"Seven hundred churches in Kigali? Are these boreholes that give people water?" Rwanda's President Kagame was quoted as asking in March 2018; he would later order the demolition of these centers to give way for 'meaning development'. This was greatly welcomed in many parts of Africa with citizens of different countries using him as a pointer for their own leaders.
Kagame, a military leader and politician, who became a hero in all of Rwanda after he led the Rwandan Patriot Front - a resistance that defeated the Hutu extremist forces and ended the 1994 Rwandan genocide, after the world and most notably the United Nations under the leaderships of Kofi Annan as Head of Security Council failed to provide help for the Rwanda people.
In 2000, the people of Rwanda gladly accepted him as President and he has ruled the country till date (almost two decades). Paul Kagame is hailed by allies as a visionary leader, but his opponents fear him and see him as an autocratic tyrant. While he prides himself as a leader who has turned Rwanda around from an ethnic war that was capable of wiping out the whole country into an African society worthy of emulation in many ways, it is his leadership style especially when it concerns dealing with criticism and political opposition that raises questions.
His military demeanor and guerrilla approach to political opposition and free press are tops on the list that highlights his failed legacy in Democracy, Leadership, Human Rights and Governance. Notable issues in this regard are the restrictions on Press Freedom in the country and the unlawful detention of Diane Shima Rwigara, a 35 years old Rwandan Business woman, activist and a leading opposition politician who spoke out against President Kagame’s autocratic regime.
Along with her mother, sister and about 20 others, Diane Shima Rwigara has been in detention since August 30th (almost a year ago from today) on counts of treason. The arrest which is clearly politically motivated came months after she openly declared intention to run for Presidency of Rwanda against the fierce Kagame which she has constantly spoke against.
This came after the Kegame government had shamelessly tried many antics to break her spirit and seal her lips but to no avail. After Diane Shima Rwigara declared her interest to run for presidency, the government released nude pictures of her on the internet. The released pictures were meant to humiliate her for boldly coming out to attack President Paul Kagame’s bad governance.
According to Watchdog, an online media, just 72 hours after Rwigara had publicly showed presidential interest, group of state agents from different organs and journalists of Newtimes held a meeting. The government IT team had traced her personal online/social media conversations to get the photos which was released to the journalist to spread on social networks.
This did not work as intended as a more resilient Rwigara became even more determined to end Kagame's reign. The government would later prevent her from contesting the elections however, after she was disqualified for alleged tax evasion and forgery of the signatures she needed to qualify to run against Kagame.
She, her mother, sister and about 20 others were later arrested on August 30th and according to the government faces a 20 years Jail sentence.
This is disheartening especially considering the political undertone in these turn of events and the government not taking into consideration the legacy of her father, Assinapol Rwigara, an industrialist who was a key financial backer of the Rwandan Patriotic Front and former ally of Kagame.
Many human right activists and organizations have spoke against the unlawfully arrest and detention of Rwigara, her mother, sister and twenty others but the government have paid deaf ears and the African Union has kept their lips sealed.
#FreeDianeRwigara continues to trend online, activists are leading peaceful protests and more independent voices are joining the struggle. We pray for the safe release of Diane Rwigara and those arrested with her.
God bless Rwanda, God bless Africa!