by Ann Garrison
KPFA Weekend News broadcast Feb. 1, 2015
KPFA Weekend News Anchor Anthony Fest: And turning now to news from Africa, over the weekend the organization Friends of Victoire hosted an international webcast to strategize about how to free Rwandan political prisoner Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.* Ingabire has become an icon of freedom, democracy and peace since returning to Rwanda in 2010 to attempt to stand for the presidency against incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Upon returning to her country, Ingabire said that she knew she would be either assassinated or imprisoned. She’s now in prison, has been there since October of 2010, serving a 15 year sentence. KPFA’s Ann Garrison joined the webcast organized by the London-based Friends of Victoire and then filed this report.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: In 2010, during Rwanda’s so-called election year, Victoire Ingabire could not have made her commitment to freedom and democracy more clear. A small, unarmed woman, she returned to Rwanda to face one of the most violent and repressive dictators in the world, asking only to stand for the presidency.
She acted in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, both of whom practiced disciplined nonviolent resistance to demonstrate the violence of repressive states. Dutch journalist Anneke Verbraeken told the webcast audience that she was glad to be joining this gathering organized by young Rwandans committed to peace.
Anneke Verbraeken: I’m glad to participate in this discussion, because I think it is really important people of all colors, of all races are occupied with a peace process. I think what the world most needs now is peace. And so I’m very happy that some young, dynamic people from Rwanda took this initiative.
KPFA: Verbraeken also said that she was investigating what she believed to be illegal actions by her own Netherlands government to persecute Rwandan refugees in collaboration with the government of Rwanda.
Anneke Verbraeken: Our immigration service says, “Hey, we accuse you of genocide.” They have no evidence at all, but, as a consequence, the people who are accused of genocide lose their money, lose their jobs, lose their permits. So they are illegal after this accusation. And the Netherlands is really doing something wrong here.
And it’s not only the Netherlands. I just talked to Human Rights Watch yesterday, Anneke Van Woudenberg, and she said what Netherlands is doing now is happening in some other countries. The countries are using their legal systems to evict people to Rwanda.
And the problem is, a few years ago the European Court [of Human Rights] said, “Well, hey, Rwanda is a good country you can send people back to because the justice system is OK and the prisons are OK.” We all know the justice system is not independent from government.
We all know the prisons are not OK.
KPFA: Verbraeken said that she had been allowed to visit Victoire very briefly in prison, where they were allowed to speak only English, the official business language of Rwanda, not French or Dutch, and to speak only of personal and family matters, not politics. Verbraeken said that Victoire is held in solitary confinement, with her windows painted black, but that she appeared stronger, more radiant and beautiful than ever and that she was writing every day.
Ingabire has become an icon of freedom, democracy and peace since returning to Rwanda in 2010 to attempt to stand for the presidency against incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
KPFA: Marie Lyse Numuhoza, the founder of London-based Friends of Victoire, said that now, five years after Victoire’s imprisonment, it is time to stop simply admiring her and organize in solidarity.
Marie Lyse Numuhoza: Well, for us at Friends of Victoire, and for all the people who love Victoire Ingabire, and who have followed her courageous actions to go back to Rwanda, 2015 is a special year. She’s been in that country for five years advancing peace. That’s what Friends of Victoire has started for. We call for all Rwandans, friends of Rwanda, all peace loving individuals across the world, to come and join the campaign towards the freedom of Ingabire as well as other prisoners of conscience.
KPFA: Friends of Victoire are online at friendsofvictoire.org, where anyone who wishes to join the campaign for her freedom can sign up for a mailing list, learn more about Victoire, and find help organizing in their own communities.
Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch, Colored Opinions and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, KPFA Evening News, KPFA Flashpoints and for her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at email@example.com. In March 2014 she was awarded the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for promoting peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa through her reporting.
* Participants in the webcast included:
- Mr. Freddy Usabuwera: Friends of Victoire – Canada branch (Quebec)
- Ms. Marie Lyse Numuhoza: Chairwoman of Friends of Victoire (UK)
- Ms. Perpetue Muramutse: International Network of Women for Democracy and Peace (RifDP)
- Mr. Claude Gatebuke: President of African Great Lakes Action Network (Tennessee)
- Ms. Anneke Verbraeken: Dutch independent investigative journalist (Holland)
- Ms. Ann Garrison: Independent journalist (USA)