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Extradition treaty a tool for rights abuse

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st July 2005 03:00 AM

For Uganda and Rwanda to set up a permanent commission in their respective foreign affairs ministries to deal with matters of development is a welcome gesture of good will from both sides.

For Uganda and Rwanda to set up a permanent commission in their respective foreign affairs ministries to deal with matters of development is a welcome gesture of good will from both sides.

For Uganda and Rwanda to set up a permanent commission in their respective foreign affairs ministries to deal with matters of development is a welcome gesture of good will from both sides. But the details and terms of reference of this commission is and must be a matter for public interest and consumption and not about regime preservation and consolidation as it all appears. It has emerged that extradition of political opponents of these respective regimes is just one of the cornerstones for the much acclaimed friendship and sisterhood that was hyped by the Rwandan foreign affairs minister, Charles Murigande, at the launch of this commission in Kampala.
I am an advocate of stable regimes, regimes that respect the rule of law and fundamental human rights of their citizens. As Uganda transits from the Movement to a multi-ideological political dispensation, tolerance of divergent political views by all players is a necessity. Uganda and Rwanda have built functional states but to an extent, the coercive arms of these states display a high-handedness that still makes democracy a dream. There is need to re-orientate institutions and their managers to a new global thinking. The right to political expression is not granted by the state and all African state managers must re-align their thinking to this reality.
On February 26, 1996, Seth Sendashonga survived an assassination attempt but two years later, on May 16, 1998, he was assassinated in exile in Nairobi. The man arrested with a firearm at the scene of the attack was identified as an employee of the Rwandese Embassy in Nairobi. From Kigali to his exile in Nairobi, the man was running for his life but his hunters were determined to finish him off. The finger points to a hidden regime opponents’ elimination policy, a crude policy by any standards, even for dictators of the 21st Century. The sentencing of former Rwandese president, Pasteur Bizimungu, and seven co-defendants, is further proof of regime willingness to subvert the Rwandese criminal justice system in an attempt to eliminate all potential political opposition. You don’t need a Ph.D in laws to understand the flawed legal justification of Bizimungu’s detention for 15 years. The hunt for the 30 students who refused to do French as a subject at Butare University and their subsequent fleeing points to serious internal political contradictions that cannot be addressed by extradition treaties. The deportation of Asuman Bisiika, formerly editor of the Rwanda Herald in 2002, for publication of critical but genuine public policy concerns points to regime high-handedness. All this goes to thwart genuine public involvement in societal governance and thus a negation of the tenets of democratic principle for any civilised society.
The continuous fleeing of government officials across border paths from Rwanda points to latent political contradictions, which cannot be addressed by extradition treaties. Former speaker Sebarenzi, former minister of defence, Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Habyarimana, army officers and a politically conciliatory jailed former president, Bizimungu for 15 years on tramped up charges cannot be addressed by treaties but a serious effort to address genuine and legitimate internal political concerns.

Uganda is not clean either. Dr Kizza Besigye, Col. Samson Mande, among others, are in self-imposed exile citing political persecution. If the extradition is not in the interest of regime preservation, in whose interest is it? People hunted for their political views must be given a safety valve to live for another day. People who have genuine political disagreements will stop criticising the excesses of regimes for lack of where to run in case of being hunted down.
Political tolerance with institutional back-up as a policy in Uganda and Rwanda for all shades of constructive political engagements renders the extradition treaty irrelevant. Uganda must not be forced into crude policy prescriptions by Rwanda, all in the name of good neighbourliness. Uganda must keep on track to address internal political issues, since the Extradition Treaty looks like a diversionary manoeuvre that will give a false sense of security to regimes than the people they are meant to protect. We Ugandans must be seen to stand for the rule of law, a desire to uphold the fundamental right to life and not surrender ourselves to machinations that do not adhere to our desire for a free society for all.
We must rightly demand that the regimes in Kigali and Kampala soften their hard-line stance towards those with divergent political views as a catalyst to creating a calmer internal political environment and galvanise stability.
I appeal to the Uganda Government to strike extradition off the terms of reference of the Rwanda-Uganda Permanent Commission till the glaring political issues are publicly and institutionally resolved.

The writer is a biochemist/network engineer

Extradition treaty a tool for rights abuse

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