Saturday 31/01/2015 was a special day for Friends of Victoire, an organisation campaigning for the release of the Rwandan politician woman Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza imprisoned in Kigali since October 14th, 2010 and serving a 15 years sentence.
A webcast [see video] was organised and hosted the listed panelists who exchanged on practical actions that could lead to the release of the prisoner and her colleagues held in Rwandan prisons. The individuals interviewed by the facilitator in the video are all members of the organisation and based in different parts of the world: Ann Garrison, Claude Gatebuke, Anneke Verbraeken, Perpetue Muramutse and Marie Lyse Numuhoza.
The debate highlighted some actions that people could take to contribute to the release of that incredible African woman:
- By people coming together and discussing what to do in their local communities, they can impact on decision-makers in their respective countries and or at supra national levels, and influence them to take actions that change policies towards Rwanda;
- Thinking globally but acting locally; for example by putting pressure on countries supporting the Rwandan regime and making them not to overlook the abuses that are widely documented that Kigali has been committing towards its citizens and neighbors for so many years;
- Reaching out to the media by telling them what is happening to Victoire Ingabire, and by so doing raising her profile in the eyes of the general public; highlighting as well other injustices including economic crimes being committed by the regime;
- Writing personal testimonies on injustice that people have experienced which add to the story of Victoire Ingabire; sending the content to local decision-makers who usually avoid being seen as supportive of rogue governments like Rwanda;
- Associating the movement to those advocating for Palestine and total eradication of the reminiscence of Apartheid in South Africa
- Joining Friends of Victoire then sharing experience of work being done locally by different organisations that contribute to the objectives of the campaign to release Victoire Ingabire.
Marie Lyse Numuhoza, Chairperson of Friends of Victoire, explains in an interview she gave to Ann Garrison what the organisation stands for.
“It’s an organization for global people who love peace and we’re calling for them to join us to free Victoire Ingabire because she stands for peace in Rwanda, she stands for freedom in Rwanda, for human rights, and if Rwanda is stable, the rest of the Great Lakes Region, especially the Congo, will see the peace that the Congolese people are looking for…”
Victoire Ingabire political party reported in the middle of January 2015 on her difficult conditions of detention. They have been worsening by the day. Panellist Anneck Verbraeken, who visited her in Kigali prison before that happens, describes how she found her.
“I visited her as a friend and not as a journalist. I was not allowed to take pictures nor videos. We couldn’t speak neither Dutch or French. Only English [the language the guards probably understood most].
We could only talk about her family and our mutual friends. No political topics were allowed.
We had two guards [looking over us] very closely.
But what I saw was a very strong and beautiful woman. Amazingly she is more beautiful even than before she left The Netherlands.
After so many years in prison and not in the very best of conditions; she is really isolated from all the other prisoners. She lives in a small cell outside the main prison building. She is constantly guarded. [Apart from her guards] she is practically all alone, and this is really something very difficult. But she is incredibly courageous.
What she does!!! She is committed to her case and Rwanda. So she works all day trying to rally people to her vision. She is busy all day.”
You can join the movement for the release of Victoire Ingabire and other Rwandan political prisoners by clicking and registering at FoV.
Political Analyst/ Activist
Organising for Africa, Coordinator
The Rising Continent, Blog editor