Hundreds of Rwandan protestors marched on the British embassy in the capital Kigali Wednesday demanding London release their spy chief, arrested at the weekend for alleged crimes following the 1994 genocide.
British police detained 54-year-old general Karenzi Karake at Heathrow airport on Saturday on a Spanish arrest warrant that was issued as part of an investigation into alleged crimes during and after the Rwanda conflict, including the murder of Spanish aid workers.
The around 300 protestors chanted “Free the general,” with some carrying photographs of the country’s spy chief. One protester held a placard that read “Demeaning Africans is not acceptable,” quoting Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo’s angry response on Twitter to Karake’s arrest.
The Rwandan government has condemned the detention of Karake, who has been President Paul Kagame’s top spy since 2011, branding his arrest an “outrage.”
“We strongly believe that General Karenzi has no case to answer in the UK and we are going to camp here until he is released,” said protestor Apollo Munanura.
Joel Ntihenuka, an engineer who was among the demonstrators, called Karake’s detention “improper and unjust”.
“We are here to demand an immediate release of General Karenzi Karake who was illegally detained by the UK authorities over unsubstantiated claims,” said protestor Herbert Muhire, delivering a message from protesters to Britain’s High Commissioner.
Karake is part of a circle of top military officers in the former Rwandan Patriotic Front rebel movement.
The rebels ended the 1994 genocide by Hutu extremists which left an estimated 800,000 people dead, mostly minority Tutsis.
British High Commissioner William Gelling gave a brief statement, saying he understood the protestors “frustrations” but that the arrest “was on legal obligations based on the Spanish indictments”, and that London remained “a close partner and maintains a good relationship with Rwanda.”