Rwandans, including senior government officials, did not take lightly comments made by outgoing Canadian la Francophonie secretary-general, Michaëlle Jean, about the trial of Diane Rwigara, a prominent President Paul Kagame critic.
Ms Jean last month lost her second term re-election bid for the post at the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF), the French-speaking countries bloc, to Rwanda’s Louise Mushikiwabo.
She will handover the leadership of OIF, in January, to Ms Mushikiwabo, who was recently replaced as Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister as she takes up her new role.
Ms Jean, in a post on Twitter Thursday, called for close watch on the case involving Diane and her mother Adeline Rwigara, a trial which already attracts global criticism.
“Let’s follow with utmost attention the trial in Rwanda against the freedom of expression of activist Diane Rwigara and her mother, both released on a provisional basis early October. They are accused before a Kigali court of ‘inciting insurrection’,” she wrote.
Rwandans dismissed her comments as being in bad taste and took to social media accusing her of being a sore loser.
“The bitterness of defeat makes you lose your mind, Madame! A new Secretary General was elected. In the last few weeks you are left with in office, you have no right to use your position to settle scores with your successor Louise Mushikiwabo and her country,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, the state minister of Foreign Affairs responded.
“I absolutely commend her for her preoccupation, however, I don’t recall ever seeing her worrying about Diane Rwigara’s legal issues before even though we all know that they’ve been going on for a while now! So I’m questioning her motives,” said Irene I.
Iradukunda Liliane said: “If only you had caught our attention for a good reason. But I know why I feel a certain bitterness and contemptuous writing in what you write Mrs Jean. Rwanda is a country free of its rights and just, you should have confidence in our justice.”
The Canadian of Haitian descent, who in 2014 became the first woman and non-African to head Francophonie, made the remarks following the resumption of the Rwigaras trial Wednesday, a month after the two women were released on bail having spent more than a year in jail.
Prosecutors requested the High Court in Kigali to hand the pair 22-year prison sentences for, among other charges, inciting insurrection.
Ms Rwigara is also charged with forgery of electoral documents that saw her disqualified from the presidential race in 2017, while her mother faces another charge of promoting sectarianism.
Their arrest, detainment and trial attracted criticism globally including from rights groups who have been calling for their unconditional release.
While the President Kagame-led government is praised for its stability and economic development since the 1994 genocide, it is often accused of poor human rights record and lack of political space and freedom of expression. But Rwanda continuously rebuffs the accusations.
Ms Mushikiwabo’s OIF election came after intense lobbying by Rwanda.