From her prison’s notes, I recall this story of the blackout that herself and her 3 years old inmate Cynthia experienced when the electricity went off – (only 18% of the Rwandan population have access to it, according to the World Bank), while they were both in her cell. For those who don’t know, her cell does not filter any light from outside. Its windows have been completely painted black for that unfortunate purpose. And since her cell’s door is locked from outside and guarded 24/7, being inside is dictated by her prison guards. Imagine yourself in that constantly dark place.
As I write these lines, when I look out of my window, I have a fantastic view of outside, with cars on the motorway, buildings sheltering a variety of activities, cranes with red lights on building sites pointing in the skies, people going about their daily business, all somehow inspiring sights that Victoire Ingabire can only dream about. I suppose her mind can rarely be free from the injustices that the Rwandan regime of president Kagame has inflicted on her.
She is imprisoned for a greater good for her Rwandan compatriots. I read recently her message at the occasion of the new year. She is not begging president Kagame to release her from prison, because she does not deserve to be there in the first place. Like Mandela in his time, she refuses to bend on the demands of Kagame’s dictatorial regime: to overlook and deny the misery and oppression that millions of Rwandans are experiencing on a daily basis.
She hasn’t done anything reprehensible under any democratic government that could be. In her address, instead, she is asking the president to improve the current deplorable standards in the following areas: justice, health, education, unemployment, agriculture, and economy where: 1) public servants are paid lower than subsistence wages, 2) infrastructures of communication are lacking between regions, 3) some public servants are not getting paid at all, 4) the problem of electricity is a critical issue particularly for small businesses, and 5) corruption of diverse nature is endemic to the structures of the government despite opposite official claims of the contrary.
On Sunday 31st, 2016, Friends of Victoire, a global campaign advocating for her release and that of her other hundreds of colleagues political prisoners held in despicable conditions in Rwanda, has an online debate on the political personality of Victoire Ingabire. The following individuals will be on the panel answering questions prepared for them by the facilitators:
- Susan Thomson (New York, USA), Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Colgate University
- Patrick Mbeko (Montreal, Canada) writer and geopolitical specialist on Africa
- Mary Easton (Ontario, Canada) Former teacher at Lawson University
- Gloria Uwishema (Rotterdam, Netherlands) Human rights activist and Dutch Representative of International Women’s Network for Democracy and Peace
- Laure Uwase (Brussels, Belgium), Journalist and Lawyer
- Marie-Lyse Numuhoza (London, United Kingdom) the Vice-Chair of Friends of Victoire, human right activist with Voices of African Women campaign, advancing African women’s rights.
- Freddy Usabuwera (Montreal, Canada), National Coordinator of Friends of Victoire in Canada
- Claude Gatebuke (Nashville, Tennessee), Executive Director and co-founder of the African Great Lakes Action Network
To listen to the ONLINE PANEL DISCUSSION on Sunday 31st, 16:00 (GMT), and any other time after, PLEASE click on www.friendsofvictoire.org and follow the instructions.
“Nothing changes if nothing changes,” said once my longtime teacher.
“I am truly happy to have the opportunity to do something, however small, that will bring the story of this amazing woman to the attention of other women and inspire them to do whatever they can to pass it on still further. …Victoire is never far from my thoughts. I am very glad that Friends of Victoire has grown to be a truly global outreach organization on her behalf.” This is Mary Easton replying to Friends of Victoire’s invitation in order to be part of the panel.
Please share this information as widely as possible. And on Sunday, or any other time after, while you follow the debate, it is important to share on Twitter and Facebook and other social media platforms, what is being discussed. When the world has a chance to have someone with a great heart filled with selfless love for their similar human beings, it needs to be aware of their existence, because it has much to gain from that knowledge. How many people have seen their lives changed by knowing deeply life experiences of personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Sankara, and other historical role models?