Rwanda Arrests Prospective Opposition Presidential Candidate

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[Global: Africa]

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza a Rwandan opposition leader has been arrested on charges that she's involved with a terrorist organization and that she's a genocide denier. 

Mrs. Ingabire a leader of United Democratic Forces (UDF) arrived in Rwanda from exile last January after 16 years, and is challenging President Paul Kagame in the next general elections due August this year.

The opposition described the arrest as a tragedy and demanded unconditional release of a woman they called "the icon of struggle for freedom, democracy and justice."

“The UDF – Inkingi Support Committee condemns in the strongest terms possible the arrest this morning of the party
Chair, Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, for her views on how to bring about genuine national reconciliation and peace through the rule of law and equal opportunity and how to end the cycle of political violence through a non violent, peaceful
democratic competition for and exercise of power,” the group said in a statement from Eugene Ndahayo.

Ndahayo added: “We know that this violent arrest will not deter her determination, instead its prompts the struggle of this freedom icon to a higher level.”

Mrs. Ingabire is the leader of a coalition of Rwandan opposition parties who was elected by a council as an official candidate for the next general elections.

According to her post on Facebook page, she had been advocating for, "creation of a Committee of Truth, Justice and Reconciliation to help Rwandans towards true reconciliation; Introduction of a non-political commission in charge of rewriting and interpretation of the actual history of Rwanda."

Last month, Rwanda’s ambassador to The Netherland, Jean-Pierre Bizimana resigned his post through an e-mail to President Kagame. He had issued  passports to the family of Mrs. Ingabire without the approval of authorities in Kigali, Rwanda, according to people familiar with the matter.

Last February, Rwanda’s ambassador to India, General Kayumba Nyamwasa who also served as the first Army Commander of President Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Army fled the country and has been granted asylum in South Africa.

The clampdown has escalated and after authorities ordered the arrest of Godwin Agaba, a top journalist with 256News, he's been underground since March 10, 2010.

“The Rwandan government and the RPF have strongly resisted any political opposition or broader challenge of their policies by civil society. On several occasions, the government has used accusations of participation in the genocide, or 'genocide ideology,' as a way of targeting and discrediting its critics,” New York-based Human Rights watch has said in a report.

Adds the report: “Opposition party members are facing increasing threats, attacks, and harassment in advance of Rwanda's August 2010 presidential election.”

Mrs. Ingabire has previously alleged that Kigali government headed by President paul Kagame is using the country’s 1994 genocide to “black mail” and silence those with dissenting voices to the regime.

Seperately, an influential U.S. Senator, Russ Feingold on March 2, said the "international community should not shy away from pushing for greater democratic space in Rwanda, which is critical for the country’s lasting stability. We fail to be true friends to the Rwandan people if we do not stand with them in the fight against renewed abuse of civil and political rights. In the next few months in the run-up to the elections, it is a key time for international donors to raise these issues with Kigali.”

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