“A Cemetery for the Living”
On the day of Rwigara’s arrest, the police brought her to the station. Every day, she says, she was questioned for between five and seven hours, for an entire month.
In September, Rwigara, her sister and her mother were put in prison — and although they were initially arrested on charges of tax evasion, they were indicted for inciting insurrection.
The guards shaved Rwigara’s head, gave her prison garb — a pink dress — and put her in a cell with two beds, a sink and a toilet that she shared with five other women.
“In prison,” Rwigara says, “it’s like a cemetery for the living.” She picked up the phrase from a fellow inmate who was detained for abortion, which is largely banned in Rwanda.
Rwigara became friends with many of the women who, after a few days or weeks, were replaced with other prisoners. It soon dawned on her that the women were supposed to spy on her, so the government could finally get some inside information on the People Salvation Movement. She says that she kept quiet after that.
It was not until a year and two weeks later that she was released on bail along with her mother. The charges were dropped shortly thereafter. Rwigara says she was only let go thanks to pressure from abroad after the media and human rights lawyers started calling her a political prisoner.