Rwanda: no room left in politics, only in jail
by Olivier Nyirubugara.
When she left the Netherlands in January 2010, Victoire Ingabire was hoping to occupy some room in the political space of her home country Rwanda. She even wanted to run for presidency to challenge incumbent president Paul Kagame, who finally won the almost one-horse race with 93 percent of votes.
Ingabire was allowed neither to register her party, nor her candidacy. Instead, she was accused of disseminating the genocidal ideology. Her lawyer, Peter Erlinder, was caught and jailed for the same crime, but was released later, after pressure coming from the US and all over the world.
Apparently, the charges proved not to be strong enough. A new one was added: Ingabire is a terrorist preparing attacks on Rwanda. A key witness who bought arms for her is already in custody. It’s a state security case and no one can have access to her. Thus, from the status of ambitious politician operating from her European exile, Ingabire turned out to be a ‘terrorist’, the most serious crime for which other politicians have received a life imprisonment.
It should be noted that her arrest followed president Kagame’s historic speech on 7 October, which many analysts have considered to be a turning point in his relations with the West. Apart from frontally attacking and mocking his now critical western backers, Kagame triumphantly announced that ‘the political space is well and fully occupied by the people of this country’, who spoke in ‘big numbers’ and – this one is important — freely.
Now that Ingabire is in jail, in the hands of those she constantly and virulently criticised, three scenarios are possible for the coming months and years. First, one would say that Ingabire stands a very little chance to be acquitted by Rwandan courts, as two of the most serious crimes in post-genocide Rwanda hang on her head. Thus, she will most likely spend the coming years at 1930, the famous Kigali central prison, where she would be isolated from other inmates for fear she would contaminate them. She would then be invited or pushed to repent, and ask for a presidential pardon, which was the case for former president Pasteur Bizimungu. That scenario consists in a psycological death, followed by, and resulting in, a political death. Bernard Ntaganda is in this scenario.
The second scenario would be that the judicial masquerade would lead to international outrage and increase pressure from the Western backers. The judges would then receive instruction to release her either conditionally or unconditionally. Bishop Augustin Misago and recently Ingabire’s lawyer Peter Erlinder, were in this scenario. This one consists in ‘surrender’ and would most likely free some room in the full and fully occupied political space
A third scenario could be envisaged: Physical death while in detention. Any way Green Party’s vice-president Rwisereka was beheaded and nothing happened. The reasoning might go in the direction of a slow, seemingly natural but assisted death. Ingabire’s husband, Lin Muyizere fears already for the health of his wife, whose blood pressure is said to be very low. She is also reported to sleep on bare floor and to receive to food or proper medication.