Rwandan Belgians protest inhumane incarceration of Victoire Ingabire

by Ann Garrison

KPFA Weekend News broadcast July 29, 2015

KPFA Weekend News Anchor Anthony Fest: Turning now to news from Africa, earlier this week, supporters of iconic Rwandan political prisoner Victoire Ingabire gathered to protest her inhumane prison conditions. They gathered outside the Rwandan Embassy in Brussels, Belgium.

Supporters in Brussels march for the freedom of Victoire Ingabire and all Rwandan political prisoners.
Supporters in Brussels march for the freedom of Victoire Ingabire and all Rwandan political prisoners.

Members of her party in Kigali report that prison authorities have painted her only cell window black, taken away her books and put her in harsher isolation than before. They also report that prison authorities are denying her legal right to meet with the Rwandan lawyer who’s representing her in her appeal to the African Court of Human and People’s Rights. KPFA’s Ann Garrison has the story.

Demonstrators: Victoire Ingabire! … Victoire Ingabire! …

KPFA/Ann Garrison: That’s the sound of Victoire Ingabire’s supporters singing “The Victoire Song” outside the Rwandan Embassy in Brussels earlier this week. Many are from the French speaking International Women’s Network for Democracy and Peace, which presents the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize every year to inspire and honor those working for her release.

Ingabire has become an icon of freedom, democracy and peace in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, commonly known simply by her first name, “Victoire.” She attempted to run against incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame in 2010, but was imprisoned and sentenced to 15 years instead.

Demonstrators in Brussels and activists around the world are demanding that her right to legal counsel be restored, and that her harsh, punitive isolation from visitors and other prisoners be ended.

Because she is in prison, Victoire Ingabire has not yet met her granddaughter, Nehea Ndizeye Niyegena, a budding revolutionary.

On this week’s Voice of America’s Straight Talk Africa TV and radio hour, Ugandan American host Shaka Ssali, speaking to Rwandan exile Robert Higiro, noted that there have been pro-government demonstrations in Kigali recently but that no one could safely demonstrate for the freedom of Victoire Ingabire.

Shaka Ssali: You can’t have a demonstration, for example, in favor of Victoire Ingabire.

Robert Higiro: No no no no, you can’t.

Shaka Ssali: Why?

Robert Higiro: Because …

Shaka Ssali: What happens in fact if you try?

Robert Higiro: No, the Rwandan Constitution is a bit tricky because of the horrible genocide. And Mr. Kagame is using the horrible genocide to stop the critics from even the Western world.

And when it comes to Rwanda, the Rwandans inside Rwanda, if you say anything like Victoire Ingabire did –she was just trying to say, “Look here, the Hutus have to be responsible for genocide, but again, the RPF has to be responsible for the Hutu massacres.” And when she did that, that’s genocide denial, and you go to prison; that’s a crime. The same thing happens to other politicians, other opposition parties.

KPFA: The Rwandan government that has imprisoned Victoire Ingabire is a longstanding U.S. ally and military partner on the African continent.

For Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I’m Ann Garrison.

Oakland writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report, Black Star News, Counterpunch 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 anniegarrison@gmail.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.