It is easy to look at problems like genocide and think that it is too big to tackle, too depressing to think about, and too much to handle. That is unfortunate because there are things we all can do. We can refuse to buy from companies that benefit from genocide. Kirin Beer, for example has a huge contract with the Burmese Army, which is active in killing Muslims and Christians throughout Myanmar. We can write letters to the editor when we read stories about it. We can let our elected representatives know how we feel.
Today is “International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime” or “Genocide Prevention Day.” Accordingly, I wrote about Paul Rusesabagina who is a kidnap victim and is being held in Kigali on trumped-up terrorism charges.
You don’t have to kidnap real criminals
If a government approaches the United States with evidence that a criminal lives within the U.S., there is a legal process that is followed to allow American legal authorities to evaluate the evidence and act accordingly. This has been followed in the case of at least four Rwandans who were deported back to Rwanda. Had President Paul Kagame had any real evidence against Paul Rusesabagina, he could have presented it to American officials and if they deemed it credible, they would have sent Rusesabagina back to Kigali.
You can read about how ICE enforced this here and here. While the “evidence” against Rusesabagina is dubious (at best), Kagame human rights record is pretty clear. People who oppose him suffer. According to a U.S. State Department report, issued in 2019, people who disagree with Kagame are killed, disappear, and/or are tortured.
Paul Rusesabagina is a U.S. permanent resident (lives in San Antonio, Texas) and a Belgian citizen. The Rwandan government has no jurisdiction over him. Legitimate governments with legitimate concerns do not resort to kidnapping people.
As we commemorate the prevention of genocide, the time has come to free this hero. You can read more here.
When someone you know and/or love is the victim of a murder, it sucks but you know how to respond. You may be sad, angry, confused and feel a host of other emotions. But how do you react when you know someone who has murdered people?
Things in the news happen to other people
Before I moved back to Stony Brook, New York, I was in Gainesville, Florida. From time to time, I look through the local news down there and may check out the Gainesville Sun. On two occasions this year, I have seen new articles that made me think, I am glad I don’t know those people or something similar. The first time was when I read that a family from the Gainesville area had been killed in a plane crash. A counselor I had seen, Jody Lamont’s family was going to a funeral when they were killed. I still have a hard time accepting that.
Saw a murder in the news and thought, I think I know that guy.
The second time was this week when I read that Kivi Ellis shot and killed his girlfriend, Shelby Mathis, and their three-month-old son, Gideon. I know Kivi, 26. I have met his girlfriend and older children, who were found hiding under a bed. I have met his family. I am not going to claim to have known them all that well but still. Kivi always seems like a decent guy. He certainly didn’t seem like someone who would murder anyone.
While I didn’t see Kivi as a violent person, the signs were clearly there. In 2014, Kivi beat the same woman so badly her liver was cut and she suffered a broken rib as well as other injuries. For this, he was given a year of house arrest and four more of probation. Some people have criticized the judge for not sending him to prison then but from what I can tell, this was Kivi’s first arrest and this country does not take domestic violence as seriously as it should or could.
The problem is that he violated both his community control (house arrest) and probation. While he did complete an inpatient substance abuse treatment program, it doesn’t look like he got the real help he needed to control his anger. That’s one drawback of the criminal justice system. Violating probation and/or community control only gets you more punishment, not better treatment.
After Kivi was arrested in 2014, Shelby’s parents wrote the court and asked them not to revoke a no-contact order. Shelby herself wrote asking for the opposite. This is one of the issues with domestic violence cases. As someone who has experienced this in a different way (parental abuse), I can attest to how hard it can be to go against a person who has hurt you. The rest of my family was less supportive than Shelby’s parents but I am sure they are wondering today what could have been done to prevent this tragedy.
I could go into the statistics showing when women are murdered, the most common culprit is a significant other but I am not going to do that today. All I know today is that someone I know and liked has done something horrible. Two people are dead and the lives of many more have been changed. This is a tragedy for all of us and I am not sure how to feel about anything right now.
I have written about murder on a large scale as in genocide. You can read that here.
A thousand years ago, I moved away from Long Island. About a year ago, I moved back. Like the kids in It, being away from here conferred some kind of amnesia about this place. I don’t that’s really a Derry-specific thing, I think when you move away from where you grew up, you lose your connection to it. This is especially true if you do not maintain personal ties to the region.
I grew up in Stony Brook. While I didn’t live full time in the house that I am in now, I was here enough. My house was half a mile from here and my grandmother lived here.
Not only was moving back at all a bit like jumping into cold water, but I have also learned a lot since becoming a homeowner. I have always rented and didn’t realize how good I had it! Something breaks down and all I did was call the landlord. Now when something breaks down either I fix it (sometimes I do!) or I call someone who charges me a ton to do the work. I worry about wind, trees, bees, the septic system and roof. I swear if the town of Brookhaven told me they were putting in a sewer system, I would orgasm on the spot.
The wildlife has changed quite a bit since I was growing up here. Deer are everywhere. There must be more ducks because there is a duck hunting season now. And the last new creature I have found is the Burrowing Owl.
One night over the summer, I shot up in bed terrified because of the noise I heard. It sounded like rattlesnakes were in the trees all around the house. While I never knew them to live on Long Island, nor did I think they climb trees or fly, it is 2020 and maybe flying rattlesnakes were the new murder hornets.
For several days, I heard the noises and was stressed out. The cat heard the noises and was stressed out, too. Turns out it was just the Burrowing Owls.
UPDATE: For the second day in a row, Paul’s
lawyer in Kigali was denied access to see him in the jail. The Rwanda Investigation
Bureau has said that someone called on behalf of Paul Rusesabagina to say that
they had a team of lawyers for him but that is not true. He has had no Consular
visits. While the Rwanda Government said that they talked to his sons about
visiting him, that is not true. Paul’s wife has called the jail and has not
been allowed to talk to him.
Kitty Kurth, Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina FoundationEmail: firstname.lastname@example.orgPhone:
Wrongly Taken and Arrested in Rwanda
Rusesabagina, the humanitarian famous for saving 1,200 refugees during the 1994
Rwandan genocide, whose true story was told in the film Hotel Rwanda, has
been arrested while traveling.
believe Paul Rusesabagina was kidnapped and taken by extraordinary rendition to
Rwanda,” said a spokesperson for the family. “We knew he was flying to Dubai
for a meeting from San Antonio and return to San Antonio on Tuesday per his
flight bookings. (He took Emirates 236 from Chicago to Dubai on Thursday,
August 27 and was scheduled to return from Dubai to Chicago on Emirates 235 on
Wednesday, September 2 Confirmation JYJQF6. He had a separate itinerary from
San Antonio to Chicago and back.) We have read press reports that he got
on to a plane that traveled from Dubai to Kigali. We do not know whether he
walked on to the plane misled by the destination, or was dragged on to plane.
Either way he was a Belgian citizen being taken against his will in to Rwanda.
Paul Rusesabagina would never knowingly get on to a plane bound for Kigali.
Kagame’s forces have attempted to harm Rusesabagina repeatedly over the last
fifteen years. Rusesabagina would know that if he went to Kigali he would end
up dead, disappeared, or in prison.
ended up under arrest in Kigali. He is being held by President Paul Kagame’s
government on false charges. He is a regular critic of human rights violations
in Rwanda, and the Rwandan government regularly brings false charges against
all critics in order to try to silence them.
Rwandan government has been attempting to discredit Rusesabagina since the
movie Hotel Rwanda appeared in 2004. He is seen as a famous Rwandan in exile
who is embarrassing to Kagame and his authoritarian government. The various
charges against Rusesabagina were shown to be false on many occasions, but
Rwanda continued to pursue him. Rwandan agents have regularly followed
Rusesabagina for over a decade, including invading his home, threatening his
life, and frequently attempting to disrupt his public and private speeches.