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Rwanda will never be the same, after Victoire Ingabire’s return

January 16, 2012

by Ambrose Nzeyimana

“As with the path that the U.S. Civil Rights Movement took after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, nothing in Rwanda will ever be the same after Victoire Ingabire’s defiance of the Rwandan government’s unjust laws. She sparked a spirit of resistance,” writes Ambrose Nzeyimana.
The U.S. Congress called Rosa Parks “the first lady of civil rights” and ”the mother of the freedom movement.” What made her an icon for the American Civil Rights Movement was not mainly her act of defiance of white authority, but the impact it had by prompting the Montgomery Bus Boycott and its transformation of the racial scenery in America. In fact, before her there had been many acts of disobedience against unjust and racist laws of the U.S. government.

On Dec. 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Her defiance was thereafter an important symbol of the movement. Parks became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.

Victoire Ingabire, as leader of opposition political party FDU-Inkingi, went back to Rwanda two years ago, on Jan. 16, 2010. Upon her arrival, she paid a visit to the Genocide Memorial in Kigali at Gisozi. At the memorial she made the following statement to journalists and the general public:

Rosa Parks is booked into jail Dec. 1, 1955.
“I would like to say that today I came back to my country after 16 years, and there was a tragedy that took place in this country. We know very well that there was a genocide, extermination. Therefore, I could not have returned after 16 years to the same country after such actions took place. They took place when I was not in the country. I could not have fallen asleep without first passing by the place where those actions took place. I had to see the place. I had to visit the place.

“The flowers I brought with me are a sign of remembrance from the members of my party, FDU, and its executive committee. They gave me a message to pass by here and tell Rwandans that what we wish for is for us to work together, to make sure that such a tragedy will never take place again. That is one of the reasons why the FDU Party made a decision to return to the country peacefully, without resorting to violence. Some think that the solution to Rwanda’s problems is to resort to armed struggle. We do not believe that shedding blood resolves problems. When you shed blood, the blood comes back to haunt you.

Victoire Ingabire – her shaved head and pink uniform typical for prisoners in Rwanda – is escorted from prison to court on March 10, 2011.
“Therefore, we in FDU wish that all we Rwandans can work together, join our different ideas so that the tragedy that befell our nation will never happen again. It is clear that the path of reconciliation has a long way to go. It has a long way to go because if you look at the number of people who died in this country, it is not something that you can get over quickly. But then again, if you look around you realize that there is no real political policy to help Rwandans achieve reconciliation. For example, if we look at this memorial, it only stops at people who died during the Tutsi genocide. It does not look at the other side – at the Hutus who died during the genocide. Hutus who lost their people are also sad and they think about their lost ones and wonder, ‘When will our dead ones be remembered?’

“For us to reach reconciliation, we need to empathize with everyone’s sadness. It is necessary that for the Tutsis who were killed, those Hutus who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it. It is also necessary that for the Hutus who were killed, those people who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it too. Furthermore, it is important that all of us, Rwandans from different ethnic groups, understand that we need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace.

“What brought us back to the country is for us to start that path of reconciliation together and find a way to stop injustices so that all of us Rwandans can live together with basic freedoms in our country.”

“It is important that all of us, Rwandans from different ethnic groups, understand that we need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace.” – Victoire Ingabire

Immediately after making this public statement, Ingabire was subjected to intimidation and her movements were restricted. She was finally put in prison on Oct. 14, 2010. Despite her imprisonment, her stand and determination have irrevocably shaken the foundations of Paul Kagame’s autocratic military regime.

Belgian Colonel Luc Marchal, center, joined Rwandans demonstrating Nov. 19, 2011, for the release of Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire and other political prisoners. Marchal was second in command at the U.N. Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1994, under Commander Romeo Dallaire. – Photo: FDU-Inkingi
Just as the American Civil Rights Movement wanted to end segregation and discrimination, Ingabire and her coalition of Rwandan opposition parties want to end discrimination against Rwandan Hutus and against Rwandan Tutsis who were not in Uganda prior to 1994. For the sake of all Rwandan people, she has faced Paul Kagame and his government of core Tutsi extremists, calling for freedom and democracy, and for almost a year and a half now, she has been in prison. Her courage and unrelenting will have immensely inspired many of her compatriots to seek peaceful political change in their country, more than at any other time of its recent history.

As with the path that the U.S. Civil Rights Movement took after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, nothing in Rwanda will ever be the same after Victoire Ingabire’s defiance of the Rwandan government’s unjust laws. She sparked a spirit of resistance.

Nothing in Rwanda will ever be the same after Victoire Ingabire’s defiance of the Rwandan government’s unjust laws. She sparked a spirit of resistance.

On Jan. 16, Rwandans will from now on remember Ingabire’s homecoming. They, in Rwanda and in the Rwandan Diaspora, must now help her carry out the peaceful revolution she started on that day, Jan. 16, 2010, until all Rwandan citizens share the same rights, including freedom of association and speech and the right to elect their leaders and until political prisoners are released.

Rwandan exile, writer and social justice advocate Ambrose Nzeyimana lives in London. His 72-year-old sister has been in prison for years in Rwanda, without charges or any other explanation why.
Ambrose Nzeyimana, coordinator of Organizing for Africa, can be reached at His website is The Rising Continent: Lions on the Move, where this story first appeared.

Victoire Ingabire engages Rwandan Senate on the plight of political prisoners

by Boniface Twagirimana

On Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, some members of Rwanda’s Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security accepted a few live questions from prisoners inside the Kigali Central Prison. Political prisoner Victoire Ingabire, chair of the FDU-Inkingi coalition of parties, engaged the senators on the plight of political prisoners in Rwanda and urged them to promote laws granting more freedoms and democracy in the country before they finish their term in the Senate.

This banner, calling on Rwanda to free all political prisoners, led the Sept. 12, 2011, march in Paris.
“What do you think about the issue of political prisoners here? My visitation right has been restricted. I don’t have rights to attend church service or pray with others and was told that no change is to be seen until Easter. You have been appointed for eight years. Rwandans expect your mandate to abolish vague laws that generate political prisoners. People need more freedoms and democracy in this country. Otherwise, there will be no real reconciliation, no sustainable development and no political stability,” she stated, inspiring a wave of applause through the crowd of prisoners.

“People need more freedoms and democracy in this country. Otherwise, there will be no real reconciliation, no sustainable development and no political stability,” Ingabire told the senators.

“She is a bad influence here,” murmured a security officer to a member of the delegation, who whispered, “They are just prisoners.” The visiting members of the Senate promised to discuss the issue.

The delegation was chaired by Sen. Jean Damascene Bizimana, head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security. This is no special event, as the committee has been touring various prisons. On Nov. 29, 2011, they visited Nyagatare Prison and the Gabiro community service program for prisoners (TIG).

This banner led the Brussels march Nov. 19, 2011.
Before his appointment to the Senate, Dr. Bizimana, a former minister of infrastructure, held other positions in the government, including executive secretary of the so-called Travaux d’Interêts Générales (TIG), a controversial post-genocide institution that acknowledged that the whereabouts of 27,000 prisoners remain a mystery (, Jan. 4, 2012).

In 2010, a study commissioned by the Rwandan Senate on political pluralism and power sharing in Rwanda revealed that 69 percent of those surveyed believe the fear of authority is the major obstacle to freedom of speech and political space, followed closely by nepotism and the legacy of genocide.

FDU-Inkingi, the coalition of Rwandan political parties led by Victoire Ingabire, welcomes the liberation of an executive member of the party, Gratien Nsabiyaremye, who was abducted and beaten by Capt. Rutaburingoga of the marine unit in Gisenyi on Jan. 2, 2012. Prosecutor Chantal Uwamahoro issued a release order, but Nsabiyaremye is required to report to the local police station every Tuesday.

Boniface Twagirimana, FDU-Inkingi vice president
The impunity granted to Capt. Rutaburingoga, even after he has raided the homes of innocent civilians in the night and beaten people in public, contributes to a climate of terror and uncertainty among the population. This is one of the faces of the current judiciary in Rwanda.

Boniface Twagirimana, interim vice president of the FDU-Inkingi coalition of Rwandan political parties, can be reached at He concludes this dispatch with a quotation by Victoire Ingabire: “Don’t give up; he will never jail a whole nation.”


19 thoughts on “Rwanda will never be the same, after Victoire Ingabire’s return

    1. Ann_Garrison

      It's hard to know how to take that, Amata Akonje. Sounds like you might be saying she belongs in jail. But it has occurred to me that she's very beautiful, even with her head shaved, and that, even though it's not her choice, it brings her features even more into focus.

  1. Selina

    I'm proud to say I have a relative who almost looks like her although the relative
    is not as attractive as Victoire Ingabire

  2. Imenagitero

    She is an evil lady who only attract attention for those who harbor the same ideological beliefs of Hutu power. Rwanda can no longer tolerate divisive and arrogant ideologies. The country is now built on unity of Rwanda and no special favors for ethnic groups as said in this article.

  3. Jean Pierre Papin

    Yes beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
    I can't fault you guys for thinking this woman is beautiful.
    To me, i've never seen someone uglier than this woman.
    With her big, flat nose and large jaws like a gorilla, how can this genocide apologist be beautiful?

  4. Jean Pierre Papin

    Mr writer, your article is based on a wishful thinking.
    Do you really believe Rwanda will never be the same after Ingabire's return, really?
    You're a wishful thinker of the highest level.
    If anything, Ingabire's return to Rwanda did trigger a lot of change to herself.
    Ingabire is slowly mellowing her views and tone.
    Although she's still radical, tribal, and extremist, she's slowly seeing Rwanda from a local's perspective, and not a European-backed puppet.
    She came back to a country she's been absent from for 16yrs, only to find a vibrant economy, a healthcare coverage of about 90% of the population, clean water access vastly improved since she left the country, and a population that can no longer be misled into accepting that "UMULIMO N'UGUHINGA" is the only way of life.
    Mr writer, I understand you may be nostalgic of the pre-genocide Rwanda where Tutsis used to be killed like coachroches with impunity, where the discriminatory "IRINGANIZA" policy was the order of the day.
    Know this, today's rwanda will never be the same as the one you and Ingabire helped destroy in 1994.
    Whether you like it or not, Kagame and all fair-minded Rwandans, we'll make our country the shining star of Africa where people from the world over, not just Rwandans, will enjoy living, working, studying, as well as getting inspired by what we've been through and what we've achieved. ALUTA CONTINAU!!

  5. Jean Pierre Papin

    As per Ingabire, “Rwandans from different ethnic groups, …, need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace".
    This sounds great, right? Wait until you see the fallacy in her reasoning.
    According to wikipedia, An ethnic group (or ethnicity) is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture (often including a shared religion).
    The last time i checked, all Rwandans identify each other through a common heritage which consists of our common language/Ikinyarwanda, common culture/umuco karande, and a shared religion /at least until the advent of colonizers.
    In Rwanda, there is no such thing as Hutu culture, or Tutsi language, or Twa religion.
    All the 3 components of the Rwandan society share the same heritage, hence why no ethnicities.
    Ingabire's words are yet again one more proof that her nonsensical tribal core beliefs are so ingrained in the pre-genocide Hutu power extremist ideology.
    For the record, post-genocide Rwanda does not recognize the existence of ethnicities in the country, and this stance is validated by the aforementioned "ethnicity"'s wikipedia definition.

  6. therisingcontinent

    @Selina. I agree with you on your hope about Ingabire. When we think of our politicians becoming good leaders once in power, we cannot unfortunately foresee or predict the future. We can however prepare for it by staying vigilant on what we want them to be for us.

    @Imenagitero. You describe Ingabire as an evil lady, probably because of her statement [re:article] on how Rwanda and Rwandans should be. It’s only a guess and of course I disagree on that. But One question: can you point in the text I reproduced where she appears divisive or arrogant or against unity of Rwandans? Is she asking special favour for any ethnic group? Isn’t she instead demanding the abolition of discriminative attitude [even among the deceased] towards any ethnic group?

    @Jean Pierre Papin. I won’t venture into character assassination of Ingabire as it seems to be your motive. However, on your point over ethnicity in Rwanda, allow me to disagree with you. Hutu, Tutsi and Twa exist as ethnic groups and I don’t blame anyone for their existence as some sources do; their existence or non existence don’t depend on a government policy.
    As for their different heritages, these are only denied by those who want to discriminate one group at the expense of others, by hiding behind their politically motivated non-existence.
    Black and White, and even Indian Americans have been living together for several centuries. Today they speak the same language; there is also a common heritage they share, but there is another one which is unique to each group. It is not enough to deny the existence of something to erase it from its everyday reality.

    About Ingabire not being a European-backed puppet because she’s slowly seeing Rwanda from a local’s perspective, this confirms an understanding of the country I highlighted in another article. She is in prison because of her political ideas. And I can only see her imprisonment about that local’s perspective you are mentioning, nothing else. Even if there was some economic development, which is again very questionable, I cannot see it from the angle you present it. Millions of Rwandans don’t access the economic miracle you praise your government about.

    It is unfortunate your comment didn’t touch at all on any of the important issues of the article, which are: seeking same rights [to education, employment, property] for all Rwandans indiscriminately, freedom of association and speech, freedom to elect their leaders, and release of political prisoners.

    1. Selina

      As long as Ms. Ingabire doesn't allow any western nation to financially back
      her presidential campaign if she's ever allowed to run nor allow the west to back her

      once she's in office then she will be a success, my her Ancestors protect her and guid her in her life's pursuit

  7. mercy

    @Rising continent, you talk about same rights of education, employment and property as if they existed in the 90's. i think we should learn to give credit where its due. The Rwanda of today is totally different from the Rwanda of then. Ingabire wasnt bringing anything new to Rwandans that would contribute to its development, her ideology is the same ideology that led to the 1994 genocide and i assure you speaking as a Rwandan i'll do whatever it takes not to see the same happen to my country again. The joke is on whoever thinks Rwanda will not be the same after Ingabire and the likes return. Rwanda will move forward regardless.

  8. Jean Pierre Papin

    Here we go again.
    Ann Garrison, you just proved one more time, how lacking your understanding of rwanda is.
    What's wrong with you Americans? You see everything through the lenses of skin colour.
    Is it because of your country's history, or is it just because Americans tend to travel around the world less than other people?
    Look, what ever the answer may be, your attempt to inject race/skin colour into rwandan issues is way off the mark.
    The fact of the matter is, 99.9% of rwandans are black, myself & Ingabire included.
    Therefore i cannot harbor racial bias against Ingabire because we are of the same race and have the same skin colour.
    Besides, since when having a big, flat nose and large jaws is tantamount to being black?
    For the record:
    1) Not all black people have big, flat noses and large jaws. There are millions of blacks around the world who do not have big, flat noses and large jaws.
    2) At the same time, not all people who have big, flat noses and large jaws are blacks.
    Numerically speaking, the vast majority of people with bigger, flatter noses and larger jaws happen to be East Asians (ie: Chinese, Japanese, Philippino, Koreans, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Thais, etc.).
    So, for you to accuse me that i find Ingabire's facial features unattractive and uglier is because she's black, really speaks volume of who you are.
    Look you're trying to understand Rwanda from an american point of view, that's why you're always wrong.
    Keep in mind, American population is only 300 millions in a world made up of 7 billions of people, which amounts to less than 5% of the total world population. Chances are, you maybe ignorant of 95% of what's going on in the world. Here is a piece of advice baby, most people that you engage on this forum are
    a) well-traveled,
    b) most likely foreign-born/not natural US citizen,
    c) multilingual,
    d) well-versed in international matters,
    Therefore, when it comes to matters not directly related to the US, please shut up and let us school you.

    1. Ann_Garrison

      What you described. . . "her [Victoire's] big flat nose and jaws like a gorilla" is a racist caricature of Black, and would be extraordinarily bad taste even if it were not.

  9. Jean Pierre Papin

    Mr writer, again, you have your facts wrong.
    See, guys, you can't hide behind newspapers anymore without being subjected to evil stoppers' scrutinizing and watchful eye. We did let Kangura and RTLM operate without any challenge, and we all know what happened in 1994.
    1) Really, you "don't blame anyone for their existance"? If you don't, then someone who thinks like you, does?
    Listen, as far as i'm concerned, almost my entire family in Bugesera near the Burundian border, got wiped out from the face of the earth by people who harbor similar views like yours.
    Geographically and ideologically, there was no close proximity between them (my family) and the northern rwanda-based Inkotanyi Rebellion. So, this begs the question, why were they targeted and killed with the aim of exterminating them? The answer is simple: They were "blamed for their [very] existence", period.
    So, Mr writer, don't hide behind internet newspapers, and hurl preposterous lies that you never blamed anyone for their existence. If you never did, then people who think like you did indeed blame my family for their existence.
    2) As for Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa heritage, you seem to be suggesting that these 3 communities have distinct heritages. Again, as i indicated in my previous comments, there is no such thing in Rwanda as Hutu culture, or Tutsi language, or Twa religion. Therefore, it doesn't add up to me how these 3 components of the rwandan society can be categorized as different ethnicities when they share the same language/Ikinyarwanda, they share the same culture/Umuco, and used to share the same religious beliefs before the advent of colonizers.
    3) You also compare apples and oranges when you mention the US ethnic make-up versus Rwanda's hutu, tutsi, and twa communities. For starters, America's different ethnicities speak the same language (English) because of the arrogant US' melting pot policy. If it wasn't for that, the US should now be at least a bilingual country with English and Spanish being the official languages. The other aspect you're totally overlooking is the fact that the African-Americans whose ancestry descends from slavery were brought to the US in chains and against their will, therefore, they couldn't keep their mother vernacular. For this reason, the American people today are speaking the same language (English) because they are being forced to, by the melting pot policy i just touched on above. If the American laws were truly pluralistic as their society is, the US should at least be a bilingual country by today. So, you cannot compare the rwandan society and the American's because the 2 are unrelated.
    4) As for Ingabire's views being the cause of her imprisonment, that's inaccurate. Instead, it's the opposite, her views are slowly changing as a result of her imprisonment.
    5) Remember when i called you a "wishful thinker", i really meant it. Look, for you to suggest that your article is seeking to promote same rights to education, employment, property for all rwandans is totally absurd. Where were you before 1994 when those rights were violated and out of reach for Tutsis? If anything, today's Rwanda has never been more equitable and fair to all its citizens. It was an unrealistic dream for a Tutsi to graduate from the national university of Rwanda, no wonder why that institution only produced less than 2000 graduates throughout the entire first 30 years post-independence. However, only 17yrs after the genocide, the higher learning sector is a far cry from what it was pre-1994. Paved roads are no longer a luxury that can only be afforded to provinces close to the regime, the whole country is criss-crossed by them. Malaria related deaths have been cut to half from what they were before 1994, infant mortality rate has significantly dropped. I can go on and on but i've already made my point. Peace out! LA LUTA CONTINUA!

  10. raoul perrin

    I am very surprised by the comments to this article. Why are you comparing a human being with animals? It was the behavior of Nazism during the 2nd world war. In Europe we are helping refugees of Rwanda since decades, mostly Tutsis. We are not setting ethnic barriers. It is even fortunately forbidden. All origins ethnical groups are welcome. If you consider your origin as a superior race (Nilothic, Bantu, Arab, Indo-European, …), then we do not need to help you with billions of dollars for humanitarians and development projects, which is mandatory for your current healthcare coverage and vibrant economy … Most of the refugees have never worked since they are in Europe, we tolerate that, but if you are arguing like Nazis, please go home. We do not need your hate and racism.


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