Thursday, December 12, 2013

To President Kagame: Free Victoire Ingabire

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The verdict in Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire's (some refer to her as the Rwandan Mandela) trial is expected today. However, while it would be a pleasant surprise to have her released, there is little reason for such high hopes.

Those who have followed her case closely have identified countless judicial flaws that indicate interference from the executive. In fact, she was treated like a criminal as soon she landed in Rwanda on January 16, 2010 to contest for the presidency. Talking to the Ugandan Daily Monitor a few days later, the Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, reportedly stated: “this woman [Ingabire] will certainly be where she belongs”. Without an once of shame, Mr. Kagame was openly admitting the charade that is Rwanda's "justice".

In the end, only one verdict is expected. It is very likely that she will land a sentence long enough to preclude her from participating in the 2017 presidential elections. This is not difficult to predict: several members of her party including Sylvain Sibomana (her party's Secretary General) are already serving murky sentences on politically-motivated charges. In fact, this has become the norm rather than the exception in Kagame's Rwanda.

As it seems, Kagame is gaining the upper hand in oppressing dissidents and clamping on basic freedoms. The question is how long will this cynical manipulation of the polity go on? What follows next after Ingabire's likely lengthy incarceration?

These are difficult questions to answer. While Kagame's despotism ensures an outward sign of stability, I think the regime will become less predictable. This is especially more likely as Kagame's Tutsi kin refuse to be held hostages by the regime and become its fierce critics. The current bitter exchanged between the Kagame and Rwandan National Congress (RNC) is a foreshadow of the kind of future we should expect.

As for Ms. Ingabire, despite the immense evil that the Rwandan dictatorship is capable of, the legacy of Mr. Mandela must remain your lasting hope. Prison or any other heinous tactics by the regime will only delay freedom but they are incapable of quenching our thirst for it. Sooner or later we will rise.

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