RDF spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jules Rutaremara confirmed that Majyambere visited, saying that he was traveling in his official capacity as a staff director at Rwanda's military academy, along with two other RDF officers. They were interested, Rutaremara said, in starting a Rwandan war college, modeled in part after those in the U.S. The U.S. Army has an internationally respected military staff college at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, where the Rwandan delegation stayed from May 15 to 21, according to Leavenworth media relations official Rebecca Steed. Despite the Spanish indictment, the Interpol red notice, and what reports suggest may have been temporary arrest upon landing in the U.S., Majyambere was able to travel freely throughout the country. He even met with Brigadier General Sean McFarland, the fort's deputy commandant.
The United States and Spain share an extradition treaty, which enables both countries to detain and extradite anyone indicted by the other country's justice system. It's unclear why, then, the Rwandan government would risk sending Majyambere to the U.S., knowing that the extradition treaty compelled his arrest. But the RDF says they weren't concerned, and that Majyambere's case never came up during preparations for his visit to the United States. "You secure a guarantee [not to arrest] after discussions and negotiations," said spokesperson Rutaremara over email. "RDF did not discuss or negotiate with anyone regarding Majyambere's case."
That the U.S. government would choose not to object to an accused war criminal's official presence in the United States -- tolerating his presence even after law enforcement learned of the red notice, and allowing him to return home unmolested -- reveals the U.S.'s complicated relationship with the Rwandan government and with international law itself.
Majyambere's case stands at the center of two interrelated diplomatic subplots: the U.S.'s growing wariness of Rwandan president Paul Kagame, and its longtime ambivalence towards international legal mechanisms, like the International Criminal Court or the still-controversial idea of universal jurisdiction for human rights-related crimes.
Both stances are fraught with contradictions. On Rwanda, the United States supports the Kagame government for its stability and overall competence, although human rights concerns have caused the relationship to cool. In the years after the Rwandan genocide, "The view was, 'Look, this is a rough neighborhood and the value of having a stable ally that actually has control over territory is worth kind of looking the other way,'" Laura Seay, an assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College with an expertise in Central Africa, told me. "What we've seen in the last couple years is a shift away form those policies," and a shift towards not being as congratulatory and not discussing Rwanda as one of the 'golden boys of Africa.'" Seay said that, significantly, the United States did not even congratulate Kagame on his reelection last year, which he won with 93 percent of the vote amid allegations of fraud.
U.S. policy on international law is even murkier. The U.S. still hasn't signed on to the Rome Statute to participate in the International Criminal Court, despite its heavy rhetorical support for human rights. This isn't quite as hypocritical as it would seem: incidents like former vice president Richard Cheney's indictment in Nigeria last year demonstrate that universal jurisdiction has its setbacks. Jeremy Rabkin, a law professor at George Mason University, explained that an overly-broad concept of legal jurisdiction could undermine global diplomacy and sew more chaos than it prevents. "Criminal prosecution is the most severe thing you can do short of unleashing troops or cruise missiles," Rabkin said. "There's a whole range of things you can do before you get up to that."
In May of
2008, Rwanda, international legal theory, and even Majyambere himself
converged in a meeting between then-U.S. ambassador at-large for war
crimes issues Clint Williamson and Spanish officials -- a meeting documented in a Wikileaks cable.
"Ambassador Williamson urged the Spanish government to reach out to the
Rwandan government at the political level to try to ease tensions over
the Spanish judiciary's indictment of 40 Rwandan officials in connection
with the deaths of nine Spanish citizens between 1994 and 2000," the
U.S.-authored cable says. Later in the meeting, Spanish officials
admitted that the indictment had strained relations with Rwanda; the
Spanish Director General for Africa even implied that Judge Andreu had
been reckless in indicting scores of high-ranking members of the Rwandan
Deputy DG for Africa Sanchez-Benedito told Williamson May 19 that the family and associates of the nine Spanish victims had convinced the Spanish judge to take on the case and that all of the testimony and evidence gathered pointed to forces within the RPF as responsible. He said the judge therefore decided to expand the prosecution to include nearly the entire Rwandan military and senior government apparatus with the exception of Kagame, noting that he was exempted solely because of his immunity as head of state.
The indictment -- which included Majyambere -- had apparently become a diplomatic burden to Spain, Rwanda, and the United States. And, according to a human rights researcher who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the indictment is "not very well put together," and "too wide-ranging in the number of cases it's trying to cover."
But the case did not go away. Rwanda was forced to recall defense attaché Rugumya Gaginya from its embassy in Washington, DC after Andreu's court indicted him. Last year, Stop Impunity in Rwanda, a Spanish organization which also helped push for the indictments, led a campaign to extradite former RDF official Kayumba Nyamwasa from South Africa.
The indictments still carry the force of law, putting the U.S. government in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between international legal norms that it has yet to fully embrace, and a problematic relationship with a regional ally -- an ally whose human rights record is getting increasingly more ominous.