KIGALI. A prominent critic of veteran Rwandan president Paul Kagame has been acquitted by Rwanda’s high court of charges that included inciting insurrection and forging of documents.
Diane Rwigara, a 37-year-old activist and accountant has repeatedly accused Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his Rwandan Patriotic Front’s unyielding grip on power since it assumed control after ending the country’s 1994 genocide.
Her attempt to stand against Kagame in the country’s last presidential poll in August last year was blocked after she was accused of not submitting enough supporters’ signatures and that some of those she submitted were forged.
“Court rules that Diane Rwigara is innocent,” Xavier Ndahayo, one of a panel of three judges, told a packed courtroom in the capital Kigali. Rwigara’s mother was also acquitted of charges of inciting insurrection and discrimination.
The courtroom, packed with diplomats and supporters, erupted in applause when the verdict was read out , as Diane Rwigara and her mother were overcome with tears. Excited relatives who had prayed before the hearing for protection swarmed them with hugs.
“I am very happy with the court decision. I am continuing with my political journey …everything I talked about in the past has not been resolved. There are still many political prisoners in the country,” Diane Rwigara said after the ruling.
Kagame has won international praise for presiding over a peaceful and rapid economic recovery in Rwanda since the genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. But he has also faced mounting criticism for what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, a muzzling of independent media, and suppression of political opposition.
Since Rwigara’s arrest last year, her brothers and sister have been interrogated, family assets have been forcibly auctioned to pay off a multi-million dollar tax claim, while a hotel the family owned was demolished for allegedly failing to abide by city guidelines.
Credit – The Guardian