Rwanda intelligence agents have been harassing suspected government opponents living abroad, including in Canada, according to a “secret” Canada Border Services Agency report disclosed in Federal Court.
The report by the CBSA National Security Screening Division described “a well-documented pattern of repression of Rwandan government critics, both inside and outside Rwanda” involving threats, attacks and killings.
The document said Rwanda had attempted to organize “indoctrination training” for youths in Canada but the event was canceled following a Canadian intelligence investigation into the harassment of Rwandans by spies loyal to President Paul Kagame.
While it said the Rwandan intelligence services were particularly active against Kagame’s critics in neighboring Uganda, the report went on to say that “attacks on opponents and critics have also taken place farther afield.”
In South Africa, a prominent government critic escaped an assassination attempt in 2010 while, in the United Kingdom, police warned two exiles in 2011 about “threats to their safety emanating from the Rwandan government,” it said.
The allegations of Rwandan intelligence activities are contained in an Inadmissibility Assessment report on Dick Patrick Muhenda, whom the CBSA alleged was involved in the Rwandan spy program. Last month, a judge called that “pure speculation.”
An ethnic Tutsi and Rwandan citizen educated in Uganda, Muhenda arrived in Canada in 2000. Weeks after his refugee claim was denied in 2001 he married a Canadian. Her application to sponsor him as a spouse was approved in principle in 2002 and sent for a security assessment. It languished for a decade until the CBSA War Crimes Unit determined there was insufficient evidence he had committed war crimes.
But then in January 2014, the CBSA national security screening division recommended that Muhenda be declared inadmissible to Canada “for membership in an organization known to have engaged in acts of espionage against a democratic government, institution or process.”
The assessment was based partly on information provided by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which interviewed Muhenda about his possible ties to the Rwandan government, Rwandan Patriotic Front and Rwandan Intelligence Service.
“We also have received information about the fact that you are working for the government in Rwanda, acting as a spy for denouncing people who don’t support Kagame,” he was told during a February 2014 immigration interview.
“Not true,” he replied. “Never.”
His immigration application was denied the following month. He appealed to the Federal Court, which recently ruled the government’s decision was unreasonable. The judge wrote that while Muhenda had initially lied to Canadian authorities (he said he was living in Tanzania prior to the 1994 genocide when he was really in Uganda), he had later owned up to his misrepresentations and they were not relevant to his security assessment.
“In addition, the officer’s conclusions regarding the likely involvement of the applicant and his family with the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) are based on pure speculation, centered on nothing more than presumptions about Rwandans of Tutsi ethnicity of apparent means that were part of the diaspora in Uganda,” wrote Justice Mary Gleason.
Mitchell Goldberg, Muhenda’s lawyer, said Thursday his client had three Canadian-born children and drove a bus for a living. He said an immigration officer “threw the kitchen sink” at him but the judge had properly recognized the speculative nature of the allegations.
The spying allegation appears to have originated with a former girlfriend, he said.
“As far as I could see, it comes from a bitter ex-girlfriend who was trying to denounce him, hurt him in any way she could. I guess she was trying to take revenge against him, that’s all you can see from what is available in the file.”
The Rwandan High Commission in Ottawa could not be reached for comment about the CBSA allegations. The judge, who was privy to an unedited version of the report, wrote that it “comments at length about the subversive actions of the Rwandan Intelligence service taken abroad, including in Canada.”