Rwandan opposition leaders’ Christmas behind bars

by Ann Garrison

On Christmas Eve, KPFA Radio-Berkeley broadcast the following news report:
http://goo.gl/kqE1Y

The Kagame regime arrested opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza in Kigali, Rwanda, 15 days after the release of the U.N. report documenting the regime’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocidal massacres of Hutu civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and she has remained behind bars ever since.

On Christmas Eve, KPFA Radio-Berkeley broadcast the following news report:

KPFA Holiday News Anchor Anthony Fest: And in news from the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and Bernard Ntaganda, two of the three presidential candidates who attempted to run against incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame this year, are spending their Christmas in prison in Kigali. KPFA’s Ann Garrison is in the studio with the story.

KPFA/Ann Garrison: Bernard Ntaganda declared his intention to protest the Rwandan opposition’s exclusion from the country’s 2010 presidential election on June 24, saying, “Silence is acceptance.” But he was arrested inside his home that morning before he could leave and has been behind bars ever since.

Also on June 24, authorities confined Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza to her home and arrested other members of all three viable opposition parties who attempted to protest publicly. Journalist Jean Leonard Rugembage was gunned down in a Kigali street on the same day, shortly after reporting that President Kagame had ordered the assassination attempt on an exiled dissident Rwandan general.

Ingabire had by then already been arrested and confined to Kigali since March. She was re-arrested, on Oct. 15, and has remained behind bars ever since.

The real problem in Rwanda is not between Hutu and Tutsi but between rich and poor. – Bernard Ntaganda

Supporters of Rwanda’s opposition from all over the world expressed their sadness that the country’s democratic leaders are the ones spending Christmas in prison, even after the U.N. Mapping Report, released on Oct. 1, documented war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocidal massacres of civilians perpetrated by Kagame’s RPF regime in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

KPFA: Ingabire’s daughter, Raissa Ujeneeza, spoke to KPFA from the Netherlands.

Raissa Ujeneeza: She [Victoire] is in prison without having been proven guilty and that is the problem right now. They are trying to build a case against her, but they don’t have a legitimate evidence against her, and they’re not going to find anything. But that doesn’t keep them from keeping her in prison.

KPFA: Eleneus Akanga, Rwandan journalist and contributing editor of The Newsline EA in East Africa, spoke to KPFA from London, where he is studying international human rights law.

Eleneus Akanga: It’s a sad story really, but if President Paul Kagame thinks that prison is the place for anyone who dares to challenge his authoritarian rule, then he’d better build more prisons. Rwandese are resolved people and they will continue to fight his repressive regime, no matter the intimidation. And until the U.S. and the U.K. stop pampering his ego, the dictator that is Kagame will continue to rule Rwanda and Rwanda remains headed for disaster. That’s all I can say.

KPFA: And WBAI AfrobeatRadio Producer Wuyi Jacobs spoke to KPFA from New York City:

Wuyi Jacobs: Rwanda’s political opposition leaders Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda and many members of the opposition have been in prison for many months now. Let our New Year’s resolution be to work together to seek their freedom.

KPFA: For Pacifica/KPFA Radio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Also on Christmas, Ingabire’s FDU-Inkingi Coalition of Parties released a statement saying:

“Today, Ms. Victoire Ingabire’s lawyer has requested an immediate release order from the Intermediate Court of Gasabo because the pre-trial detention order expired on Dec. 25, 2010. The case has not yet been transmitted for evidential trial. Her detention is illegal. Paul Kagame’s government has no legal basis to keep her in jail after the expiration of the ordinance.”

The FDU called on the Rwandese people and the international community to make calls and write letters demanding her immediate release.

Bernard Ntaganda is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 5. His support team says that they remain strong and that his family takes him food every day at Kigali’s 1930 prison. Shortly after his arrest, Ntaganda went on a hunger strike for fear that President Kagame would have him poisoned.

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 blog, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, Weekend News on KPFA and her own YouTube channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at ann@afrobeat.com. This story first appeared on Black Star News.