Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Rwanda: Former Presidential Candidate Diane Rwigara and Mother Adeline Walk Free

Diane Rwigara, a critic of Rwanda's President Diane Rwigara: Woman faced 22 years in jail for criticising her government
Jeannette Daniel | 08 December, 2018, 16:13

Meanwhile she and her mother spent over a year in prison before their release on bail in October.

Rwigara, 37, was arrested in September 2017 after her attempt to run in Rwanda's presidential election was denied on grounds she had allegedly forged the signatures of supporters for her bid. She was arrested after trying to run in last year's election, and is the rare person to publicly criticize the government from inside the country.

The Rwandan election commission had said that some of the 600 signatures she had submitted - a requirement for aspiring presidential candidates - were forged, and that some of the people on her list were dead. Kagame won a third term in office with 98% of the vote.

But the underlying message remains that dissent will not be tolerated. But the court ruled that these were merely conversations between individuals and did not prove that she was promoting insurrection.

"I will continue my campaign to fight for the rights of all Rwandans", a surprised but happy Rwigara told reporters after celebrating. "I am continuing with my political journey. because there's still a lot that needs to be done in our country".

"The lie is that everything is well in Rwanda and I just talk about [the reality] which is the high level of unemployment, the high level of poverty, the disappearances, the killings, all that, and they are not ready for that to be exposed".

Speaking to Sky News hours before the verdict was announced, Ms Rwigara said she was targeted by the state because she is prepared to challenge Kagame and his ruling clique.

Assinapol was an influential industrialist who played an important role in financing the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) in the 1990s before later falling out with its leaders.

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Amnesty International welcomed the result, but said the mother and daughter "should never have faced charges for expressing their views". "The judgement must be a first step in reversing the ongoing trend of repression in Rwanda".

The Rwandan ministry of justice said it respected the verdict and would "carefully study its implications", though it added: "We condemn all attempts by external actors to inappropriately influence judicial processes in Rwanda".

Ms Rwigara has repeatedly accused President Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his party's unyielding grip on power since it assumed control after the country's civil war.

Kagame has won worldwide praise for presiding over a peaceful and rapid economic recovery in Rwanda since the genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Four other accused relatives, who are not in the country, were also cleared of all charges and found not guilty.

In September, 2,000 prisoners were released, including Victoire Ingabire, another prominent opposition leader.

Since her arrest, Rwigara's brothers and sister have been interrogated, family assets were forcibly auctioned off to pay off a multimillion-dollar tax claim and a hotel they owned was demolished for allegedly failing to abide by city guidelines.

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