Amid public outcry, citizens in Rwanda are calling for the resignation of Speaker of Parliament Alfred Mukezamfura for his alleged role in the country’s 1994 genocide. Mukezamfura is accused of inciting ethnic Hutus to mount attacks on the minority Tutsis during the slaughter 12 years ago. The evidence is reportedly contained in an article he allegedly wrote when he was director of a pro-government newspaper. Meanwhile, Mukezamfura has refused to resign, challenging his accusers to provide proof of his complicity in the genocide. It is estimated that one million people, mainly Tutsis, died during the hundred-day killing spree.
Rwandan sources say calls for the speaker’s resignation intensified when he appeared before a Gacaca court to defend himself against various forms of allegations. Mukezamfura has yet to appear before any criminal court to answer the charges.
Senior members of government, as well as some members of parliament are also accused of participating in the genocide. But the government and the ruling party maintain that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Shyaka Kanuma is chief editor of Focus newspaper. He spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey about the call for the country’s speaker of parliament to resign.
“It’s been almost two years now, ever since people began calling for his resignation. Mainly because Mr. Alfred Mukezamfura is suspected of having participated in inciting the genocide in 1994 at the time he was an editor of INVAHO, which is a state owned newspaper. One of the media organs of the state wrote an article that allegedly incited members of the Hutu ethnic group to go and massacre members of the Tutsi ethnic group. As you will remember, the genocide was all about one ethnic trying to exterminate the other…. I said allegedly because I have tried to find this article and maybe some one removed it from the records. But people who read the paper during that time said they saw his byline on it, and they are convinced that he is one of the people who was the ideologue behind the genocide,” he said.
Kanuma explains the reasons behind Mukezamfura’s refusal to resign.
“Actually, if he resigns, then he will be in a vulnerable situation. You remember that he is the Speaker of Parliament, which grants him a lot of immunity from prosecution. And such a high-ranking member of government, not many judges are going to easily begin hauling him before a court, but mainly because he has his immunity. If he resigns, he would be basically stripping himself of the immunity he has. And I’m sure that that might be giving him nightmares,” Kanuma noted.
He says people have been speculating that the speaker is influencing some members of parliament not to implement Article 90 of a law governing parliament, which says that anybody accused of committing a criminal offense can cease his parliamentary duties until proven innocent.
“I have heard the allegations myself. But then we also have to look at who actually are the people who appoint other officials to political posts. At the moment, Mr. Mukezamfura enjoys the protection of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), which is the ruling party…” he said.
Kanuma says the Kagame-led government is yet to react to the call by Rwandese for the speaker of parliament to resign.
“As usual, they are not reacting much in public. I’m sure there must be a lot of discussions and a lot of calls for this and that in private where no one looks at them,” Kanuma said.
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