Rwandan opposition leader freed from jail

Lester Mason
September 15, 2018

The Rwandan cabinet has approved a presidential pardon of over 2,000 convicts in a move that will benefit two prominent persons now serving jail terms.

"There is nothing political about her release, there is nothing political about her imprisonment", Justice Minister Johnston Businge told Reuters by telephone, downplaying the significance of Ingabire's release.

She has been a leading critic of President Paul Kagame and says her trial was politically motivated. The Ministry of Justice tweeted on Friday, September 14, that cabinet had approved the early release of 2,140 eligible convicts.

Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, has pardoned jailed opposition leader Victoire Ingabire who was serving a 15 year sentence on terrorism charges. Ingabire heads the FDU-Inkingi opposition party.

The precise time of Victoire Ingabire's release was not immediately clear but officials and lawyers said it would be on Saturday.

She was arrested and barred from standing soon after, and has been in jail for eight years.

Ingabire, an ethnic Hutu, was accused of "genocide ideology" and "divisionism" after publicly questioning the government narrative of the 1994 genocide of mostly Tutsi people that killed around 800,000 people.

In 2012, she was sentenced to 15 years for conspiring to form an armed group to undermine the government and seeking to minimise the 1994 genocide.

Last year, the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights (AfCHPR) held that Rwanda violated Victoire Ingabire's right to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as her right to adequate defense.

However, Rwanda ignored the ruling.

"I thank the president who gave me this liberation", Ingabire said as she left Mageragere Prison in the capital Kigali, according to AFP news agency.

Another opposition politician, Diane Rwigara, who sought to challenge for the presidency in 2017, was blocked by the electoral commission and subsequently arrested and charged with treason.

Others presidential challengers have been prevented from entering the country, while exiled dissidents have been threatened and sometimes murdered.

He commonly wins re-election with over 90 percent of the vote. Last year, the Rwandan constitution was amended to end two-term limits for presidents, theoretically allowing Kagame to rule until 2034.

In recently concluded parliamentary elections, two opposition parties won two seats each for the first time, a sign that the government is trying to carry out reforms.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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