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Rwanda: Victoire Ingabire’s daughter calls for world pressure on Kagame

December 23, 2011

by Ann Garrison

Christmas card made by and for Victoire Ingabire’s supporters “from the darkness of her cell in the Kigali Central Prison”

Interview with Raissa Ujeneza

AfrobeatRadio/Ann Garrison: Victoire Ingabire left Rwanda almost two years ago in January 2010 to return to her native Rwanda in hopes of challenging Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the country’s 2010 presidential election. Her party was not allowed to register, she was not allowed to run, and she has spent the last year not as the president of Rwanda, but as a prisoner in Kigali’s 1930 maximum security prison. Paul Kagame secured 93 percent of the vote in Aug. 9 polls obviously staged to legitimize his presidency, with no serious challengers running against him.

Ingabire’s case has received little international press, despite its significance to the entire Great Lakes Region of Africa, most of all the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that many now fear may be on the brink of civil war. With us to talk about this today is Victoire Ingabire’s daughter, Raissa Ujeneza, who is now studying international and European law at The Hague University in the Netherlands.

Victoire Ingabire, right, and her daughter Raissa Ujeneza, at a Netherlands airport on the day she flew out to return to Rwanda, in January 2010
Welcome, Raissa. This is the second time I’ve spoken to you about your mother’s imprisonment in Rwanda during the Christmas holiday season and I very much hope it will be the last.

Raissa: Hi, Ann, Ann Garrison. Yes, I hope so too that this is the last time we speak about the case and my mom being in the prison.

AR: Could you explain why your mother has been in prison for over a year now in Kigali?

Raissa: Yes, my mother has been over a year in maximum prison in Kigali. First she had to await her trial, which started in June this year, and she has been accused of genocide ideology, collaboration with a terrorist group, divisionism, spreading rumors and inciting the population to rise against the regime and creating a rebel army to overthrow the government by force. These are all just politically motivated accusations. All oppositions that have tried to go against the government in Rwanda have all been prosecuted and murdered and this case is not any different from all the others.

AR: And could you explain why this is significant not only in Rwanda but in the rest of the Great Lakes Region of Africa, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, leader of Rwanda’s FDU-Inkingi coalition of opposition political parties, stands with her family prior to leaving Brussels for her return to Rwanda to run for president. From left are her husband, Lin Muyizere, their daughter, Raissa Ujeneza, Victoire, their younger son, Rist Shimwa, and their older son, Remy Ndizeye Niyigena.
Raissa: Yes, Rwanda has played a huge role, actually, in the conflicts going on in the Great Lakes area, and this has to do with the politics of course. As long as there is no democracy in Rwanda, this will influence the issues going on in that Great Lakes area, for those countries also collaborate together. And also in Congo, as we have seen, democracy is far to be found.

AR: Do many people there in the Netherlands seem to perceive the connection between your mother’s trial and the ongoing catastrophe in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has seen at least 6 million war dead in the past 18 years?

Raissa: Well, most of the people don’t link it together, but the ones that do link it together, those who are familiar with the Great Lakes area, know that the conflicts of Rwanda and Congo are connected. Since the ‘90s, Rwanda has been in an unstable situation. This has influenced, of course, what has been going on in the Congo. A lot of conflicts and wars have been going on also in the area of the Congo. The population there is not content with the government and this is understandable, seeing how they repress the people of the Congo and Rwanda in the areas between those two countries.

AR: What is the news of your mother’s trial?

Raissa: The latest news. Well, she’s still awaiting her trial, which actually is being postponed for several reasons all the time. The latest news that I know is that she is being taken care of, but in which circumstances again – knowing that she is innocent, knowing that she should be getting her freedom back, they are still giving her not that right, which she really deserves.

AR: Are you and your father and two brothers allowed to speak with her on the phone?

Raissa: No, we are not allowed to speak to her.

AR: Are you allowed to write to her? If we here at AfrobeatRadio or anyone else listening wanted to write to her, would that be possible?

Raissa: People who want to write her can do so, but all letters have to go through the security there, of course. And this being her family limits us to have any privacy in contacting her, and herself, she hasn’t been able to write us back. But those who want to write her can write her and I would actually encourage them to do so, for knowing that she has support outside will also strengthen her to continue this struggle for peace and democracy in Rwanda.

AR: How is your family holding up this Christmas, the second Christmas since your mother has been in prison?

Raissa: It is – it is very difficult. Of course we want to see her here. We just pray that she is holding herself strong, being there. At least we have each other here, but she’s alone there. So we just have to pray and have faith.

AR: And what about your young brother, Riszt Shimwa? I’m not sure I’m pronouncing his name properly but I believe he’s 10 years old. How is he holding up without his mom, and does he realize that she’s an icon of freedom and democracy to people all over the world?

Raissa: Yes, Riszt is 9 years old right now. He is quite brave. I would say he has that from my mother. He knows her situation and he understands that she is in prison, and he understands also that in his perspective, she’s a hero for the Rwandan people, for she is trying to free them from the conditions that they’re in, which are not good. But to the seriousness of the case, I don’t think he really understands that, of course, at his age.

AR: Is there anything anyone can do to help advance the cause of securing your mother’s freedom?

Raissa: Yes, the international community can put pressure on the regime of Paul Kagame. He should be allowing oppositions and giving them a chance to compete with him. Freedom of speech is on a low level and actually no level, basically, in Rwanda, and this must change. And the international community can put pressure on the government there in Rwanda to change this – as we have seen in Burma, with Aung San Suu Kyi. Her case actually is quite similar with my mother’s case and we have also seen that the pressure from outside managed to have influence within the country and for the better. I really do believe that this can also be the case in Rwanda.

Ann: Thank you Raissa. Merry Christmas. And I know that many of our listeners want to join us in hoping that this is the last Christmas you’ll have to spend without your mother.

Raissa: Thank you, and thank all of them who are listening and supporting.

San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black Star News, the Newsline EA (East Africa) and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, Weekend News on KPFA and her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at This story first appeared on her website.


8 thoughts on “Rwanda: Victoire Ingabire’s daughter calls for world pressure on Kagame

  1. Jean Pierre Papin

    May God help Ingabire rot in her prison cell in Kigali. Frankly, she has yet to get what she deserves. If anything, her languishing in jail is the best Christmas gift Rwandan genocide survivors in particular and all fair-minded Rwandans in general have ever had. ALUTA CONTINUA!!

    1. Aimable

      Jean Pierre, it is so sad to see you invoking the name of God while spreading hatred. All that Ingabire has ever done is ask for freedom, human rights and justice for all Rwandans. For you to respond with such hatred and invoke God's name in the process, it is quite shocking.

  2. Frank LeFever

    One needs a strong stomach to read the inhumane and degenerate "comments" that Kagame apologists (some paid, I believe) splatter all over anything critical of Kagame's dictatorship and anything that describes the flaws in the "victor's version" of what happened in Rwanda in 1994 — especially what happened before (beginning 1990) and what continued past the end of 1994.

    Ingabire's first "crime"? Returning to Rwanda (leaving the safety and comfort of her home in exile) to stand as a candidate in the presidential election. Her second "crime"? Stating (on Rwandan soil) that not only Tutsis but also Hutus suffered in 1994, and both should be mourned.

  3. Frank LeFever

    Oh, my! Has a famous foot-baller from France taken an interest in Victoire's case and expressed a wish for her to rot in jail? Or is it the same fiction as usual? Kagame-apologists love fiction, and almost always post filthy insults under fictitious names; not 1 in 1000 has the courage or integrity to sign his real name.

  4. Jeremy

    Frank LeFever,

    Dear brother,you can`t expect anything good coming from the hearts of kagame`s fans. When the head is evil,the whole body becomes evil. What else ? May God forgive these crazy kagame-apologists,they don`t know what they are saying for they are out of mind.
    By the way, wacth this video if by chance you didn`t see it.

    Hope Ann Garson has watched it. The message about the dictator criminal kagame is very clear.

    1. Ann_Garrison

      And yes, of course, I have watched it, quite a few times, and grabbed screenshots from it. Really good work, although I wrote to Pro-Justicia about one little change I think it needs.

  5. Jean Pierre Papin

    @ Frank LeFever:
    I've got 2 points to make here.
    1) First, don't call me brother cauz' i'm not your brother.
    So, let me put this straight, i'll never be your brother as long as you are a genocide denier, period.
    2) According to you: "Kagame-apologists love fiction, and almost always post filthy insults under fictitious names". Your quote only begs the following question: Is your real last name Lefever?
    Hope it is, because if it isn't, that means you just made fun of yourself.
    You just did the same thing that you accused of doing (using a fictitious name).
    Listen genocide deniers wherever you are, now that the Jean-Louis Bruiguiere's report has been rendered void and null, what are you going to say now.
    The Ann Garrisons, Pierre Peans Peter Erlinders, Frank LeFevers, Aimables of the world have nowhere to hide because all your moronic literature are now tantamount to garbage.


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