Petition Demanding Kagame Release Presidential Aspirant Gains Steam

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Diane Rwigara. Photo: Facebook

An online petition calling for Rwanda's president Paul Kagame to release from detention Diane Rwigara and her Family has gained steam with almost 1,000 signatures since its launch 48 hours after its launch.

Ms. Rwigara, 35, was blocked from running against Kagame in the most recent election when authorities rejected signatures collected to get on the ballot. Rwigara is a 35 year is the founder of the People Salvation Movement (Itabaza) an organization to empower Rwandans by educating people about their political rights.

The authorities claim Kagame won with an improbable 99% of the vote. Kagame had pushed through a constitutional amendment that allowed him to run again. He had completed two terms and barred from running again prior to the amendment.

The petition calling for Rwigara's release and directed to the International community including the the EU, United Nations and the U.S. government was launched by the African Great Lakes Action Network (AGLAN). She and her family were detained after security agents raided her home August 29.

Black Star News spoke with Rwanda genocide-survivor and AGLAN executive director Claude Gatebuke.

BSN: Tell us what you know of this arrest and isn't it curious that this is the second woman who dared to try to challenge Kagame as a presidential candidate and is now behind bars? The other Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza was subsequently tried for treason and sentenced to a long prison term.

Claude Gatebuke: This is a continuation of the Kagame treatment toward opponents who challenge him, particularly women. Kagame's response to dissent in Rwanda is assassination, imprisonment or exiling of his critics including journalists and other professionals.

I predicted this arrest in my article released days before the election. In his speech this past Thursday, Kagame himself sanctioned the arrest of the Rwigara family saying that "even if you ran or tried to become president, you have no immunity and I hope those I am speaking to understand." This also shows that Kagame's claim to women empowerment is phony. Most importantly though, this arrest is testament to both women Victoire and Diane's courage and resilience. She knew the consequences, even predicted it but she pushed for change anyway. Their courage in the face of such repression will go down in history and they will be remembered as some of the great women from the continent of Africa.

BSN: Can you comment on the presidential election itself? The credibility of it and also compare it with what we are seeing in Kenya where the Supreme Court has annulled disputed election and ordered a new one.

CG: What we are seeing in Kenya is historical, while what we witnessed in Rwanda must be dumped in the dustbin of history. The elections were polar opposites. Kenya had a credible campaign. The reaction by the announced winner in the Kenyan elections and the opposition, the ensuing attitude by the Kenyan people shows maturity and democratic maturity. Rwanda would have benefited greatly from Kagame respecting rule of law and respecting the constitution. Kenya is setting a great example in the region that must be emulated.

I salute president Kenyatta for his acceptance of the ruling. Kenya has a bright sustainable future. Rwanda on the other hand is being driven toward another catastrophe by the ruling and the RPF, Rwandan Patriotic Front, and Kagame.

According to Kagame, this is a personal failure because he said himself in 2012 that if he does not step down in 2017, he will have failed to groom a successor. It also shows that he's an unashamed liar who said on multiple occasions that he would not run after his second term ends in 2017. Yet he maneuvered to change the constitution in order to remain president.

The election was obviously neither credible nor serious. Even various donors did not bother to send observers. As usual, the serious opponents such as Diane Rwigara were barred from running and now she faces the consequences for even trying. True to his character, Kagame proved the lack of credibility for this election by awarding himself nearly 99% of the vote.

BSN: How has the outside world reacted to the arrest? The countries that are the principal sponsors of the Kagame regime. For example Britain and the United States. What are you calling for?

CG: I have not seen any reactions from donor nations--inaction toward the regime in Kigali committing this human rights violation. We are calling for donors to pressure the regime to produce, indicate the whereabouts of Diane Rwigara. Furthermore, the donor community should withhold aid until all political prisoners are released including Diane Rwigara, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Deo Mushayidi and many others.

As a donor nation, the US government should especially use their leverage to get U.S. citizen Anne Rwigara, Diane's sister released along with her whole family.

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