A brutal and uncompromising verdict: Today, Madame Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Chairperson of Unified Democratic Forces-FDU-Inkingi, was sentenced to 8 years in prison by the High Court of Kigali.

The Rwandan justice system is broken.

All of you who might still doubt the unfairness and the lack of independence of the Rwandan justice system with regard to the regime of Paul Kagame, open your eyes. Throughout the trial, we tirelessly showed you how the High Court, by violating basic judicial procedures and evidence of innocence presented by the defense, persisted in its wanderings and declared itself competent to judge the facts all of which were unsubstantiated and were contested by the defense, the facts that apparently occurred before the law repressing them was enacted or the facts that have been committed outside the jurisdiction of the High Court. Even the illegal acquisition of the evidential documents from the Netherlands, which were supposed to show the collaboration of Madame Victoire Ingabire with the armed rebellion of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), turned out to be a windbag. The Prosecution failed to provide, beyond any reasonable doubt, the evidence of guilt for Madame Victoire Ingabire. By refusing to consider the testimonies and breaches to the judicial procedure that were presented by the defense team, and moreover, by violating the basic legal principles of non-retroactivity of criminal laws and jurisdictions, the High Court failed to interpret the law and therefore denied to Madame Victoire Ingabire the right to a fair trial.

While the Kigali regime wanted to transform the trial of Madame Victoire Ingabire into banal act of criminal law, on several occasions, it was caught in a flagrant meddling into judicial proceedings. Indeed, the decision of April 16, 2012 by Madame Ingabire to withdraw from the trial came in at the right moment, when in grave violation of basic judicial procedures, one of the defense witnesses, Michel Habimana, had suffered intimidations and illegal interrogations in prison, in the absence of his lawyer, and without proper authorization from the Court. The next day, when the witness returned to the Court, he reported the incident and informed the court that his cell was searched from top to bottom. Therefore, Madame Victoire Ingabire requested the Court the right to speak. In view of the extreme gravity of the above reported incident and considering the facts as obviously prescient of future obstructions to the expected testimonies from other witnesses in her defense, and keeping in mind several irregularities accumulated throughout her trial, Madame Victoire Ingabire told the Court that she had completely lost confidence in Rwanda’s judiciary and that she was permanently withdrawing from the trial. By doing so, she irrevocably proved that the Rwandan justice system was broken and that it was under the total control of the executive.

The lawsuit against the Chairperson of FDU Inkingi is politically motivated.

The allegations against the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi including, endangering the state security, divisionism, and genocide denial, have been proven to be fixtures aimed at absolutely condemning a disturbing political opponent. There is no longer any doubt: the lawsuit initiated by the Kigali regime against Madame Victoire Ingabire is a highly political trial. Madame Victoire Ingabire disturbs the Kigali regime because of her strong commitment to reconciliation and justice for all victims and all perpetrators; she distrurbs because of her resolute struggle against the dictatorship of General Paul Kagame. By condemning an innocent person to such a lengthy prison term solely on facts that exclusively relate to politics, the Kigali regime intends to suppress any dissenting voice and thereby keep the population in fear and submission under its totalitarian grip. At the same time, the Kigali regime has sent a clear signal to national and international public opinion that it certainly was not ready to open any political space and engage in dialogue with its political opposition.

FDU Inkingi remains strongly committed to peaceful struggle.

It is now clear for FDU-Inkingi that the Kigali regime will never willingly open up the political space. After two and a half years of unsuccessful application for the registration of our party, it is now clear that President Paul Kagame will never register FDU-Inkingi. By condemning to prison term Madame Victoire Ingabire, who had returned home with the mandate of registering FDU-Inkingi and standing in the presidential elections, the Rwandan regime has caused a major political shift which must be condemned by all national and international stakeholders including civil society and political activists that love peace and are concerned about democratic change in Rwanda.

The Kigali regime has just sentenced Madame Victoire Ingabire to prison term, but it will never reverse what she has already accomplished and the hope she now embodies. The Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi has built the path to emancipation which the Kigali regime can no longer block, neither indefinitely nor with impunity.

Even though the political party FDU-Inkingi notes once again the propensity of the Kigali regime to favor the use of force to settle political disputes, we will not let ourselves be torn apart by such a secret hope of the Rwandan regime which aimed at leading us into violence. Violence will never be our political choice. Such a violent path would be imposed upon us by the current regime in Kigali. While General Kagame has shown in the past that he could tolerate any human cost to access or hold on power, for FDU-Inkingi, human damages caused by the past tragedy in Rwanda are already considerable enough so that we should all use caution not to add on new ones, because if we did human consequences would be more immeasurable. The political party FDU-Inkingi remains committed to negotiations and will continue to request them, against all odds, to ensure a peaceful transition of our country towards democracy and reconciliation. The party FDU-Inkingi hopes that General Kagame would seize such an opportunity to accept, without any restrictions, direct talks with his political opposition.

The choice is still up to President Paul Kagame.

We launch a solemn appeal to all of the Rwandan people not to succumb to warmongering sirens which, owing to such an impasse resulting from the closing of political space, may soon come forward and try to lead us into the armed struggle in order to hold on or ascend to power. Such an adventure which is meant to attract gullible customers, would serve in reality, to legitimize the current regime instead of stirring up the real possibilities for a genuine popular liberation.

It is still up to President Paul Kagame. He may decide to remain on power through negotiations in which we are asking his regime to engage with his political opposition. President Paul Kagame may also decide to step down by force, a path that he would have himself imposed upon us.

The clock is ticking, Dr. Schweitzer!

Done in Lausanne, Switzerland, on October 30, 2012.

For FDU-Inkingi Coordinating Committee

Dr. Nkiko Nsengimana