Paul Kagame could easily be praised as one of Africa’s most visionary leaders. His strides in taking Rwanda out of the dark created by the genocide years to a country with so much promises is indeed daring enough to enlist Kagame’s name amongst Africa’s best leaders in the 21st century.
Kagame has been praised for bringing economic stability to the country following the 1994 genocide, in which some 800,00 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists.
However, Paul Kagame’s high handedness against political opponents may undermine that seeming good name that he has built for himself. Human rights groups accuse him of suppressing democratic opponents and muzzling the independent media.
One of such cases is that of the arrest, detention of Diane Shima Rwigara and her family with a possible 20 years imprisonment if convicted for charges that stemmed immediately after she declared to run against Kagame in 2017.
36 years old Diane Rwigara became a target as soon as she declared to contest for president against Kagame. She was arrested and charged with forgery and tax related offences. Her mother and sister were also detained on similar charges. Her mother and sister were also detained on similar charges. The three of them are currently being tried. If Diane Rwigara is convicted on the state security charges, she will be facing a minimum of 20 years in prison.
The charges were brought against Diane Rwigara on 23 September 2017 and were based on public comments she made that were critical of the Rwandan state, including at a press conference to launch a new activist group, the People Salvation Movement, on 14 July 2017.
The charges against her include “forging or alteration of documents” and “use of counterfeited documents”, while her mother, Adeline, faces an additional charge of “discrimination and sectarian practices.”
Diane Rwigara had earlier been barred from contesting the August 2017 presidential election by the country’s electoral authority, National Electoral Commission (NEC).
In the months before declaring her candidacy, Diane Rwigara had been outspoken about issues such as poverty, injustice, insecurity and the lack of freedom of expression. Just days after she announced her candidacy, nude photos said to be of her were leaked and circulated on social media, in what many considered a smear campaign to tarnish her image. Diane Rwigara said that the pictures were photo-shopped.
Rwigara remains in jail as her trial proceeds.
THE RWIGARA ASSETS AUCTIONED BY RWANDAN GOVERNMENT
The Rwanda Revenue Authority sold machinery from the family’s tobacco business for almost $2m (£1.5m) in a bid to recover $7m in tax arrears. A previous auction of Ms Rwigara’s family business assets – of processed tobacco – netted more than 500m Rwandan francs (£570,000).
The family insists the auction and charges against them are politically motivated.
KAGAME’S HISTORY OF TYRANNIC TENDENCIES AGAINST THE RWIGARA’S
In July, 2007 Diane’s late father, Assinapol Rwigara was rumoured to have joined a group of 14 businessmen known as the “The Great 14” in a bid to unseat Paul Kagame. The businessmen were apparently financing a group of officers led by Rwanda’s former chief spy, Patrick Karegeya.
Karegeya fled Rwanda that same year. In January 2014, his body was found in a hotel room in Johannesburg. Critics blamed the Rwandan leader for Karegeya’s death.
Then, a year later, Assinapol Rwigara, Karegeya’s friend, died in a mysterious accident in Kigali. Rwandan police said that Rwigara died when a truck rammed into his car. The circumstances of the accident left many Rwandans doubting the official narrative. Rwigara’s family bravely petitioned Kagame to investigate the matter, but he refused.
Kagame’s attitude towards political critics are questionable in so many lights.
DIANE’S CASE KEEPS KAGAME’S REPUTATION AT STAKE
While the tax related charges against Diane and her family may seem genuine, that of forgery and insurrections are obviously politically motivated. International reactions stem to facts that Kagame must ensure that Diane and her family get a fair trial or run the risk of having his supposedly good name soiled. In this light, Rwanda’s case against the Rwigara’s assumes an international pedestal attracting human rights institutions across the globe. Hence, putting Kagame and the Rwandan authorities on a spotlight weighed by integrity and the truth.