.”
“The control, surveillance, and intimidation of Rwandan refugee and Diaspora communities and others abroad can be attributed in part to the authorities’ desire to quash dissent and maintain control,” HRW reported.
In this report, Human Rights Watch documented over a dozen cases of killings, kidnappings and attempted kidnappings, enforced disappearances, and physical attacks targeting Rwandans living abroad.
The report also found that the Rwandan government has sought to use global police cooperation, judicial mechanisms, and extradition requests to seek deportations of critics or dissidents back to Rwanda.
Rwandan and Zambian authorities had not commented on the Nsengiyumva issue.
– CAJ News