Victoire Ingabire spends another Christmas in Paul Kagame’s prison

This sounds like a predicament and of course it is. Ingabire, leader of FDU-Inkingi, a Rwandan opposition party, was imprisoned on October 14th, 2010. It was only two months after Kagame, the Rwandan president, had re-elected himself with more than 93% for another seven years. Let’s not forget that since July 1994 he had already spent another sixteen ruling over every living and  dead creature in the country. In a context where change is not part of factors for improvement, he could be in place until 2017, and then even impose himself for another seven years term if he is not stopped.

Imprisoning his most credible political challenger was probably a sign intended to his opponents and sponsors to show that he was still in charge. The imprisonment was part of a series of other abominable crimes of Kagame’s regime against Rwandans. These included beheading Andre Kagwa, vice-president of Green Party, murdering the journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage, attempting to assassinate General Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa. It is worth mentioning that the majority of crimes that the regime commits don’t get into public knowledge because of the absence of any independent press.

Had Ingabire been indifferent and not interested in bettering the welfare of the majority of Rwandans suffering from Kagame’s oppression, she would certainly be with her family in The Netherlands. Or hadn’t she openly announced she wanted to challenge the Rwandan Patriotic Front on many of its policies which discriminate against more than 95% of the Rwandan population and favour a minority, she would enjoy the festive season like many will do during Christmas and the New Year.

At this period of the year, most people come together to spend time with their families. It wouldn’t have been different for Ingabire if she wasn’t in prison. If anyone has had an opportunity to follow closely the mockery of justice that Kagame’s judiciary has staged since September 5th, 2011, putting his challenger on trial, it won’t be difficult to notice that all allegations against Ingabire are only fabrications. Had she been tried by an independent judiciary, not one seeking orders for sentencing from the master of the land, she would be free because of the lack of serious evidence that incriminates her.

As many among Rwandans who see in her martyr a personal dedication to the truth about their country, it won’t be wrong to draw some parallels between her situation and another event which occurred in Czechoslovakia on Sunday, 18th of December 2011. On that day, Vaclav Havel, former Czech dissident-playwright turned president of that Eastern European country died. Without the communist takeover of 1948 and all that followed, he would probably have lived a life of charming bohemian privilege, because of his origins.

Oppressive policies of communism made Vaclav Ravel to hate it with passion. He suffered many deprivations under its rule. He was imprisoned. When the time came, his compatriots called upon him to lead on the destiny of their country. Among the many tributes that poured on the day of his death, there is one which sums up the mark of his character on his time. Barack Obama said of Vaclav Havel that, ‘His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of an oppressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.’

This statement could be rightly transposed to the case of Victoire Ingabire and her political resistance to the oppression of the Rwandan Patriotic Front regime towards the Rwandan population. Without any weapon, and within a relatively short period of time, she has managed to unsettle the foundations of Kagame’s political leadership. Maybe Victoire Ingabire might not be as lucky as Vaclav Havel to live up to her 75th birthday because of the ruthlessness of Paul Kagame against his political opponents. Whatever the future hold for the imprisoned leader of FDU-Inkingi, while the festive season of Christmas and New Year goes on, those seeking change in Rwanda should always remember the steps her courage and martyr have achieved along that journey.


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