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Rwanda’s Kagame denies Paul Rusesabagina was kidnapped | Rwanda News



Rwandan President Paul Kagame denies that a detained opposition figure who inspired the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda was kidnapped in order to be brought back to the country, saying he was responsible for his own arrest.

Paul Rusesabagina is credited for saving 1,200 lives during the country’s 1994 genocide by letting people shelter in the hotel he was managing during the mass killings.

The outspoken government critic is now accused of supporting rebel violence in Rwanda. His family and supporters say they have not been able to speak to him and that he has not had access to a lawyer nearly a week after he was paraded in front of the media in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, in handcuffs.

Appearing on national television on Sunday, Kagame did not explain how Rusesabagina – who had lived outside Rwanda since 1996 and is a citizen of Belgium and has a US permanent residence permit – was brought back.

The 66-year-old’s family has said they believe he was “kidnapped” during a visit to Dubai and that he would never knowingly have boarded a plane to Kigali. 

But Kagame suggested that Rusesabagina came of his own accord.

“With kidnap, that was not the case, and he will attest that to himself. There was no kidnap. There was no wrongdoing in the process of his getting here,” Kagame said, describing the handling of the case as “flawless”.

The president suggested that Rusesabagina was told a story that fit into his expectations and ended up in Rwanda. 

“How he got here was more to do with himself than anybody else,” Kagame said. “And he will say it; when the time comes, he will the people what happened.”

The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation said Rusesabagina has had no consular visits, and it rejected the Rwandan government’s statement that it had talked to his sons about a potential visit as “not true”. 

“Paul’s wife has called the jail and has not been allowed to talk to him,” it said on Saturday.

The Rwandan government has said it issued an arrest warrant for Rusesabagina to answer charges of serious crimes including “terrorism”, arson, kidnap, and murder perpetrated against unarmed civilians. Police called him the suspected “founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including the Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change” (MRCD).

The MRCD has an armed wing, the National Liberation Front, that has been accused of attacks in 2018 and 2019. Rwanda arrested NLF spokesman Callixte Nsabimana last year.

“Rusesabagina heads a group of terrorists that have killed Rwandans. He will have to pay for these crimes,” Kagame said on Sunday. “Rusesabagina has the blood of Rwandans on his hands.”

Rusesabagina in the past has denied the charges that he financially supports Rwandan rebels, saying he is being targeted for criticising the Kagame government over human rights abuses. 

Rwandan authorities have not publicly shared any international arrest warrant. They have referred to “international cooperation” but given no details.

No trial date set

Rusesabagina’s detention has prompted concern among human rights activists that this was the latest example of the Rwandan government targeting critics beyond its borders. 

Rusesabagina has received several international honours, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, for helping to save lives during Rwanda’s genocide, in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

The US government has said it expects the Rwandan government to provide “humane treatment, adhere to the rule of law and provide a fair and transparent legal process” for Rusesabagina.

It is not clear when Rusesabagina will appear in court. Rwandan law says a suspect can be in provisional detention for 15 days, renewable for up to 90 days.

Kagame said Rusesabagina’s trial will be held openly and conducted fairly.

“We are obligated to do this,” he said. “We want to do things in a right way.”

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Kasese COVID-19 task force restricts burials to mid-day




Kasese district task force has restricted all burials to mid-day to limit human interaction

Kasese district task force has restricted all burials to mid-day to limit human interaction

Kasese district COVID-19 task force has directed that all burial ceremonies in the district take place before mid-day to minimise human interaction.  

The order follows an upsurge of coronavirus disease cases in the district as the country continues to battle the second wave of the pandemic. Kasese district has recorded more than 160 positive COVID-19 cases and 4 deaths since the second wave began last month. 

Last week alone, the district registered 72 cases with five referrals. Joshua Masereka, the Kasese deputy resident district commissioner, says to limit the infections, they are trying to limit the time people spend on burials as a measure of enforcing the standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

He says that longer burial ceremonies often attract high numbers of people, allow a lot of time for interaction and violation of other procedures like social distancing. Masereka says that the burial time restriction applies to COVID-19 victims and other deaths. 

Gregory Kombi, the Bwera sub-county chairperson LC III has welcomed the directive, noting that people have deliberately failed to comply with the burial guidelines issued by the president.   

Jackeline Masika, a resident of Kasese questioned the relevancy of the directive by the task force if the numbers of mourners have already been restricted to 20 people. He says close relatives from far distant places are already barred from travelling to send off their loved ones and hence it makes no sense to define the burial times. 

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Wildfires burn across US West threatening Flagstaff, Arizona | Climate News




Dozens of wildfires were burning in hot, dry conditions across the western United States, including a blaze touched off by lightning that was moving towards northern Arizona’s largest city.

The mountainous city of Flagstaff was shrouded in smoke Monday. The national forest surrounding it announced a full closure set to begin later this week — the first time that has happened since 2006.

Intense heat that has hampered firefighting efforts more broadly was expected to moderate in the coming days. But, the National Weather Service noted it could bring uncertainty for fire crews.

“The humidity and the possibility of some scattered rainfall is a good thing,” said meteorologist Andrew Taylor. “The lightning is not a good thing.”

In California, firefighters still faced the difficult task of trying to contain a large forest fire in rugged coastal mountains south of Big Sur that forced the evacuation of a Buddhist monastery and nearby campground.

In Globe, Arizona, US, in early June, firefighters in Arizona were fighting to gain a foothold into an enormous wildfire, one of two that forced thousands of evacuations in rural towns and closed almost every major highway out of the area [File: Joseph Pacheco via AP]

In New Mexico, lightning-sparked blazes have been scorching the southern part of the state where a large portion of the Gila Wilderness remains closed, and fire officials are closely watching the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

More land has burned across Arizona so far to date with new wildfire starts quickly shifting resources. While humans are to blame for an overwhelming majority of wildfires, lightning started a 80sq-km (31sq-mile) blaze west of Sedona that was moving towards Flagstaff, called “the Rafael Fire”.

A top-tier management team had been ordered to oversee the blaze that is burning in grass, juniper, chaparral and ponderosa pine.

Some campers already evacuated, and residents of rural areas have been told to prepare to evacuate on a moment’s notice, said Coconino County sheriff’s spokesman Jon Paxton.

If the fire continues its northeastern push, hundreds of people in Flagstaff — a college city about two hours north of Phoenix — also could be affected, Paxton said.

Fire officials were mapping out a plan to starve the Rafael Fire of fuel as it moves through rugged terrain, canyons and wilderness, said fire information officer Dolores Garcia. As of Monday, it was moving parallel to Interstate 40 along the Coconino and Yavapai county lines.

The 7,283sq-km (2,812sq-mile) Coconino National Forest, a popular area for camping, hiking, boating and fishing, is shutting down Wednesday because of concerns it will not have enough resources to respond to any future wildfires.

The forest has only partially closed in recent years because of wildfire danger.

“We have limited resources, and we’re tapped right now,” said forest spokesman Brady Smith.

Arizona is at the highest level of preparedness for wildfires. A large wildfire burning near Superior, about 97km (60 miles) west of Phoenix, was nearly 70 percent contained Monday. The 730sq-km (282sq-mile) blaze was human-caused.

Residents near the small communities of Pine and Strawberry remain evacuated because of another wildfire that has hopped among treetops, with flames jumping ahead carried by wind. Some local roads also were closed.

Firefighting crews have yet to contain any of the wildfire’s perimeter. The lightning-sparked blaze was estimated at 132sq km (51sq miles) Monday and is being managed by a top-tier team.

In Utah, several wildfires were burning in bone-dry conditions. The largest near the small town of Enterprise in southern Utah forced evacuations during the weekend. But homeowners were allowed to return as containment reached 50 percent.

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Ethiopia Election 2021: Voters cast ballots in a twice delayed election




What has been heralded as a true test of democracy in Ethiopia, the twice postponed elections finally took place in the shadow of a pandemic, internal struggles in the country’s northern state of Tigray and boycotting by some of the country’s biggest opposition parties.

This poll is Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s first electoral test since coming to power in 2018.

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