The Mother Theresa of Kigali

05 February 2007 by Franck Petit

"That was a strange kind of trial," whispered a disappointed Rwandan woman who, along with many relatives and supporters of the widow of Rwanda's ex-president, had come to watch her defend herself before the Refugee Appeals Board. It took six long hours of hearings on January 25 for this administrative jurisdiction to decide whether there were "serious reasons to believe" that Agathe Habyarimana had any responsibility in the 1994 genocide.

Based on this suspicion, OFPRA [Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons] denied her asylum application on January 4. Her lawyers appealed. It is now up to the appeals board to determine whether or not "Mrs. Agathe", who was evacuated from Kigali by the French authorities after the genocide began and has been living in France for the past ten years as a wealthy "undocumented" immigrant, will be granted political refugee status and be able stay in France with her children, who obtained the status. "Our jurisdiction will make its decision freely," assured Henri Desclaux, the session's presiding judge. "There are no special cases and if there were, that would be all the more reason to treat it as ordinary."

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