On the morning of April 21, Rwandan police arrested presidential candidate and icon of peace and justice Victoire Ingabiré Umuhoza less than four months before the Aug. 9 presidential election.
The stakes in this political contest are very high throughout the Great Lakes region of Africa, including D.R. Congo, site of the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II. The U.S. State Department and Pentagon have manipulated tensions in the region for many years, as I have reported in the San Francisco Bay View, Digital Journal and Global Research and on KPFA and KMEC News.
BBC World News Radio reports that Ingabiré was rushed to court in six hours, rather than the seven days expected. To listen, click here.
Toronto-based Rwandan exile, writer, activist and FDU-Inkingi Party member Aimable Mugara wrote the following call to the international community to come to the aid of Mrs. Ingabiré and peaceloving Rwandan people. – Ann Garrison
by Aimable Mugara
Mrs. Victoire Ingabire is a 41-year-old mother of three. She had a very good job in the Netherlands, where she had been studying during the 1994 genocide. In 2009, she resigned to return to Rwanda and participate in the presidential election this August 2010. She was back in Rwanda on Jan. 17, 2010, after 16 years in exile. She was recognized by all as the main leader of the Rwandan non-violent political opposition.
After three months of fabricating evidence, today the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) Rwandan government arrested her. The current Rwandan government’s abuse of prisoners has been documented by many human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Mrs. Ingabire is currently at risk of torture or even death while incarcerated.
Today is a very sad day for Rwanda because the current Rwandan government is sending a message that if you participate peacefully in the country’s political process, there is a price to pay. If the government thinks that the people may vote for you, you will be jailed. This disrespect for human rights and democracy is exactly what caused the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The extremists’ belief that the only way to resolve political issues is through violence is exactly what caused the genocide. For 50 years, there has never been a peaceful transfer of power in Rwanda. Every president of Rwanda who has ever lost power lost it only by being killed or by being jailed. Mrs. Victoire Ingabire believed in a new Rwanda – a new Rwanda where power can be changed peacefully, at the ballot box.
If you participate peacefully in the country’s political process, there is a price to pay. If the government thinks that the people may vote for you, you will be jailed. This disrespect for human rights and democracy is exactly what caused the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Today is a turning point in Rwanda’s future. What happens from now on will determine whether the 50-year curse of using violence to make political change in Rwanda remains the only way possible. Or whether non-violent peaceful democratic ways championed by Mrs. Ingabire remain a viable option to create political change in Rwanda.
Below are five actions you can take to help the Rwandan people in this very dark moment of Rwandan history:
1. Donate to Mrs. Ingabire’s Legal Defense Fund at http://ww.fdu-rwanda.org/donation. In the Comments field, please note “Ingabire’s Legal Defense Fund.”
2. Contact your local Human Rights Watch office and let them know of today’s injustice. Contact information can be found at http://www.hrw.org/en/contact-us.
3. Contact Amnesty International Secretariat and let them know of today’s injustice. Contact information can be found at http://www.amnesty.org/en/contact.
4. Contact Mrs. Ingabire’s party and let them know that you stand with Rwandan people in this peaceful struggle for peace, equality and human rights for all Rwandans. Contact information can be found at http://www.fdu-rwanda.org/fr/contacts-rwanda/index.html.
5. Contact any other organizations you can think of such as media, human rights organizations, international aid groups, embassies.
As peace-loving Rwandan people, we call upon you to help us convince Gen. Kagame’s current Rwandan government that this dangerous escalation is not in the government’s interests and it is not in the interests of any peace-loving person on earth. We thank you in advance!
Aimable Mugara is a Rwandan exile, writer and activist living in Toronto, Canada, and a member of the Rwandan FDU-Inkingi Party led by Victoire Ingabiré Umuhoza. He is the author of two blogs, Rwanda Human Rights and Democracy and Rwanda Hall of Shame.
Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza made this presentation at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands on April 15, 2009, before she had officially declared her candidacy. She had been invited by the United Nations Students Association to discuss Rwanda’s history and politics, as well as her presidential ambitions.