“Between 4 walls of the 1930 prison,” as a Christmas gift

By Ambrose Nzeyimana

The book of which title is in the heading and cover on the left was written by Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a Rwandan prisoner of conscience, while in prison. Though she is out since September 15th, 2018, her freedom remained restricted inside Rwanda. This book was initially published in 2015 in French. The English version came out in October 2017. There is a Spanish version as well. As the world comes together at the time of Christmas to enjoy family togetherness, those who have been deprived of such joy, not by their own doing, shouldn’t be forgotten.

On December 25th this year, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza will be outside the 4 walls she describes in her book, but she will be spending her 8th Christmas under a prison called Rwanda. Not everyone in Rwanda is confined inside prisons’ walls, but the lives they live is not different from that of prisoners, given the restrictions and deprivations they encounter every day. Ingabire cannot travel outside the country. A list of deprivations that Rwandans experience are countless and diverse: from parenthood, virginity, education, healthcare, land, employment, to mourning, thinking, living, talking, or doing business. People know how many sacrifices she had to make and be where she is. This was a deliberate choice for which she was aware of the consequences and for which her compatriots are immensely grateful. 

Her engagement was necessary to bring about the change all Rwandans aspire to. At one time, Ingabire was asked why she decided to embark on her current political trajectory. Her answer to that question regarding her journey was somehow philosophical. She replied saying that she left her family and headed to Rwanda back in January 2010 because she loved it dearly. If you think about it, though she did it, she did it not only for her family but more significantly for the sake of all suffering and oppressed compatriots, trying to secure a better future for all Rwandans. There cannot be any stronger love for your close and wider family members than that.

During the Christmas period, people in their respective families across the world will recall and share their memories of the past, present or ongoing experiences, and undoubtedly plans for the future. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, like millions of Rwandans inside and outside their country but living in prisons of some sort imposed on them by the leadership in Kigali, will have similar close thoughts. However, they might not have any member of their family to share them with. As they say, sharing is caring. The suggestion of gifting the book of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza to a family member or a friend, during this period prior to Christmas, could be a testimony that you care and are compassionate about the suffering of others.

In the book, there is one particular story which personally touched me when reading it. It is the story of the three years old Cynthia that Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza adopted while she was herself still in prison. The child’s mother, who was also purging a penal conviction, believing that Ingabire could secure a better future for her little one, though they were both under difficult constraints, is a strong sign of trust in someone.

Best wishes for the festive season.