Some of the protesters who 'stormed' the British High Commission office in Kigali, yesterday, demand for the immediate and unconditional release of Lt Gen Karenzi Karake. (Doreen Umutesi)

Some of the protesters who ?stormed? the British High Commission office in Kigali, yesterday, demand for the immediate and unconditional release of Lt Gen Karenzi Karake. (Doreen Umutesi)

Gen Karake was at the weekend barred by the UK immigration officials from boarding a flight back home in connection with a highly controversial indictment by a Spanish judge over alleged war crimes.

Gen Karake, who was in London on official duty, is one of the 40 former and current senior Rwandan leaders targeted by Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles? indictment.

?We are here to demand for the immediate and unconditional release of General Karenzi Karake who was illegally detained by the UK authorities over unsubstantiated claims,? Herbert Muhire, one of the organisers of the protest largely led by the youth, told UK High Commissioner to Rwanda William Gelling, who had come out of the embassy compound after the demonstrators requested to see him.

?Rather than going after those who committed the Genocide you are instead arresting men who stopped it,? Muhire added, in reference to the genocidaires who continue to live freely in Europe and to Karake?s role in stopping the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, alongside other former Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) soldiers.

The demonstrators carried placards that denounced ?western patronizing attitude toward Africa?, ?violation of Rwanda?s sovereignty?, ?arrest of the heroes of the Liberation struggle?, among others.

Another protester, Apollo Munanura, told Amb. Gelling; ?Gen Karenzi has no case to answer in the UK and we are going to camp here until he is released.?

Indeed, by the time we went to press, a tent had been erected outside the UK High Commission?s compound, with one protester later telling The New Times that there will be ?bigger demonstrations in the coming days if our call isn?t heeded?.

Questioning indictment

One of the protesters, Dieudonne Nshimiyimana, who had travelled from Bugesera District in the Eastern Province, said he took time to read the indictment and concluded it was ?unfounded?.

?The document is full of falsehoods; its baffling that the UK ignored the fact that this so called indictment has even been rule out by a Spanish High Court?s decision,? Nshimiyimana said.

Public momentum against the general?s arrest continues to gather pace, including on social networking sites Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp.

A social media campaign has been built around the hashtag #TwanzeAgasuzuguro (?We say no to disrespect?).

In a brief address to the protesters outside his office in Kigali, the UK High commissioner said: ?I have received your message, I understand your frustrations. His arrest was on legal obligations based on the Spanish indictments. UK is a close partner and maintains a good relationship with Rwanda.?

Gelling then walked away immediately, refusing to respond to questions from journalists.

Marie-Grace Umurerwa, a Rwandan from Canada who is currently on a visit to Rwanda, described Gelling?s remarks as a ?mere political statement? that failed to answer the protestors? questions.

?What does the High Commissioner mean by ?legal obligation?? There is nothing legal about this arrest, this is why we are not going to stop protesting,? she said.

Umurerwa and others said similar protests will take place in London today.

The New Times also established that more youths from around the country were due to join in the protests in Kigali today.

Many observers have described the Spanish judge?s indictment as politically motivated, a position further reinforced by findings of a 2009 UN panel of experts which showed a strong link between Judge Merelles and supporters of the militia that committed the Genocide against the Tutsi.

The UN experts established that Merelles? indictment had been sponsored by two Spanish NGOs that had funded FDLR, the DR Congo-based militia largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide and which continues to defy international appeals to disarm.

The Spanish judge, whose indictment has also been dismissed as ?outrageous and inaccurate? by the US government, received support to work on the indictment from the same NGOs that had extended financial support to FDLR genocidaires, according to the UN experts who were reporting on an existing arms embargo on DR Congo.

?Fundacio` S?Olivar and Inshuti, both Spanish charitable organisations, received nearly ?200,000 in grants from the local government of the Balearic Islands (Mallorca) to help prepare the indictments against RPF,? the experts wrote in their report.

Kigali, which has long rejected Judge Mirelles? accusations, said it is outraged by the ?unacceptable? arrest.

In London, a top British MP, Andrew Mitchell, said the arrest was an abuse of justice. ?It?s a misuse of the European Arrest Warrant system,? he said on Tuesday.

?It?s being used by the supporters of the genocidal regime against those who stopped the Genocide,? added Mitchell, a former UK international development secretary.

Several other observers questioned the timing of the arrest since Gen Karake had travelled to the UK several times without any incident after the indictment had been issued.

?So why now are these indictments invoked after KK (Karenzi Karake) and others named visited UK and EU without problem for many years?? Philip Gourevitch, a renowned American author and journalist, wrote on his Twitter account.

Edwin Musoni, The New Times

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