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Rwandan president’s $20,000-a-night hotel
NEW YORK — The president of Rwanda, one of the world’s poorest countries, faced criticism on Thursday night after he was reported to be staying in a $20,000-a-night hotel room in New York.
Paul Kagame, whose country receives more than millions of dollars in foreign aid, is said to have been based in the Mandarin Oriental’s presidential suite while attending the UN General Assembly. A receptionist at the hotel said on Thursday that the standard nightly rate for the suite, including taxes and charges, totalled $20,664.50.
The average Rwandan would need to work for 18 years just to be able to afford one night in the “luxurious two-bedroom suite”, which boasts “panoramic views of Central Park and the city skyline”.
According to the hotel, it “is the perfect retreat with large living and dining area and separate wood panelled study”.
Spokesmen for Mr Kagame and the hotel declined to confirm he was staying there. Sixbert Musangamfura, a spokesman for the United Democratic Forces (UDF), the Rwandan opposition coalition, told The Daily Telegraph: “It is a scandal. Rwanda is not a country that can afford to pay this much for hotels. People who have to survive on 40 cents a day will be disgusted.”
The president typically travels with dozens of bodyguards and aides, who would also have been housed in hotel rooms with access to the UN headquarters. Most of New York’s classiest hotel suites were packed with world leaders this week. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, is thought to have been housed in a $2,800-a-night room at the UN Millennium hotel.
But Mr Kagame’s reported room rate was extraordinarily high even for the busiest week of the year in Manhattan.
David Cameron stayed at the Barclay Intercontinental in a room with an adjoining office. Aides said the price was “certainly not in the territory” of Mr Kagame’s, but declined to give a figure.
Britain is Rwanda’s biggest direct aid donor. Labour party figures last month called for aid to be withdrawn amid reports that exiles in Britain had received death threats. The Rwandan High Commissioner in London dismissed the allegations as “bogus”.
© Copyright (c) The Daily Telegraph
The BBC has learned at least three exiled Rwandans have been told their lives are at risk from the Rwandan government.
The UK is Rwanda’s biggest direct aid donor, giving £83m a year.
The Rwandan High Commissioner in London has dismissed the allegations as “bogus”.
Earlier this year two Rwandans living in London received warnings from the Metropolitan Police that the Rwandan government posed an imminent threat to their lives.
Jonathan Musonera is a founding member of the Rwanda National Congress, an organisation launched last year in opposition to President Kagame’s government, which is accused of carrying out human rights abuses, and suppressing political freedom.
The BBC has now identified a third UK resident who has also been notified of a similar threat. This third man, Noble Marara, says he is aware of two others who have also been warned of danger, suggesting at least five Rwandans may be at risk.
Mr Marara believes he is in danger because he gave evidence to a French judicial enquiry that was detrimental to Mr Kagame.
Since arriving in the UK in 2005, Mr Marara has moved house more than seven times, and changed his car three times. He will not eat in restaurants for fear of being poisoned.
“I stay away from the Rwandese community,” he says. “I may speak to them, but not meet them or show my address, and I cook for myself because I cannot trust anybody – that’s for sure.
“Many people have been poisoned.”
Since receiving the warning that his life is in danger, Jonathan Musonera has doubled the locks on his door, changed his daily routine, and forbidden his wife and daughter to leave the house unaccompanied.
“I was very scared. The Rwandan government, they can use anything, they can use anyone.”
The British government is a strong supporter of Rwanda, and one of its biggest direct aid donors – giving the country £83m a year.
Network of spiesBut former Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells, who was head of the Intelligence and Security Committee until last year, says President Kagame is becoming increasingly autocratic.
He argues these death threats are the latest in a series of events that raise a question mark over Britain’s continued support: “If there’s any hint at all that these people are threatening people whether they’re British citizens or residents, then we must say to them ‘I’m sorry this aid is going to be cut off immediately’, and that’s a threat they certainly could not afford to ignore.”
Paul Rusesabagina of Hotel Rwanda fame was honoured for sheltering more than 1,000 Rwandans during the genocide.
Now living in exile, he has become one of President Kagame’s most high-profile critics. While he welcomes the humanitarian aid provided by the international community, he argues that Britain is wrong to give the Rwandan government direct financial support:
“My message to the British people, the British administration would be to stop what they call direct aid, this money injected into nation’s budgets.
“Since the UK is among the few nations which are giving cash to today’s Rwandan government, I would advise [them] to stop”.
The BBC understands that British ministers are taking the death threats extremely seriously and they called in the Rwandan High Commissioner in London, Ernest Rwamucyo, to give an explanation.
The Foreign Office refused to comment on the outcome of those discussions, but made it clear that the UK does not tolerate such activity.
However, Mr Rwamucyo told the BBC: “We were really quite shocked and found the Metropolitan Police warnings are bogus, baseless and absolutely untrue.”
“There’s no way Rwanda would ever think of doing such a thing, and of all places, in the UK. We have such a strong relationship, one of confidence and trust, with the UK. We don’t have any reason whatsoever to even think of doing such a thing.”
Despite those denials, many of those File on 4 spoke to believe there is a network of spies at the heart of the Rwandan refugee community in Britain, and claim it includes students, asylum seekers and former Rwandan Patriotic Front soldiers.
Mr Mugenzi used to work for a refugee organisation in London and says he has seen the documents of individuals who claim to be fleeing the Rwandan government but then become fervent supporters.
‘Candid relationship’He is convinced the Rwandan government furnishes its spies with documents to help prove the case for asylum in the UK.
Rwandan High Commissioner Ernest Rwamucyo dismisses these allegations as pure nonsense: “There’s no basis for that. Whoever is making those allegations should bring the evidence.”
The International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell declined to speak to File on 4.
In a statement, the Department for International Development stressed the strength of Britain’s commitment to Rwanda, pointing out that the aid given will help many of the country’s poorest people.
The statement adds: “The UK-Rwanda relationship is a candid one and we raise issues where we have concerns on a regular basis and at senior levels.
“We take every opportunity to raise with the Rwandan government our concerns over political space, media freedom and extra-judicial killings.
“We continue to urge the government of Rwanda to address these issues and to bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice.”
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14217337
By Ian Birrell
He told them he would give them food and then send them home.
But he now admits he was lying and says: ‘We took them instead into the forest and killed them with a small hatchet.’
Kamanzi despatched scores with a blow to the back of the skull. As the bloodbath went on, his soldiers’ methods became cruder. ‘We could kill more than 100 a day,’ he said.
‘We used ropes – it was the fastest way and we didn’t spill blood. Two of us would place a guy on the ground, wrap a rope around his neck once, then pull hard.
The reason this young commander in an elite unit and father of two young children carried out these horrific massacres of Congolese is simple.
In a chilling refrain, so familiar from the darkest deeds in history, he says: ‘We were ordered to do it.’
Kamanzi’s story should be heard by all Western apologists for the suspected architect of these atrocities, Rwanda’s brutal autocratic ruler, President Kagame.
This includes Britain’s International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell.
For while world leaders and the aid lobby fawn over Kagame the reality of his repressive regime is becoming clearer by the day.
Papy Kamanzi’s death squad was operating in the Congolese jungle, where it was guilty of acts of genocide.
His story is told in Dancing In The Glory Of Monsters, a brilliant new book about the collapse of the Congo by an American author who has spent ten years in the country.
A United Nations investigation found Kagame’s army and its allies killed tens of thousands of innocent refugees.
This is a terrible indictment of the Rwandan president who came to power by ending his own country’s bloody civil war in 1994 between the Hutus and Tutsis.
Following the slaughter of a staggering one million mainly Tutsi civilians in less than a year, Kagame led the army which overthrew the Hutu militias responsible for the genocide and seized power.
At the time he was seen as a liberator. Ever since, he has skilfully exploited international sympathy for Rwanda’s tragic recent history to stifle dissent at home and win friends, influence and money abroad.
As huge amounts of foreign aid poured in, he has overseen impressive economic growth, promoted the interests of women and eradicated corruption.
This is the Rwanda that so beguiles visiting Western politicians and aid agencies – the lush land of a thousand hills, of gourmet coffee, gorilla tourism and hi-tech ambitions.
They believe this nation’s ‘success story’ could be the answer the swelling chorus of critics who question what has been achieved for all the billions of aid money.
But this desperate desire for good news out of Africa has ensured that for too long, too many people who should know better have ignored grotesque human rights abuses. The whiff of hypocrisy hangs heavy in the air.
First and foremost on the charge sheet is Rwanda’s long involvement in neighbouring Congo. It has twice invaded, fought proxy wars with brutal militias and profited from the proceeds of stolen minerals.
Mass rape was commonplace. The gruesome lexicon now includes words such as ‘re-rape’ – for women who have been repeatedly raped – and ‘auto-cannibalism’ – where victims are forced to eat their own flesh.
President Kagame should no longer be able to avoid blame despite protestations that his regime was merely tracking down remnants of mass-murdering Hutu militias.
Kagame has created what one observer calls ‘a well-managed ethnic, social and economic dictatorship’. People speak of a climate of fear, where the wrong words can lead to incarceration – or worse.
Last year’s election was a sham, with the regime jailing political rivals and closing newspapers, using institutions shamefully funded by British aid to win with 93 per cent of the vote.
One opponent was beheaded shortly before the election.
As for the Tories, they invited Kagame to address their party conference four years ago after Mr Mitchell had taken a group of party volunteers to Rwanda.
Now, as international development minister, he remains among the regime’s most fervent supporters.
What makes Mr Mitchell’s visit so shocking is that it comes just weeks after Scotland Yard warned two Rwandan dissidents living in Britain that their lives were in danger from hit squads sent by Kagame’s government.
One of those targets is Rene Mugenzi, a Liberal Democrat activist. He says the Rwandan government ‘wants to kill’ him and he feels betrayed because the British government both refuses to condemn the threat to his life and continues to send aid.
‘Now Mr Mitchell goes out there as if nothing has happened,’ he says.
Meanwhile, there have been persistent reports of murders and assassination attempts of people who have fallen out with Kagame.
Paul Rusesabagina, a heroic Rwandan hotel manager who saved 1,268 people amid the hell of genocide, is one of those who has been declared ‘an enemy of the state’.
He says: ‘I’ll continue to speak out about the need for genuine reconciliation and real peace in our country.’
Brave words that shame Andrew Mitchell as he is the guest of a man accused of sending death squads to kill British citizens.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2019187/Monster-genocide-rape-squads.html
A Cabinet minister was accused of ‘turning a blind eye’ to human rights abuses last night after it emerged he will hold talks with a Rwandan dictator accused of war crimes.
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell will today meet controversial president Paul Kagame despite mounting international concern about his human rights record.
Mr Mitchell also recently approved a 57 per cent increase in aid to Rwanda – a rise which will see Britain giving a total of £332 million to the central African state over the next four years.
Last year the United Nations published a damning report alleging appalling war crimes by the Tutsi army in 1995, which was led at the time by Kagame.
The president has also faced mounting allegations about the repression of opposition politicians and journalists.
He held on to power in last year’s elections after securing an astonishing 93 per cent of the vote – a result critics accuse him of achieving through brutal repression and silencing opponents.
Aides last night insisted Mr Mitchell who is in Rwanda to take part in a Conservative Party community project, had a ‘candid relationship’ with the president and would raise the issue of human rights.
But campaigners last night urged him to fundamentally review Britain’s relationship with Rwanda.
Carina Tertsakian, senior researcher at the Human Rights Watch group, said: ‘For too long, UK ministers have turned a blind eye to grave human rights abuses in Rwanda.
‘While Andrew Mitchell lauds the UK’s development partnership with Rwanda and participates in media-friendly community projects, the government in [the capital] Kigali represses opposition parties, intimidates independent journalists and refuses to hold accountable members of the Rwandan army who have committed war crimes.’
The Tutsi army is alleged to have carried out the mass rape and torture of Hutu civilians in the eastern Congo in revenge for the massacre of up to 800,000 Tutsis during three months of bloodshed in 1994.
Last year, the two main opposition parties were banned from standing in the elections while independent journalists were locked up and their newspapers closed down.
The elections were further marred by the mysterious deaths of some opposition politicians.
Mr Mitchell met Kagame in Rwanda in 2009, before the critical UN report.
Mr Mitchell was leading the Tory Party’s Project Umubano to help people in the country.
Supporters of Kagame – who include Tony Blair – insist his record has to be seen in the context of his country’s war-torn history. Mr Blair has described him as a ‘visionary leader’ and a ‘great friend’.
A host of world leaders have also beaten a path to his door over the years, including Barack Obama, George W Bush and David Cameron, who was expected to hold talks with him again last week before his tour of Africa was cut short so he could deal with the phone hacking crisis.
But the publication of the UN report – and the suggestion that he could be indicted for war crimes – has increased international concern.
A spokesman for the Department for International Development last night said: ‘The Secretary of State is due to have an official meeting with President Kagame.
‘He will be raising all issues of interest to Britain as part of our candid relationship.’