Biden to host hardball Kagame at US African Leaders Summit

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Photo: Gallo Images
Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Photo: Gallo Images
  • The US has failed to change Rwandan President Paul Kagame's mind about two important issues.
  • One is the imprisonment of American citizen, Paul Rusesabagina and the other is alleged support for M23 rebels in the DRC.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken talks tough on Kagame's alleged M23 rebel support.
  • Rusesabagina remains jailed in Rwanda.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame will arrive at the United States-African Leaders Summit next week amid strained relations with Washington DC over two matters that remain unsolved.

The three-day Washington event, scheduled from 13-15 December will bring leaders together from across the African continent to discuss bold, practical ways to strengthen ties and advance shared priorities.

One hiccup between the US and Rwanda is the imprisonment of American citizen, Paul Rusesabagina, 68, who is of Rwandan descent. The US says it is illegal.

Rusesabagina inspired the 2004 Hollywood movie Hotel Rwanda based on his personal experience as a hotel manager at Hotel des Mille Collines in the capital, Kigali. At the hotel, he saved a reported 1 268 Tutsis and Hutus from genocide. 

But in August 2020, Rwandan authorities detained him on a Dubai chartered flight he was made to believe was scheduled for Burundi. Instead, it was en route to Kigali.

In September 2021 he was charged and jailed for terrorism, arson, kidnapping and murder in connection with two attacks in 2018 that claimed the lives of nine Rwandans. He is serving a 25-year sentence.

While in the US, Rusesabagina became a critic of Kagame which rights activists believe was the main reason for his incarceration.

READ | M23 rebels claim 8 civilians killed by stray bullets in battle with govt forces

In the past six months, the US has sent emissaries to Kagame over the matter but he has openly rejected them.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Rwanda in August failed to secure Rusesabagina's release.

Before Blinken was dispatched, New Jersey senator and chairperson of the committee on foreign relations, Robert Menendez, raised issues in congress concerns about the "Rwandan government's continuing disregard for democracy and human rights", calling for "more effective American policy".

The second issue, also on Blinken's watch, was the alleged support for M23 rebels in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On Tuesday, Blinken called Kagame and openly told him to stop supporting the rebel outfit.

A statement issued by the US Department of State read:

Secretary Blinken made clear that any external support to non-state armed groups in the DRC must end, including Rwanda's assistance to M23, an armed group that has been designated by the United States and the United Nations.

Numerous UN reports and briefings at the Security Council have placed the M23 blame on Kagame. 

But Kagame has always maintained that he was not involved with the rebel group. Instead, he accuses his DRC counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi, of supporting the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR).

The FDLR comprises remnants of people who participated in Rwanda's 1994 genocide and who have lived in eastern DRC for nearly three decades.

Kagame also claims Tshisekedi was using the chaos in DRC to avoid elections next year.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your thoughts on the possibility of having permanent Stage 2 or 3 load shedding?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
I'll take that over constant schedule changes
13% - 1623 votes
Why are we normalising Eskom’s mess?
72% - 8971 votes
I've already found alternative ways of powering my home/business
15% - 1832 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.