Thursday, June 23, 2011

RWANDA: A POLITICAL TRIAL AGAINST Ms. VICTOIRE INGABIRE UMUHOZA

By Dr. Emmanuel Mwiseneza
Delegate to information and communication
Coordination Committee of FDU-Inkingi

Article also available in: Français

Paris, June 19, 2011

This Monday, June 20, 2011, begins at the High Court in Kigali, the trial against Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi, an opposition party that the Rwandan authorities still refuse to register. Officially, she is accused of: genocide ideology, collaboration with a terrorist group, divisionism, spreading rumors aimed at inciting the population to rise against the regime, and creating a rebel army aimed at overthrowing the government by force. However, behind that judicial makeup, there are in reality hidden political agendas for the RPF dictatorship as we shall demonstrate it below.

Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza was presented before the same court, on Monday, May 16, 2011, against the advice of her lawyers who had requested a period of three months so that they can be in possession of the translation in English of more than 2,400 pages of the court file; examine the file with their client which they have never met privately without the presence of elements from the intelligence services in Rwanda. She was presented to the court with four co-defendants: Tharcisse Nditurende, Jean Marie Vianney Karuta, Noel Habiyaremye and Vital Uwumuremyi. They were escorted by several prison agents, police officers and intelligence agents (CID: Criminal Investigation Department). The team was led by the chief of police in the district of Nyarugenge, M. Mutezintare, accompanied by the director of the Kigali maximum security prison, also known as "1930."

 a. Political reasons

Since the installation of the regime led by the RPF-Inkotanyi, its leaders have established a culture of holding judicial proceedings in order to silence real or supposed opponents. Upon taking office, the regime of Paul Kagame has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of people wrongly or rightly accused of participation in the genocide. If among these prisoners there were people who could have participated in genocide, little by little, people were falsely accused of this crime in order to expropriate them or to silence them politically. This is also what essentially says the latest press release from Amnesty International (1).

All individuals who, at one time or another, tried to contradict those in power, were prosecuted either for genocide or for genocide ideology, even after many years of loyal service to the regime. There is no shortage of examples: former Prime Minister Pierre Celestin Rwigema, former Parliament Speaker Alfred Mukezamfura and former Senator Stanley Safari were prosecuted and convicted for genocide, even though they had occupied these high offices for several years. All those who tried to be critical or wanted to leave the RPF to create their own opposition party such as former President Pasteur Bizimungu, former minister Charles Ntakirutinka, former candidate for the presidential elections in 2003, Dr. Theoneste Niyitegeka, were prosecuted for fabricated crimes. Yet the reality is quite different: the political motives are the main reasons for the trial.

When Ms. Ingabire arrived in Rwanda on January 16, 2010, the regime was taken aback by the determination of this lady who does not mince words in denouncing the muzzling of the press, social injustice, unfair trials and discriminatory bereavement. To defy General Paul Kagame and aspire to be his challenger in presidential elections could only attract the wrath against the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi. The RPF regime spared no means to drag Ms. Ingabire in the mud while hiding itself behind the judicial reasons.

i. Persecution of Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza upon her arrival in Rwanda

When FDU-Inkingi announced its intention to go to implement itself in Rwanda in order to participate in the presidential elections of August 2010, acts of intimidation and other threats began right away. They were aimed at deterring FDU-Inkingi from returning to Rwanda. The first attempts were of course the refusal to grant passports to potential returnees in Rwanda in order to help implementing the party. This refusal did not alter the determination of FDU-Inkingi to return to Rwanda to exercise the political rights recognized by the current Constitution in Rwanda. The Rwandan government then appealed to the media under its control to demonize Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and to lobbying groups to accuse her of daring to participate, with representatives from the FDLR, in a meeting on the reconciliation of Rwandans. Ironically, the RPF had also been invited and was represented at that meeting which was organized by a Spanish NGO in Barcelona, Spain. Yet everyone agrees that the FDLR are part of the equation to be solved to ensure lasting peace in the Great Lakes region in general and in Rwanda in particular.

Calls for lynching the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi were launched by the highest state authorities. The only daily newspaper in Rwanda and government mouthpiece, The New Times (TNT), devoted itself to a series of editorials and articles, which every day, distorted, and transformed Ms. Ingabire’s speeches, denigrated her, called her all the names under the sun, accused her of defending the theory of double genocide, to spread the genocide ideology, to preach divisionism, to undermine national unity, to collaborate with the FDLR, etc.. Other state media or media that are close to the government followed the same path and took turns with TNT by relaying calls for lynching Ms. Ingabire. Her only crime: having dared to point the accusing finger to individuals that are responsible for massacres, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Hutus as this has been done with regard to individuals that are responsible for the genocide against the Tutsis. She is "guilty" of having called for the fight against impunity, by bringing up the crimes committed by the RPF army. Even though, these crimes have also been confirmed by the UN report "Mapping Exercise" published on October 1, 2010.

On February 3, 2010, she was attacked by a mob inside the administrative office of the Kinyinya Sector. As if this was not enough to discourage the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi, the police took over and began to summon her almost on a daily basis for interrogations that sometimes lasted for up to 10 hours a day. It was then the beginning of a psychological warfare. When she tried to take airplane to go to visit her family in the Netherlands, the police stopped her despite the fact that there was no order preventing her from leaving the territory. On April 22, 2010, she was placed under house arrest. In fact, the major wrong doings alleged against Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and FDU-Inkingi, are those of having dared to create an opposition party and having requested that political and military figures within the current regime that are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity be brought to justice.

ii. Persecution of members of FDU-Inkingi

When the campaign of demonization and aggression against Ms. Ingabire intensified, other party members who dared to affirm themselves as such or who were suspected of being so, in turn, were persecuted, fired from their jobs, were beaten and some of them were imprisoned or went missing. As they were getting ready to participate in a peaceful demonstration organized by the opposition (2) on June 24, 2010, hundreds of members of FDU-Inkingi were arrested and beaten by the police at Gishushu (Remera) and outside the Ministry of Justice in Kimihurura. They were converging for a peaceful demonstration outside the Ministry to ask the government to lift: the refusal to register FDU-Inkingi; restrictive measures and false accusations against their Chairperson Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza who was placed under house arrest since April 22, 2010 and therefore was deprived of her basic civil rights.

Two members of the Interim Executive Committee of FDU-Inkingi, Mr. Sylvain Sibomana, Secretary General, and Ms. Alice Muhirwa, were arrested and tortured by elements from the national police. Ms. Alice Muhirwa was hospitalized for several days after such abuses. Other officials of FDU-Inkingi including those within the City of Kigali were also beaten, arrested and put in jail along with members of the PS-Imberakuri including their Chairperson Me Bernard Ntaganda. Behind the criminal charges against these members there are hidden political motives: no citizen has the right to demonstrate peacefully against the regime and draconian laws tailored in order to remain in power indefinitely.

iii. Refusal to register the party FDU-Inkingi

FDU-Inkingi is an opposition party founded in exile. It decided to return to Rwanda to exercise its political rights recognized by the Constitution of Rwanda mostly owing to the fact that the Rwandan authorities keep appearing to the world that the doors are open for all Rwandan refugees who wish to return to their country. When she arrived in Rwanda, Ms. Ingabire directly began the administrative process aimed at registering FDU-Inkingi, which meanwhile had managed to recruit members inside the country. As provided in the Rwandan law on political parties (3), to be approved, each political party must hold a constituent assembly that brings together representatives of the party in each district, according to a distribution imposed by that law.

FDU-Inkingi has repeatedly requested a permit to hold the constituent assembly, but each time the permit was refused. Initially, local authorities claimed that FDU-Inkingi must first have a permit from the police. Such a request was later rejected by the police before falling back as usual on the alleged crimes of Ms. Ingabire, even though during those first applications she was not the subject of any previous charge. When the permit to hold a constituent assembly was requested by the first Vice Chair of the Interim Executive Committee, it was the same old song while he too, was not the subject of any prosecution. The evidence finally came to light: the regime did not want in any way to recognize a real opposition party. However, to mislead the public opinion, the government was always put ting forward the alleged criminal motives leveled against the Chairperson Ms. Ingabire.

b. Political motives became criminal charges

What everyone feared for quite a while, particularly since the interference of President Kagame finally arrived. Responding to yet another meeting of the anti-criminal police (CID), Ms. Ingabire was arrested on April 21, 2010 at 9 am GMT. Shock and dismay settled among the people fighting for democracy and who dreamed for the beginning of a democratic and peaceful change in Rwanda. On the same day she was presented to the prosecutor to let her know that she was charged with genocide ideology, divisionism and collaboration with a terrorist group, the FDLR. Her house was searched from top to bottom; computers, mobile phones, flash drives, SIM cards, CD's and various documents were taken away by the police and Ms. Ingabire was taken to jail where she spent that night. With these seized documents, the police were able to get some insights into the FDU-Inkingi operating system especially the names of its members that the police began to intimidate and harass. On April 22, 2010, Ms. Ingabire was released under judicial control. However, the harassment continued until her second arrest on October 14, 2010 after a week of siege. She was first held at the police station at Kicukiro before being transferred in Kigali maximum security prison, also known as "1930", where she is held up to date.

c. The charges

i. The ideology of genocide

"I and my party, FDU-Inkingi, founded in 2006, recognize that in 1994 there was genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsis. We also recognize that prior to 1994, in 1994 and after 1994, there were in Rwanda, war crimes and crimes against humanity that targeted the other components of the Rwandan population. These are the facts that we have witnessed and have been recognized by the United Nations in Resolution 955 of November 8, 1994. We also state unequivocally that anyone with a responsibility for these crimes, whether he/she is part of the former regime or the current regime, must answer for his/her actions in court. All these crimes are serious and are inalienable but we never tried to compare them or to exempt the responsibilities of some culprits by the responsibilities of others. We also recognize that genocide is the highest degree of inhumanity. We advocate that the sufferings of all survivors be adequately recognized and that they all be given special compensations," Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, FDU-Inkingi, Press Release of 03 May 2010.

This statement could not be clearer; it resumes everything FDU-Inkingi and its Chairperson have been saying publicly. There is no doubt about the recognition of the genocide by FDU-Inkingi and its Chairperson. Ms. Ingabire is a victim of false denunciation of the RPF which would like to liquidate any opposition leader by using the law No. 18/2008 of 23/07/2008 on genocide ideology. This law was designed in a vague and ambiguous way intended as a tool for blackmail, to use as the sword of Damocles over anyone who disagrees with the sole thought of the RPF or anyone who ventures to assert that the RPF committed crimes against humanity and acts that could be classified as genocide against the Hutus (trial of Peter Erlinder, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Deo Mushayidi, Paul Rusesabagina, Bernard Ntaganda, etc.).

Any difference of opinion on facts that were proven in our recent history, any mention of the crimes and victims of the RPF during the conflict from 1990 to 1994 and beyond can be equated with genocide ideology. The Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Kagarurama himself acknowledged that the law on genocide ideology was problematic following strong reservations in this regard expressed by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International had, but since then nothing has changed (4).

ii. Divisionism:

FDU-Inkingi is an opposition party. It is not a mystery in terms of the country’s governance and national cohesion for FDU-Inkingi to be in total opposition to the current regime. Our party cannot accept to stand behind the ruling party under the pretext that to not have the same vision as the RPF is deliberately equated to divisionism. The Constitution of our country, which the RPF regime set up itself, recognizes the multiparty system; the citizens have de facto the right to political projects competing with those of the ruling party.

To tell the world that the Rwandan people are under the yoke of fear and a political totalitarianism of another age; to denounce a justice that is under the dome of the executive and the traditional courts "Gacaca" which do not allow assistance by a defense counsel; to denounce the blatant hunger in rural Rwanda and slums; to regret that the basic health cares are lacking despite the compulsory affiliation to the so-called universal healthcare system (mutuelle de sante), and that the access to high schools and universities is subjected to discriminatory criteria; to condemn serious violations of humanitarian law and massive looting of the Congo's natural resources and to request that the perpetrators of such crimes be prosecuted, that is what the current regime in Rwanda calls divisionism and this is what the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi is being accused of.

 iii. Collaboration with a terrorist group:

The decision to return peacefully to exercise our political activities in Rwanda against a regime that we knew was dictatorial and disrespectful of basic human rights of its citizens has not been easy and has not been taken lightly. All scenarios to solve the political problems of Rwanda were examined with their consequences. Although we found that the peaceful way was strewn with many pitfalls, it appeared to us to be the best solution in the long term because it is the only way capable of ensuring regime change without further bloodshed and preserving the social fabric of Rwanda.

As a matter of politics, Ms. Ingabire effectively met with a representative of the FDLR, in Barcelona, Spain; the meeting was facilitated by Non-Governmental Organizations in this country. Many participants took part in this meeting, including a delegation from Rwanda whose one member openly declared that belonged to the RPF (5). The FDLR are like any other Rwandans; they need to be reassured so that they can return home without fear of being charged arbitrarily; there is nothing wrong that they participate in a meeting aimed at reconciliation.

FDU-Inkingi is in total disagreement with the government policy of "poaching" some leaders of the FDLR while emphasizing the use of force against the others, as if the government has no interest that the FDLR problem be resolved once and for all. We know from experience that the sole use of force has never helped to solve problems of political origins. It is this political position that makes it possible that the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi is accused of collaboration with a "terrorist" group.

iv. Spreading rumors aimed at inciting the population to rise against the government

FDU-Inkingi is a political party that is primarily concerned with the population. When we point out all the problems the population is facing, it should not be us who must be accused of stirring up the population against the government. Rather, it the regime that is the source of public discontent must be denounced because of its policies that favor special interests of a group of individuals at the expense of the rest of the population; the regime that has a political justice that favors the witch hunt; promotes informers in order to sow hatred and resentment among citizens so that it can continue to rule over divisions; destroys farmers' crops so that they can go hungry and hence keep them in dependency. It is not a crime for an opposition party to point out the major problems facing the population and to which the party wishes to propose alternative solutions.

v. Creation of a rebel army aimed at overthrowing the government by force

Knowing the history the RPF created itself, contrary to the assertion claiming that it cares about the interests and safety of the Rwandan people, the RPF seeks to protect its system at any price, and it cries wolf each time an opponent dares to openly stand against its totalitarianism. Indeed, the RPF  regime, because it does not believe at all in political change through peaceful and democratic ways, is afraid that another political organization may seek to repeat its feats of conquest of power by arms. General Paul Kagame, because of his dictatorial governance and serious crimes against humanity he is suspected of having personally committed, knows well that he cannot win free and fair elections.

The accusations that the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi may be involved in military actions and creation of a terrorist group are false and pure fabrications. The nation’s prosecution founds his accusation on statements of another defendant now turned key witness, Vital Uwumuremyi, who said that he had proposed to Ms. Ingabire the creation of a rebel movement, CDF, and that she might have accepted the plan and paid several thousand of dollars for a feasibility study. No one in the region is aware of this movement. The same key witness has provided a list of accomplices, all of which former members of the FDLR, who by chance were already in prison before the return of the main defendent in Rwanda.

Around the statements of these defendent-turned-witnesses, the prosecution has built a double charge of creating a rebellion and complicity in acts of terrorism in an attempt to overthrow the regime by force. Fortunately, “ridiculousness does not kill”! The Rwandan prosecution even claimed that the cesspool of Ms. Ingabire rental home designed to collect rainwater would be a military bunker. Additionally, these accusations that are supported by prisoners who are bought and paid big bucks by secret services, are baseless and have become commonplace to neutralize or imprison all opponents of the regime of General Kagame (6). This is why Deo Mushayidi, Bernard Ntaganda, Paul Rusesabagina, etc. are all subjected to the same charges as Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.

vi. Complicity in acts intended to overthrow the government by force

Any political party of the opposition is in line to replace the regime to which it is opposed. By choosing to return to Rwanda to exercise political activities, we announced our clear intention to replace the RPF regime by a regime issued from the polls. That means a regime issued from the people's choice. For the reasons we have already explained, however, we excluded the use of force and have chosen the peaceful way, the only way that seems to be our best long term solution. Therefore, we have nothing to do with those who may be preparing the overthrow of the regime by force. It is once again a fabricated crime to prevent FDU-Inkingi from competing for power.

d. Interferences of the executive and political authorities in the court file

In a rule of law system worthy of its name, the executive branch guarantees the respect for the Constitution. The Rwandan Constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary and the equality of all citizens before the law. The presumption of innocence is also recognized by the law as long as there has been no conviction by a competent court.

While the independence of the Rwandan justice system is questionable, the highest Rwandan authorities, starting with the most prominent among them, the President of the Republic, General Paul Kagame did not wait for the justice to decide on the case of Ms. Ingabire to openly accuse her of fabricated crimes.

The ballet of the attacks was initiated the day after her arrival in Rwanda by the Minister of Internal Security and Chairman of the Ideal Democratic Party (PDI), a satellite party of the RPF, Sheikh Mussa Fazil Harerimana. In his interview in the government supporting daily newspaper, The New Times (7), the Minister Harerimana accused Ms. Ingabire of revisionism and denial and threatened her of prosecution for the simple reason that she dared to say that the Hutu victims of the Rwandan conflict also deserve honor and dignity just as the Tutsi victims of the genocide. This is the dialectic of the RPF: to talk about Hutu victims equals denying the genocide of the Tutsis!

In the same vein, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Jean de Dieu Mucyo violently lashed out at Ms. Ingabire by accusing her of divisionism and called upon the authorities to take appropriate actions. The same speech was then continued by RPF satellite parties. Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Spokesman for the Senate insinuated that Ms. Ingabire sowed doubt about the existence of the genocide committed against Tutsis. Next, Protais Mitali, Chairman of the Liberal Party (PL), accused Ms. Ingabire of playing the ethnic card (8).

As the saying goes, credit where credit is due: the Golden Palm went finally to President Paul Kagame himself. In a speech delivered on April 7, 2010, on the occasion of the commemoration of the genocide, President Paul Kagame publicly treated Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza of "hooligan that Westerners want to place at the head of the country." (9)

In several public appearances, the President began to harass her and went on to declare that Ms. Ingabire would face a "wall of laws" that would prevent her from running for president. He did not hesitate to declare that "we [the RPF] fought and what we obtained by force, they won’t take it back from us through the ballot box." In a separate speech, he declared that the political space in Rwanda was fully occupied. Once the President of the Republic speaks in these terms, one can easily understand the link between politics and justice and the flexibility that remains to the later, which can now begin working to implement the orders from the President of the Republic.

e. Conclusion

As we have just shown throughout this document, the trial against Ms. Ingabire Umuhoza is a political process designed to silence a political competitor in order to perpetuate the dictatorship of the party-state, the RPF. Once FDU-Inkingi announced its intention to return to exercise political activities in Rwanda, the attacks of all kinds began and no action has been left out to deter FDU-Inkingi from returning to Rwanda. From the refusal to deliver passports to members of the party who wanted to return to Rwanda with the Chairperson to implement the party, to unfounded accusations of collaboration with the FDLR rebels operating in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, nothing was left at random. Confronted with the intact determination of the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi, policy makers opted for the devious transformation of political motives into criminal charges to bar the way to FDU-Inkingi and to Ms. Ingabire, the party Chaiperson. The distortion of her speech delivered at the Gisozi genocide memorial site, hate media campaign conducted by a partisan press of the regime, the interference of authorities in the court file, physical attacks directed against Ms. Ingabire with the administrative building of Kinyinya Sector despite the fact that she was invited by the authorities for administrative procedures, the never ending change of the charges leveled against her, the manipulation of witnesses and evidence by the prosecution and the secret services, the refusal to let Ms. Ingabire talk to her lawyers in privacy, etc. are all elements that allow us to conclude that Ms. Ingabire trial is political and that it only requires political solutions.

As Professor Filip Reyntjens once pointed it out (political column on Rwanda from 2009 to 2010, Antwerp, May 2010), Ms. Ingabire is ultimately the victim of having publicly challenged the very foundations of the regime by addressing three RPF monopoly: a) the status of the RPF as the "moral authority", b) the status of the Tutsi as the "only victims" of the Rwandan genocide, c) the status of the Hutus as the "criminals." These three pillars are in fact the basis of internal and international legitimacy of the RPF. Its regime has seen the emergence of a real opposition inside the country claiming the opening of political space as a threat to a situation that the RPF used to take for granted, namely: the total control of politics and the Rwandan society.

But then, a regime that was imposed by force and therefore illegitimate, can it render justice? An obsolete totalitarian regime, criminal, nepotist, clientelist, unable to solve the thorny issue of national reconciliation and most of the problems facing our citizens, doesn’t rather deserve to be replaced by a regime chosen by the people? Next time we will try to make a sketch of answers to all these questions.

[1] Amnesty International on Saturday CALLED ON Rwanda to stop using a Law Aimed Preventing "genocide ideology" to stifle dissent and charge Critics and journalists, in http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110618/wl_africa_afp/rwandapoliticsrightsmedia_20110618152919

[2] The event for which the authorization had been requested by the party PS-Imberakuri founded by Me Bernard Ntaganda, currently also in prison, was brutally repressed by the police before it happened.

[3] Organic Law No 19/2007 of 04/05/2007, complementing Organic Law n ° 16/2003 of 27/06/2003: even though this law is tailored to deter other political parties to be created, FDU-Inkingi had decided to respect it and had been able to meet the stringent conditions imposed by the law.

[4] "In response to this text, the Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama said that these laws were passed in the interests of Rwanda to avoid the repetition of genocide against Tutsi in 1994.

"Like other countries around the world, Rwanda has laws on genocide ideology so that we will never return to hatred and divisionism of the past," said Mr. Karugarama in an official statement denouncing a report that is "inaccurate and partisan." "However, in the process of rebuilding our country and development of our system of justice, we're amending our legislation," he said. "Thus, the laws on genocide ideology and divisionism are currently being revised and we will amendment them in the interests of Rwanda," the official said, without specifying the nature of this review".
(Http://www.challenges.fr/actualites/medias/20110603.AFP3584/rwanda_amnesty_demande_la_revision_des_lois_sur_lideolo.html)


 [6]

[7] The New Times, Monday 18th January 2010

[8] Ibid

[9]

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