His story was told in the Oscar-nominated film “Hotel Rwanda,” and he received numerous awards for his bravery and humanitarian work.
Now as representative heads of state, including the Prince of Wales, descend on Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Monday, they must not turn a blind eye to the host nation’s human rights violations.
While it is sad that the CHOGM is being held this year in a country that does not adhere to the Commonwealth’s core values and principles, we must see this as an opportunity to shine a light on Rwanda’s lack of democracy.
Our family is asking Prince Charles not to remain silent to this reality and to not shake the hand of the tyrant who is holding our father as a political prisoner.
The United States recently classified our father as a “wrongful detainee,” noting the massive irregularities in his capture and trial.
Our father was kidnapped almost two years ago, lured from our home in San Antonio, Texas, through Dubai, where he was tricked into boarding a flight to Kigali. An agent of the Rwandan Government, posing as a Bishop, asked our father to come to Burundi and speak to church groups about reconciliation. Having boarded a plane in Dubai expecting to fly to Burundi, he was drugged, waking only to realize he had landed in Kigali, Rwanda — a place to which he would never voluntarily return.
The Rwandan government has rejected all criticism of these processes, incredibly claiming that it has acted in a manner consistent with international law.
Now our father has been sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, which will be a life sentence for a man who last week turned 68. Our only wish for his birthday is to bring him home safe to us. He is a cancer survivor with hypertension whose health is deteriorating while he is incarcerated. His current symptoms, including a weak right arm and facial paralysis, indicate that he may have had one or more strokes already while in prison, but these go untreated.
While it is still incomprehensible to us, and so many victims of the Rwandan regime around the world, that Rwanda was given the privilege of hosting the CHOGM this year, its presence in Kigali also offers a unique opportunity.
The Prince of Wales and other CHOGM leaders can choose to focus on their shared values and principles and push those members who do not uphold those values in practice to do so. This includes Kagame’s Rwanda. Although Prince Charles is not a political figure, he can seek dialogue behind closed doors, or even ask to visit our father.
Rwanda has many friends in the CHOGM, both countries and individuals, and we urge the Prince of Wales and all of the other leaders assembled not to stay silent and to ask Kagame to provide our father with a compassionate release now, before it is too late.
Our father saved us in 1994. We plead with the international community to take this opportunity to save him.