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Demonstrators protest German arrest of top presidential aide

Text by Philip CROWTHER , Jonathan WALSH , AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-11

Thousands of Rwandans responded to government calls and flooded the streets of Kigali to protest against the arrest in Germany of Rose Kabuye, an official involved in the incident that started the 1994 genocide.

Thousands of Rwandans protested Monday outside the German embassy here against the arrest in Frankfurt of a top official suspected of involvement in the incident that triggered the 1994 genocide.
Demonstrators waved banners that read: "Germany: arrest genocide perpetrators, not innocents," as they demanded the release of Rose Kabuye, chief of protocol to President Paul Kagame.
Kabuye is one of a number of Kagame's inner circle suspected by a French judge of involvement in the killing of former president Juvenal Habyarimana.
Rwanda summoned Germany's ambassador on Sunday after her arrest at France's request sparked anger in Kigali, which accuses France and other European countries of seeking to prosecute the victims rather than the perpetrators of the genocide.
Police spokesman Willy Marcel Higiro told AFP that the demonstrators numbered around 7,500.
The protestors marched from the heavily-protected German embassy to the offices of Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, on the ouskirts of Kigali.
At around lunchtime, cars drove across the capital blaring out messages announcing that all offices were closed for the afternoon and urging civil servants and members of the public to join the demonstrations.
"These protests are designed to protest against the arrest of Mrs Rose Kabuye," said the message.
Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told AFP that other demonstrations were planned for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Currently in custody in a women's prison in Frankfurt, Kabuye could be extradited to France within 10 to 14 days, German prosecutors told AFP on Monday.
Rwanda's foreign ministry expressed its "shock and dismay" over Kabuye's arrest and denied claims she was on a private visit, in a letter of protest to the German embassy in Kigali seen by AFP.
It said that Kabuye enjoys diplomatic immunity, was on a "working visit" to Germany and "should be treated with courtesy and dignity by the German authorities as it is required by diplomatic decorum."
Kabuye had already travelled to Germany in April and embarked on another trip despite warnings she could face arrest on the basis of a 2006 international warrant issued by French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere.
"She is an innocent woman who was arrested on a politically motivated warrant, a warrant issued on the basis of manipulated investigations," Mushikiwabo said. "This blackmail cannot continue anymore."
Kabuye is the first Rwandan to be arrested after Bruguiere issued nine warrants against close Kagame aides whom the judge suspects of being behind the death of the former Rwandan president.
Habyarimana's assassination in April 1994 when his aircraft was shot down triggered ethnic tensions that led to the genocide, in which 800,000 people -- mainly from Kagame's Tutsi minority -- were massacred by extremists from the Hutu majority.
The arrest warrants sparked a bilateral diplomatic row resulting in Rwanda suspending ties with France.
Kabuye's lawyer said she was willing to be transferred to France "as quickly as possible" to speak to French judges.
According to judicial sources, if Kabuye is indicted, she and the Rwandan regime will for the first time have full access to the evidence in the case.
Mushikiwabo told AFP: "We hope that with this arrest, the whole world will finally know that these arrest warrants have no legal basis. We want the warrants made public. It is time to tell the truth."
Mushikiwabo also criticised last week's legal suit by 10 senior French military officers against Rwanda, which accuses them of involvement in the genocide.
The five generals and five colonels served in Operation Turquoise, a French military mission to Rwanda in 1994 following Habyarimana's assassination which Kigali said assisted Hutu genocide perpetrators.
"For us, this is also one of the acts of intimidation. The involvement of France (in the genocide) is a truth. France politically and militarily helped a government that committed genocide," Mushikiwabo said.
In August, the Rwandan government issued a 500-page report naming 13 French politicians and 20 military officials for their role in the massacres, including then-president Francois Mitterrand.
The report alleged France was aware of preparations for the genocide, contributed to planning the massacres and that its troops actively took part in the killings.

Date created : 2008-11-10