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Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” attends a court hearing Feb. 26 in Kigali, Rwanda. The judge on Friday rejected Rusesabagina’s argument in his terrorism trial that a court there cannot try him because he is no longer a citizen. Photo Muhizi Olivier / Associated Press


 A key piece of the mystery around the arrest of the man who inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda” became clear Friday when a pastor told a court in the capital, Kigali, that he worked with someone from the Rwanda Investigation Bureau to trick Paul Rusesabagina onto a private plane from Dubai.

The pastor, Constantin Niyomwungere, alleged that Rusesabagina, who faces terror-related charges, had acknowledged that rebels backed by his opposition platform had killed Rwandans.

“Myself, the pilot and cabin crew knew we were coming to Kigali. The only person who didn’t know where we were headed was Paul,” Niyomwungere said.

The 66-year-old Rusesabagina, once praised for saving hundreds of ethnic Tutsis from Rwanda’s 1994 genocide while a hotel manager, now faces nine charges, including the formation of an irregular armed group; membership in a terrorist group; financing of terrorism; and murder, abduction and armed robbery as an act of terrorism.

If convicted, he could face more than 20 years in prison.

The case of Rusesabagina, a Belgian citizen and U.S. resident and outspoken critic of longtime Rwandan President Paul Kagame, has drawn international concern. Rusesabagina disappeared in August during a visit to Dubai and was paraded in handcuffs days later in Rwanda.

His family asserts that the charges against him are politically motivated. Rusesabagina asserts that he was kidnapped. Rwanda’s president had hinted that Rusesabagina had been tricked into boarding a flight to Rwanda, a country he left in 1996.

In court on Friday, Rusesabagina denounced the pastor Niyomwungere, whom he has said “betrayed” him.

Niyomwungere said an unnamed person connected him with Rusesabagina in 2017 in Brussels, and they become friends.

He said that in one conversation, Rusesabagina admitted that rebels backed by his opposition platform were responsible for an attack inside Rwanda. The pastor alleged that Rusesabagina showed no remorse.

Niyomwungere said last year he started working on a plan with the Rwanda Investigation Bureau to capture Rusesabagina. “I prayed to God to give me courage and arrest this man. I prayed for a month,” he said.

Opportunity came when Rusesabagina said he planned to travel to Burundi, which neighbors Rwanda. Niyomwungere said he alerted the Rwanda Investigation Bureau contact.

Rwanda’s government has alleged that Rusesabagina was going to Burundi to coordinate with armed groups based there and in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

On Friday, Rusesabagina said all his rights have been taken away, and his international lawyers have been refused. Rwanda’s attorney general last month said in a video accidentally sent to Al-Jazeera that authorities had intercepted messages between Rusesabagina and his legal team.

“How can you say my rights have been respected when I spent the first three days of captivity at an unknown location, blindfolded, tied legs and hands?” Rusesabagina asked.

When the trial resumes Wednesday, the court will rule on whether Rusesabagina was kidnapped and is in Rwanda illegally. The court earlier rejected his argument that a Rwandan court cannot try him because he is no longer a citizen.

Rusesabagina’s family has said he has no chance at a fair trial because of his outspoken criticism of Kagame and human rights abuses. They fear he might die behind bars from poor health. - Associated Press/Los Angeles Times

US Senate passes $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill by slim 50-49 margin

The Senate passed a US $1.9 trillion Covid-19 economic relief package Saturday by a razor-thin voting margin of 50-49.

The bill went through a few last-minute changes to get to the finish line, back to the House, and on US President Joe Biden’s desk as early as next week. 


While a majority of Americans will still be receiving a US$1,400 cheque, Biden initially wanted to cast a wider net for those eligible for such payments.

In the end, both sides compromised on limiting the scope to single filers who earn an annual income of less than $75,000 and joint filers who make less than $150,000.

Progressives were also forced to lower the federal unemployment supplement from $400 to $300 per week.

This amendment proved to be a necessary concession after progress to pass the bill was single-handedly halted by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who supported the proposal because he felt giving Americans $100 more every month in unemployment wouldn’t motivate them to get back to work.

“We want people to get back to work.

“We’re gonna have a hard time getting people ready to go back in to keep the economy going,” Manchin said, per Politico.

“It’d be awful for the doors to open up and there’s no one working. … That’s the problem.”

Manchin, a self-described “moderate conservative Democrat,” wields an exorbitant amount of power whenever something as politically divided as Biden’s economic relief bill hits the Senate floor for a vote.

The $1.9 trillion package didn’t receive a single Republican vote, with Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska absent due to a death in the family.

While conservative lawmakers have tooth and nail to make changes to Biden’s bill, a Vox poll reveals nearly half of Republican voters prefer getting a deal done as quickly as possible, even as the package currently stands.  Stuff


UK's international trade minister Ranil Jayawardena and Kenya’s cabinet secretary for trade, Betty Maina, signed the deal in London on 8 December. Photo CityAM


The recently signed trade deal between the UK and Kenya will be extended to Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania, according to multiple media reports in Kenya.

The announcement follows weeks of threats by members of the House of Lords as well as Kenyan MPs not to ratify the trade agreement, which was signed in December of last year.

According to a report in regional newspaper The East African this weekend, the Economic Partnership Agreement agreed between the UK and Kenya will be open to all EAC member states.

This means that businesses from Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Tanzania can export and offer their products into the UK on a no-tariff, no-quota basis, once the deal has been ratified.

Breakthrough after threats

This weekend’s ‘breakthrough’ – as several newspapers in East-Africa called the extension of the deal – followed weeks of threats on both sides of the Sahara not to ratify the deal.

In London, the House of Lords said two weeks ago it would need more time to ratify the agreement amid concerns the UK government had not addressed the potential impact of the pact on regional cohesion in the East Africa region.

The House of Lords accepted a proposal by its International Agreements Committee to postpone ratification by 21 days.

Meanwhile, a majority of MPs in Nairobi, Kenya, said late last week that they refused to ratify the economic partnership with the UK as they accused the government of “sneaking in documents that had not been tabled in [the Kenyan] Parliament,” according to newspaper Business Daily Africa this weekend.

The lawmakers reportedly said that, until they are fully aware of the details of the trade arrangements, the agreement cannot come into force.

Their main concern evolved around goods exported from the UK to Kenya, saying the types of products that would fall under an agreed clause – that some goods can be shipped into Kenya duty-free for a period of 25 years – had not been specified.

While it remains unclear that these issues have been fully addressed, cabinet secretary Betty Maina told The EastAfrican newspaper that “the UK is providing Kenya and all its EAC neighbours a secure, long-term and predictable basis for deepening their access to the UK market.”

UK-Kenyan trade deal

The UK-Kenyan Economic Partnership Agreement was signed in London on 8 December by UK’s international trade minister Ranil Jayawardena and Kenya’s cabinet secretary for trade, Betty Maina.

The deal provides Kenyan businesses duty-free access to the UK market, aimed at supporting jobs and economic development in Kenya, as well as to avoid disruption to UK businesses as they maintain tariff-free supply routes for Kenya’s high-quality flowers.

The UK is a major market for British and Kenyan exporters of tea, coffee, flowers and fresh vegetables.

According to UK government data, the biggest import to the UK from Kenya in 2019 were, coffee and spices, with a market value of around £121m, vegetables at £79m as well as live trees and plants, mostly flowers, for around £54m.

The UK market accounts for 43 per cent of total exports of vegetables from Kenya as well as at least 9 per cent of its cut flowers. In 2019, UK-Kenya trade was worth an estimated £1.4bn. - Michiel Willems, CityAM

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