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Rwandan President Pardons Ex-Jailed Leader


Rwandan President Paul Kagame has warned the international community not to meddle into his country’s internal affairs. He however chided what he called the “guilty among them” to own up to their role in the country’s genocide. Meanwhile, President Kagame last week pardoned former president Pastuer Bizimungu who had been sentenced to fifteen years for forming a militia, embezzlement and inciting violence. Observers have hailed the pardon as a boost to the reconciliation process after the country’s genocide.

Tharcisse Karugarama is Rwanda’s minister of justice. From the capital, Kigali he told VOA via telephone that President Kagame has the constitutional privilege to grant a presidential pardon.

“The constitution of the Republic of Rwanda provides that the president of the republic can grant pardon. He has the discretion he has the prerogative to grant pardon to anybody for whatever offence that could have been committed. And the president of Rwanda has exercised that discretion to grant presidential pardon to former President Bizimungu… as I speak now, Bizimungu is out of prison and is back in his home,” he said.

Karugarama said skeptics cannot question the reasons behind the pardon. He said the president has that discretion to do so.

“I think when there is a discretion to do something, then that discretion can only be exercised by the person to whom it is granted. So the president, I think consulting his inner heart, consulting his own feelings and considering several issues or options has decided with his exclusive discretion to grant pardon to Pastuer Bizimungu… you cannot question why or how he has done it because the constitution and the criminal code does provide that the president of the republic can grant pardon,” Karugarama noted.

He said President Kagame might have considered a lot of things before granting the pardon.

“I think the president had various scenarios to consider that is what I’m imagining. He did consider Bizimungu as a former president of this country, that he led this country; he was the first president after the genocide. He did do wrong, he went through all the court processes, all the levels up to the Supreme Court…the only other option that was left was a presidential pardon,” he pointed out.

Karugarama said Rwandan’s have known the president to be one who spearheads the reconciliation process.

“I guess Rwandan’s are used to President Kagame giving some guidance over what we should be doing in terms of people who have wronged this country… the general political direction of this country, which is being pushed by President Kagame is to set up a stage for national unity for reconciliation, for stabilizing the nation, for dealing with the fractures that have beset the Rwandan society,” he said.

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