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Arusha, April 17, 2007 (FH) – The pardon given on April 6 by Rwandan President Paul Kagame to his predecessor Pasteur Bizimungu, sentenced to 15 years in prison for, among other crimes, inciting civil disobedience, was the result of a political calculus, several specialists interviewed by the Hirondelle Agency assessed.   For the French sociologist Andre Guichaoua, “Pasteur Bizimungu’s freedom is a purely political decision just as his sentence in 2004 was.  The interest is in what it reveals on the political mores of the current regime in Kigali.”  The  French academic, author of numerous publications on Rwanda and an expert witness close to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), assessed that even if the former President thus had the luck to have his life spared, he is “now permanently condemned to silence.”   Guichaoua who was, for many years, a professor at the National University of Rwanda (UNR), meanwhile, sketched a less than flattering portrait of Bizimungu.  He recalled that the former President is a “former member of the committees of public safety which set about the hunt for Tutsis in 1973, then a disgruntled official of the regime of (Juvenal) Habyarimana.”  “Pasteur Bizimungu was chosen to occupy the post of the President of the Republic in July 1994 because this specifically permitted the real leader of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), Paul Kagame, to neutralize the primary figure in waiting, Seth Sendashonga, the grand intellectual and militant Hutu of the RFP.   Guichaoua accuses Bizimungu of having participated in “the progressive elimination of Hutu figures won over” by the RPF including Sendashonga, assassinated in Nairobi in 1998.  “Without stature, nor well established within the RPF which he rejoined in 1990, Pasteur Bizimungu took on without discussion the tasks which were awaiting him that went along with the RPF stronghold on the country,” the sociologist added.   For the American historian and human rights activist Alison Des Forges, Bizimungu’s release was meant to please Western donors.  “Having a former president sentenced and still in prison after a trial which was not fair looked bad.  His release is a gesture to the international community,” she told AFP the day of the former president’s release.  “There is a strong consensus in Rwanda that investors are needed (…) there were strong external pressures,” including possibly the United States, Mrs. Des Forges, also an expert witness for the ICTR, said.   The Belgian political scientist, Filip Reyntjens, was of the same opinion.  “There has been for a long time a rather discrete pressure in this sense on the part of certain partners, specifically the United States, and it is perhaps nothing but that,” the Belgian professor stated.  Reyntjens was meanwhile surprised that the former Minister of Transportation under Bizimungu, Charles Ntakirutinka “did not benefit from the same measure.”   President of Rwanda from 1994 until 2000, Bizimungu was placed in prison in 2002 after having attempted to start an opposition political party immediately accused by the regime of preaching ethnic hatred. Placed on trial, he was sentenced in June 2004 for criminal enterprise, embezzlement of public funds, and inciting civil disobedience.  After his sentence, he refused to ask for a pardon from the head of state who nevertheless did so.  Speaking on Radio Rwanda the day of his release on Friday, April 6, Pasteur Bizimungu said that he was tired and expressed his gratitude to President Kagame.   PB/CV © Hirondelle News Agency