At the time when Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmanese woman opposition leader is free from seven years of house arrest, and Birtukan Mideska, the Ethiopian woman opposition leader gets some freedom after two years of imprisonment, another African woman leader of the opposition, Ms Victoire Ingabire, starts her time in prison in Rwanda. The treatment inflicted to these political women personalities measures how rotten are the regimes in their respective countries. If not, it would be impossible to understand how calling for more freedom, justice, democracy, respect of basic human rights for people, less corruption in governing structures, could be a serious offence endangering national security and worth years of imprisonment.
On January 9th, 2010, Ms Victoire Ingabire, FDU-Inkingi leader, announced to her supporters in Brussels that she was returning home to help her compatriots have a better life. She explained to the gathering this: ‘I am a woman who is going back home to join my contribution to others’ to break the culture of fear, policies of intimidation, oppression, discrimination, reign of injustice, that overwhelmingly encompass every Rwandan citizen’s life. I would like to stress at the attention of everyone that I am going back home unarmed and without any backing of an army. In my country I am going to be with my parents, brothers, and sisters. A child who is going home is not chased, and a journey not started doesn’t end. To those who de-motivate us, please carry on from where we will or may fall.’ She went on to clarify what were her political party main objective by going to Rwanda to operate from inside the country. ‘Our objective is to restore Rwandans’ self esteem and confidence; we want to break all the barriers that stop them from being who they should and want to be; we want them to understand that it is up to them to fight for their basic human rights in their country, to elect political leaders they find worth their vote, to revoke through elections those among them who betray their trust. This programme of actions will continue until Rwandans overcome all current huddles. Everyone has to understand that what we have started is a revolution, it is a long journey. Upcoming elections are not the ultimate end. There has been a lot of suffering in our country, with millions of lives taken away; for that reason, this long started journey needs to be accomplished without loosing any more lives. We are aware of the fact that no political leadership which gets into power at the back of shedding people lives can totally change and cleanse itself from its dark past. We strongly request from our compatriots to support fully the peaceful path we have chosen for rescuing our loved country.’
Paul Kagame’s regime has been in place since 1994. Many human rights and international organizations have highlighted and documented unprecedented cases of violations of basic rights over the years. Abuses led by his oppressive machinery have been persistent inside Rwanda and in the Eastern Provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ms Victoire Ingabire was aware of the difficulties she may face once in her country. She said: ‘We are conscious of the multitude of obstacles which still exist and hindering our action.’ While she set off for her journey she pointed to what those left behind were meant to be and continue doing. ‘To those who remain behind in foreign countries, while we start the journey of change, are you ready to give something from your daily provision so we can wake up Rwandans wherever they are, to get rid off the trauma caused by their leaders, instead of continuing to live a worthless life, and then pass it to their children, grand children and grand-grand children. It is time to wake up.’
Since October 14th Ms Victoire Ingabire is imprisoned in Kigali. Like the two other highlighted women politicians, she may stay behind bars for an unknown period of time or even die in prison, or simply be permanently incapacitated as ex-President Pasteur Bizimungu. But fortunately the flame she has enlightened for a radical change to end ongoing injustices in Rwanda will continue.