On June 20th the head of Rwanda’s external intelligence service, Lt. General Karenzi Karake, was arrested at Heathrow Airport. He is accused by a Spanish judge of war crimes committed during and after the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990s. General Karake is now on bail awaiting an extradition hearing.
The Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, was furious when he heard about the arrest. He described it as a continuation of slavery and colonialism. General Karake is a senior member of the RPF, the party that took power in Rwanda in 1994 after its army, led by Paul Kagame, had put an end to the genocide. The general is also, intriguingly, seen as a potential rival to the president and was briefly sent to jail by Mr Kagame in 2010.
The arrest is indeed embarrassing for Britain. Successive governments under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron have cultivated close ties with Rwanda. Part of the reason appears to be Rwanda’s remarkable recovery from the dark days of the genocide. Rwanda has emerged as a country with a well-functioning economy and little corruption. Britain, one of its principal aid donors, can point to Rwanda as a success story in a way it cannot with most other countries in Africa.
But has Britain turned a blind eye to well-documented war crimes and human rights abuses perpetrated by senior government members? The accusations come from human rights organisations, as well as political opponents of the government. And even as British aid has continued to flow to Rwanda, there has been criticism of the country’s human rights record from members of parliament and the Foreign Office itself.
Reporter: Simon Cox
Producer: Tim Mansel
Researcher: Phoebe Keane.