Rwanda's democratic opposition leader says “there is no space for people to speak freely and peacefully and engage in real democratic process in Rwanda.”
“I will not live in fear of re-imprisonment or assassination.”
Militia attacks killed 14 civilians in northern Rwanda during the first week of October. The attackers have not been identified, but the Rwandan Investigation Bureau has interrogated Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire several times a week since. Ingabire was released from prison in September 2018 but not allowed to leave Rwanda. Her party, the Democratic Forces of Rwanda, oppose Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s elite totalitarian rule and his ongoing invasion and occupation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
I spoke to Victoire Ingabire.
Ann Garrison: What is the Rwandan Investigation Bureau interrogating you about?
Victoire Ingabire: The Rwandan Investigation Bureau keeps questioning me about the militia attacks in the north of our country.
AG: And do you know anything about these attacks?
VI: No, I don’t know anything about these attacks, because I don’t believe that the political problems that we have in our country should be resolved by war. I don’t believe in war struggle. I believe in democratic struggle. We need dialogue between the government and the opposition.
AG: In the meantime, have there been any further investigations of the murders and disappearances of your fellow party activists?
VI: The Rwandan Investigation Bureau keeps telling me the investigations are going on, but no one has been arrested or charged.
AG: Are they still interrogating you all day three days a week?
VI: This week I was at the police station only two days.
AG: Have any international human rights advocates or organizations asked the Rwandan government to stop tormenting you like this?
VI: Not that I know of.
AG: In 2010, when you attempted to run for president against Paul Kagame, Pacifica Radio and the San Francisco Bay View newspaper were the only US outlets who spoke to you, but now many far better known outlets, including CNN, seem to report each assassination and disappearance of your fellow party activists and come to speak to you.
VI: I’m glad that the international press is now paying attention, but my wish is to hear something more reported about my country than the assassinations and disappearances of our members and others who dare to oppose its government.
“I’m glad that the international press is now paying attention.”
AG: I hate to say it, but this sounds very much like the constant interrogation they put you through in 2010 before sentencing you to eight years in prison and increasing the sentence to 15 years on appeal.
VI: You are right. It is very similar to my interrogation in 2010. But, as I have said before, I will not live in fear of re-imprisonment or assassination.
AG: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
VI: The powerful and wealthy nations who send foreign aid to Rwanda need to understand that they are supporting an unstable, unsustainable government, because there is no space for people to speak freely and peacefully and engage in real democratic process in Rwanda. Shutting down political space risks the return of mass violence to Rwanda sooner or later. I have devoted my life to preventing that and helping my people lift themselves up.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann(at)anngarrison.com
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