Rwanda political prisoners and others

During the last eighteen years, timing and lying have been for the Rwandan government some of the defining characteristics of its policies in many areas of the country’s institutions. How many political prisoners are in Rwanda? Nobody knows. How many overall prisoners have died through the horrible Rwandan imprisonment system since RPF taking power in Rwanda? Only speculators can guess.

And knowing exactly how many or when is not always as important as the motives behind their incarceration or disappearance. When the Rwandan president Paul Kagame declared in March 2010 that he decided not to imprison Victoire Ingabire, Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi, immediately after she arrived in Kigali on 17 January 2010, he explained that he did not want to give her a national or international political status that she did not deserve. He however terribly failed on this ground.

Victoire Ingabire, leader of FDU-Inkingi, imprisoned in Rwanda since 14 October 2010
Victoire Ingabire, leader of FDU-Inkingi, imprisoned in Rwanda since 14 October 2010

The Rwandan president refused the registration of FDU-Inkingi because of serious challenge the party constitutes for Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front. After months of intimidation and harassment, he finally imprisoned Victoire Ingabire on 14 October 2010. She has presently almost spent two years in jail unduly for expressing her political rights of participating actively in the governance of her country.

A source in Rwanda announced how difficult the conditions of her incarceration are. She is apparently only allowed one day a month to be out of her cell. The rest of the time she has to spend it inside without communication with the outside, except with the person who brings her food under the watch of prison guards.

On 3 September 2012, the Rwandan High Court was scheduled for the hearing on the unconstitutional character of the law on genocide, divisionism and revisionist, as Ingabire challenged it. In her previous hearings at lower levels of the Rwandan judiciary system, she argued that the law as it is written and interpreted has been devised to stifle any dissent voice criticizing the Rwandan government.

But Ingabire is not the only political prisoner that the Rwandan regime has incarcerated for unjust motives. Among the other most well known political prisoners, there are Deogratias Mushayidi, PDP-Imanzi chairperson, Bernard Ntaganda, chairperson of PS-Imberakuri, and Dr Theoneste Niyitegeka, the unlucky runner of 2003 presidential elections.

Deo Mushayidi, leader of PDP-Imanzi, sentenced to life imprisonement
Deo Mushayidi, leader of PDP-Imanzi, sentenced to life imprisonement

In addition, exactly this week on Wednesday 5, 2012, Alexis Bakunzibake, first Vice President of PS-Imberakuri, was reported to have been kidnapped by security forces in Kigali. He might disappear like many others RPF targeted before him if he is not persistently kept alive in the eyes of the general public. If he is lucky, he might be imprisoned.

This just happened when Britain resumed this week part of its aid package allocated aid to Rwanda, apparently as a sign of satisfaction of how Kigali responded to external and multiple requests to cease its support to M23, the Congolese rebellion fighting against Kinshasa government in Eastern Congo.

The outgoing UK International Development Secretary Mr Mitchell said his decision had been justified by an improved situation on the ground.

He said in The Telegraph that:

“Rwanda has engaged constructively with the peace process initiated through International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and there is a continuing ceasefire.”

Would he take back UK aid if the ceasefire was interrupted by the end of the week? Mitchell seems to be the only one who believes in the conclusion of that Kampala conference, and for a good reason. He is certainly guaranteed that it won’t work.

Alexis Bakunzibake, 1st Vice President of PS-Imberakuri; he was kidnapped on Wednesday 5 September 2012 by security forces in Kigali around midday.

Back in 2009, I remember standing in a circle in front of him after he had contributed to a conference on Rwanda at The Royal African Society, and where people were explaining him how blinded he was on the situation in that country. He appears to be an unconditional of Paul Kgame’s regime. The number of victims of the latter has never been an issue, as long as Britain has his agent in Central Africa with all the necessary resources to achieve their aims.

Though this attitude of Britain is regrettable, knowing how devastative Rwandan interventions in DRC have been and continue to be in that country [half a million of population has been displaced by M23 rebel movement only], it is more so to see how Western attitude towards Kigali has enabled Paul Kagame to persistently imprison innocent Rwandans for the sake of stifling democracy in their country, and more importantly to achieve his strongly pursued numeric equilibrium between Tutsis and Hutus.

Like many other Rwandan policies to exclude or eliminate part of the population, with a long term purpose of monopolising military, political, social and economic powers among Tutsi selected groups, imprisoning at large scale has been as well practiced persistently since July 1994. And what non-informed people have not managed to realize is how many people have disappeared through imprisonment since the time the Rwandan Patriotic Front took over the country’s leadership in July 1994. And this is an ongoing occurrence.

Bernard Ntaganda, leader of PS-Imberakuri, sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment.
Bernard Ntaganda, leader of PS-Imberakuri, sentenced to 4 years of imprisonment.

One disturbing recent story of disappearance of imprisoned people relates to revelations from a would-be member of Kagame’s hit squad, although this informant operated in a unit specialised in poisoning and killing targeted people for political and propaganda purpose. He indicates that for their training they were given young people to test on their poison and even kill if necessary in order to get to the required level of competence to accomplish their missions successively. It is in this contest that recently Rwanda has experienced a high level of deaths among prostitutes.

On Friday 7 September 12, Victoire Ingabire will be sentenced. Paul Kagame, following his core defining principle of “Kwiha agaciro” or Standing tall and proud, but in his case even while being in the deepest of wrongness, will most probably postpone the sentencing of the accused for another time alleging new matters related to the case. Logically, this is not the right time to add to the negative image that his support of M23 has created internationally.

Rwandan prisoners in The Central Prison of Kigali [1995] – Image Herve Deguine. These people were incarcerated without any file at the time. Consequently, it is impossible to know what happened to them once in the chain of disappearance of Kagame’s RPF. Comparatively, Hitler Nazi was better because it kept records of its victims.
That a notorious regime such as the one led by Paul Kagame imprisons, makes disappear thousands of its citizens through conventional and not conventional means, this can be understood, though not justifiable. But above all, what is appalling is the fact that Britain and other Western countries, which have been reluctant to put all required pressure on Rwanda to stop oppression in the country and criminal ventures towards Democratic Republic and Congo, give the impression that 8 million deaths in Central Africa consequent to Kagame’s operations and policies were not human beings. This could only be interpreted as “subjective humanity”where lives worth any value in our eyes are only those similar to ours.

The Rising Continent