On the 5th of October 2021, an overwhelming majority of the European Parliament adopted a resolution in support of Paul Rusesabagina, which condemned his conviction for terrorism-related charges by the Rwandan High Court Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes and called for his immediate release. In this regard, just like Donald Trump’s incoherent outbursts during his tenure, the EU Parliament’s blunder (that is, its unreserved support for a convicted terrorist whose guilt has always been self-evident) is an early Christmas present for Africans at large and Rwandans in particular: it destroys a crucial pillar on which the west’s ability to control and influence Africans is built: credibility. This is how.
For one thing, it confirms what we’ve known or suspected for long: European (read western) politicians know little about the African affairs on which they rush to express their unwarranted opinions. In this case, they know even less about the role of their own countries in Rusesabagina’s fate. Clearly, European MPs appeared ignorant of the fact that the prosecution authorities of an EU member state, Belgium, provided much of the evidence used to convict Rusesabagina – just like the Americans, considering the participation of the FBI in the investigations. The MPs also seemed unaware that the Belgian terrorist had received regular consular assistance and all the needed medical attention since his arrest, which has been confirmed by the US State Department in a brief statement earlier this year. More amusing is the fact that the MPs could not distinguish kidnapping from luring a suspected criminal into arrest; nor do they seem to know that the judicial precedents set by their own courts have ruled out the illegality of the method used in arresting Rusesabagina.
Had the MPs sought clarifications from their own judicial authorities and their diplomatic representations in Rwanda or had they even watched the court proceedings which were broadcast live online, this circus would have been averted.
But the MPs seem convinced that their ignorance is as valid as the informed opinion that their own judicial authorities hold on the matter. Truth be told, such a level of ignorance should never be allowed anywhere near decision-making tables, let alone be televised for the Africans who still hold them in some regard as custodians of enlightenment to see! One would have expected such countries with an inextinguishable ambition to control other peoples to know that exposing the mediocrity of the lecturers would make even subservient students resistant.
Second, the theatrics purporting concern for human rights fall flat. Shockingly, their resolution made no mention of the victims of the FLN – the terrorist group which Rusesabagina admitted in court to having created. The MPs considered Rusesabagina’s European passport more worthy of respect and protection than Rwandan lives. The victims of Rusesabagina’s terrorist activities were not simply dehumanized; the sham resolution was an attempt to erase their very existence and undermine the pains of those left to mourn them. If this isn’t human rights upside down, I don’t know what it is.
This is a strategic mistake that weakens the credibility of European institutions, the only façade remaining in the blinding of the natives to the truth of who these people have always been. Obviously, the urge to bully an “unruly” African country draws them into a monumental own goal because it trumps the need to preserve the pretence of upholding EU’s self-professed values; in so doing, the MPs expose the neo-colonial impulse for control behind the veil of human rights promotion. The game is given away as the blinder comes off for the natives to see for themselves.
For Africans still seeking salvation and validation in those institutions, the Rusesabagina’s case is clear evidence, if ever more is needed, that the logic that informed the west’s choice to leave Rwandan Tutsi to die at the hands of genocidaires 27 years ago while providing safe havens to genocide masterminds remains intact. It’s all about appearances, control, influence and geopolitics, and nothing about human rights.
Like Trump, the MPs were unwittingly batting for the natives. They successfully undermined the European Union’s ability to influence the political choices of Africans in general and Rwandans in particular despite the investments (diplomatic and economic) western powers have made to achieve this objective. Seen from this perspective, these kinds of reckless strategic blunders will prove even more costly considering their geostrategic rivalry – with China and other emerging powers like the UAE, Turkey, and even Russia – for influence and control over Africa.
But they were not done perfecting their blunders and exposing their incompetence and mediocrity, hitherto less pronounced and known only to the few who have survived the miseducation of the education system they left behind to the natives.
For instance, under the guise of advancing democracy and freedom of speech in the Great Lakes region, the US and the UK created media houses like VOA and BBC Kinyarwanda programs in order to bypass recalcitrant authorities and exert direct control over the masses of around 50 million Kinyarwanda-Kirundi speakers in Uganda, DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi. Unsurprisingly, these were the soft power instruments used by Rusesabagina and Callixte Sankara to promote FNL’s terrorist activities, calling on Rwandans to join their fighters in a bid to violently overthrow the government of Rwanda. Ironically, however, the legitimacy of Rusesabagina’s arrest and conviction was inadvertently established in the eyes of the natives by the very tools deployed to influence and control them long before his guilt was pronounced by the court.
Accordingly, the EU ought to have known how impossible it was to reverse this reality and not knowing this made its resolution all the more ridiculous. In other words, the EU’s dishonesty and subsequent loss of credibility were counter-productive to the objective of controlling the masses, as is succinctly and unashamedly expressed in the MPs’ call to redirect development aid from the government of Rwanda to the people of Rwanda.
How ludicrous was the EU? The only moment with some semblance of sanity came during the debate that preceded the vote. It is from Ms. Stella Kyriakides, EU Commission representative, who reminded (16th minute) the MPs that most of the issues they had raised during the debate had been addressed by Rwandan authorities during Rusesabagina’s trial. In other words, the MPs had merely wasted taxpayers’ money by rehearsing non-issues. Moreover, Ms. Kyriakides urged the MPs “not to lose sight of the seriousness of the charges” against Rusesabagina, a subtle reminder of the values the EU is supposed to stand for: the human rights of the victims of terror. In her wisdom, she was telling them that the natives are watching and it was imperative to dial down the hypocrisy if some control over them was still an objective of the EU.
Further, Ms. Kyriakides alluded to the role of a member state, Belgium, in gathering the evidence used in the conviction of Rusesabagina while reminding the MPs that Rusesabagina could still appeal his conviction. But her intervention was met with hostile silence. Such was the resolve of the MPs that they couldn’t help but proceed in ridiculing themselves and their own institutions – and, in so doing, unwittingly freeing the natives from mental subjugation.
How mediocre was the European Parliament? Even Victoire Ingabire, another convicted criminal who never misses an opportunity to antagonise Rwandan institutions and was touted as the Aung San Suu Kyi of Rwanda in her time in the European spotlight, has so far refrained from publicly denouncing the court’s verdict. Yes, that bad!
Bashing Rwanda in a slam-dunk case like Rusesabagina’s was never the wise decision; not this time. Consequently, the refusal to engage Rwanda with reason has achieved the opposite of what was intended. It is a strategic defeat for those who had conceived Rusesabagina as the vehicle for achieving the regime change they desperately want to see in Rwanda. Even when they could have retreated to identify another stooge for their ambitions, they now cannot do so successfully because the scheme has been exposed to the majority of Rwandans.
It is a strategic defeat for the EU because the MPs have failed to muster the sophistication necessary to conceal the real ambitions of influence and control. As a result, now the natives see them for who they are: a less sophisticated version of their ancestors who were always able to conceal the moral decadence behind the deception of enlightenment.
Like Trump, the European MPs are a blessing in disguise.