A difficult, predictable, but somehow necessary path to Rwandan democracy

History is often an eternal repetition of the human experience. During the events leading to the 60s in Rwanda, there is a contextual significant anecdotal story referring to the social unrest which prevailed at the time, and which was caused by the oppression suffered from the Tutsi aristocracy by the Hutu population.

Joseph Gitera, a Hutu political leader from that period, who apparently was as vocal as Victoire Ingabire could be about the concerns of Hutus under the regime of Paul Kagame, was considered by the ruling Tutsi as the most representative voice of the then oppressed citizens.

The then Tutsi King, Mutara Rudahigwa, after lengthy consultations with his closest advisers on the political situation concerning a variety of pressing demands from the Hutu population as presented by Joseph Gitera and other Hutu leaders, said that killing the Hutu politician would not solve the problems, but instead finding the root causes of the population’s demands and addressing them would do.

Umuvugizi Newspaper was banned for six months in order to let it not cover objectively, among other Rwandan issues, the rigged elections of August 9th, 2010. After the elections, the ban was lifted. But the newspaper, which had seen one of its journalists, Jean Leonard Rugambage assassinated on June 24th, told the Rwanda Media High Council, that it would only return to operate from Rwanda, once the issues it raised and got it banned will have been addressed by Paul Kagame’s regime.

On January 9th, 2010, in Brussels, while replying to a question from a supporter about her security once in Rwanda, Victoire Ingabire said, ‘I don’t have any army to protect me. I have confidence in the security of the Rwandan government to protect its citizens. But I am also conscious that they may imprison me or kill me. What I demand from those left behind is to continue from where I will have fallen.’

She has been continuously harassed, intimidated starting straight from the day of her arrival in Kigali, on January 17th, 2010. In April, she was arrested, imprisoned and then released on bail. Since then she was under house arrest, with restricted freedom of movement. Silvain Sibomana, Secretary General of FDU-Inkingi provides in the following lines a detailed account of Victoire Ingabire‘s situation from October 8th, 2010 onwards.

08th October – 04:00 pm – Police siege starts. Until the arrest on 14th October, Victoire Ingabire remained indoors.

09th October Victoire asked the police spokesperson what was going on and she was told there was nothing to worry about.

11th October – Victoire reached the Prosecutor Ruberwa on phone and asked whether the bail conditions had changed because of the police siege. The prosecutor seemed to be surprised and promised to ask the Criminal Investigation Department.

14th October – 12:50 pm – A police team entered the property, put Madame Victoire Ingabire under arrest, and took her to CID headquarters. The police spokesperson informed the public that she is arrested because of new evidence implicating her in the formation of a terrorist organization and that a key witness was arrested the day before along the DRC common border with documents and details implicating her.

14th October – In the evening, she is transferred to Kicukiro police detention facility.

14th October – In the evening, FDU-Inkingi team brought her a mattress, clothes, blanket and hygienic items. The food was taken to the detention center as well. All the items are given to the guards and never to the detainee.

15th October Two lawyers visited her, and noticed she was still in handcuffs since the arrest. She slept in a seated position on the floor, and no personal item was provided. She did not eat. The lead lawyer discussed the detention conditions with the security officers and was told that they did not make decision. He rushed to the CID headquarters and left with no assurance that the situation will improve.

16th October – The jailers decided to give only the blanket. She is still in handcuffs. No mattress, no clothes, no hygienic stuff. The lawyer discussed the situation with the hierarchy. In the evening, the handcuffs were removed for the night.  All the food provided is returned untouched. No member of the party or nobody from her house is allowed to see her, or to talk to her. There is a total blackout on her status. At this stage there was no doubt, she was not eating. We did not know whether she was given food or if she was unable to eat because of 24-hour handcuffs.

18th October – She is taken to Gasabo Court House for the Prosecutor’s interrogation. She is in the same outfit she had the time of her arrest. Her hair is undone; she is in handcuffs and looks weak.

18th October – Late night, a Medical Doctor is rushed to her cell. The blood pressure has dropped dangerously, and some medication is given. The Police accepted this time to give the mattress and hygienic items.

19th October – The lawyer asked in a letter to the Police Commissioner to allow the client to go to hospital or to be seen by an independent Doctor.

18th – 21st October – She is subjected to Prosecutor’s interrogations at the Gasabo Court House. She is always brought in handcuffs. She is looking weak, exhausted and under duress.

21st October: Morning hours, the police rushed in again some medical staff and some medication is given again before the afternoon Prosecutor’s confrontation exercise with the state-prepared key witness Major Vital Uwumuremyi. During the confrontation, the key witness claimed that he was given in 2008 – 2009 at least 1,000 USD to create, train a rebel group and to purchase weapons. He informed that since his repatriation in Rwanda in February 2009, he has never been involved in any other rebel activity. This gives an impression that the terrorist allegations are over 2 years old and that police statements in this respect are not accurate, for a reason.

22nd October – She is again seen by police medical doctor. Until now, people from our political party are not allowed to see her. A bail hearing is supposed to happen on the 25th October at the Gasabo Court House.

26th October – The bail was refused.

It is unfortunate that political leaders, and among them African dictators particularly, don’t learn from the past. The more you oppress people, the more voices from the oppressed you radicalize against you. After the recent imprisonment of Victoire Ingabire, young Rwandans in Kigali announced that they wanted to go on a hunger strike to show to the world the level of injustice the imprisoned politician and those that she represents suffered under Paul Kagame’s regime. These are pacifist people who are ready to give up their lives for a cause they believe to be just, but without jeopardizing anybody else’s life. And unfortunately, radicals are not always pacifists. If I had to deal with any I would rather deal with a Victoire Ingabire rather than a Paul Kagame type. Only of course if I value human life.

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