Where are dissent voices inside Rwanda?

This seems to be a question only an alien creature, not familiar with Rwanda, could ask. But let’s pretend to be strangers to the country and find out where voices which don’t or didn’t dance to the tune set by the Rwandan Patriotic Front [RPF] could be.

Asking the whereabouts of dissent voices in that country was prompted by interviews from two Rwandan opinion leaders which recently appeared online quite at the same time, respectively on 24 and 31 January 2012. Interviewees gave out their views apparently speaking from inside Rwanda. This seemed unusual considered the tone and significance of their political analysis of the current Rwandan situation.

Alice Muhirwa, treasurer of the unregistered political party FDU-Inkingi, spoke with Jennifer Fierberg, MSW, and her interview was published on Africa Global Village. In July 2010, she was tortured by the RPF regime while she was in police custody after a very handily-repressed public demonstration, at the point that she collapsed in court because she was internally bleeding. Police authorities had denied her any medical care for several days while they detained her.

Until the day I lastly checked, she has been a survivor from the regime’s oppressive machinery. She has been looking after her imprisoned political leader, Mrs Victoire Ingabire, bringing her food every day. Since Ingabire’s imprisonment on 14 October 2010, there is no doubt that Alice Muhirwa, through her daily contacts with the prisoner, has become her messenger to the outside world. Through the interview she gave to the online source, she is without any mistake communicating to the public what Ingabire cannot express herself because of her restricted freedom. She also talked of political prisoners held in Rwandan prisons:

‘There are currently at least 8 opposition leaders in prison here. But political prisoners in Rwanda are in the hundreds if we consider the definition as ‘a person who has been imprisoned for holding or advocating dissenting political views.’ Some names on the top list of key leaders in Kigali maximum prison are [other than Ingabire] Mr. Bernard Ntaganda, founding President of the Parti Social Imberakuri; Mr. Deo Mushayidi, President of PDP Imanzi; Mr. Charles Ntakirutinka, founding leader of PDR Ubuyanja and others are scattered in different prisons. For example Mr. Sylvère Mwizerwa (Parti Social Imberakuri) is detained in Kimironko detention facility; Dr. Théoneste Niyitegeka, one of the challengers of President Kagame in the 2003 presidential elections, was arrested after the exercise and sentenced to a 15 year term, he is in Mpanga prison.

Mr. Eric Nshimyumuremyi, PS Imberakuri local leader in Kicukiro, survived a police gun shot on 15 September 2011, but was since imprisoned in Kigali Central prison. Mr. Rusangwa Sibomana Aimable, private secretary of Bernard Ntaganda was arrested in Nyamirambo on 13 June 2010 and his whereabouts are unknown. Mr. Nshimiyimana JMV, an opposition leader in Rutsiro district disappeared and has been missing since 21 March 2010.’

The other interview was given by Jean Nepomuscene Nayinzira, the unfortunate Rwandan presidential candidate of 2003. His political views were published in The Chronicles. As any other dissent voices in Rwanda, Jean Nepomuscene Nayinzira has had his own share of personal intimidation and harassment from the RPF regime. His surviving family members in Rwanda and outside have suffered, been intimidated and some imprisoned by the regime. Mrs Stephanie Ndayambaje, one of his elder sisters, who is 72 years old, has been in prison for years without any trial.

There are thousands who are dying or died in Rwandan prisons for standing up to the repressive regime of Paul Kagame. Many hundred thousands more innocent Rwandans became collateral casualties to his political ambitions.

When I read the two highlighted interviews, knowing how courageous one has to be to stand up and speak out against Paul Kagame regime, I felt a sense of hope for Rwanda. I even realise that by talking about them in this article, pointing at the significance of the courage of Muhirwa and Nayinzira, is somehow like calling for some trouble for them from their oppressor. But where there is hope, there is always a will.

It is true that since 1990 Rwanda has never lost as many lives as before as a consequence of evil in human beings. But as long as there will be some left, evil will be defeated. And the remaining will be able to live in peace with each other.

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