Govt refutes Biti’s claim that Zimbabwe harboured Rwandan genocide fugitive

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By Felix Matasva

FOREIGN Affairs Deputy Minister, David Musabayana, has dismissed claims by Citizens Coalition for Change vice president, Tendai Biti that the government knowingly harboured Rwanda’s most wanted genocide fugitive, Protais Mpiranya.

Mpiranya was a former Rwandese Presidential Guard commander indicted for the slaughter of thousands of Rwandese and died in 2006 after hiding in Zimbabwe for four years.

Musabayana made these utterances on Wednesday in parliament.

Responding to Biti’s earlier request for a ministerial statement giving clarity to the subject, Musabayana said it was misleading to suggest that Zimbabwe harboured a criminal, since Mpiranya entered the country using valid Congolese identity documents, thereby complying with immigration regulations.

“To suggest that Zimbabwe harboured a wanted criminal is a clear distortion of facts. Anybody could have volunteered information on his whereabouts to our law enforcement authorities, which could have resulted in him being apprehended,” Musabayana said.

He said the fugitive identified himself as Ndume Sambao and the country later realised that he was Mpiranya after the International Criminal Tribunal Residual Mechanism requested to check his name in the records.

“The facts are clear, Honourable  Members, that Protais Mpiranya came to Zimbabwe as a Congolese national, fell sick, died and was buried at Harare’s Granville Cemetery. The allegation that his death was homicide has no basis, as the records indicate that he died from natural causes.

He was buried in Zimbabwe as the law does not discriminate in terms of burial rights between citizens and non-citizens.

“From day one, Zimbabwe cooperated fully with the investigation team. Actually, the office of the UN Prosecutor and the Zimbabwean authorities established a joint taskforce to coordinate in investigative activities and strengthen cooperation,” said Musabayana.

He added: “We are surprised that when criminals are found here people are quick to allege they are harboured. The government does not harbour criminals and is guided by the rule of law as a member of the international community which is conscious of its obligation under international law.”

Responding to Musabayana, Biti castigated Zimbabwe’s migrant policy and said the nation has got a very weak Refugee Act compared to Zambia, where he once sought asylum.

“We have a very weak legal system that deals with persons that seek refuge in our country. My suggestion is that the Minister of foreign affairs must consider updating Zimbabwean law so that it incorporates the various instruments that now deal with refugees and asylum seekers into Zimbabwe,” Biti said.

He added: “That law will also deal with the obligation to report all unwelcome asylum seekers in Zimbabwe connected, for instance, with genocide or international crimes against humanity. The Minister must look at competitive laws, especially in countries that receive huge volumes of refugees including Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa.