What Has Oh Canada Got To Do With The Rwandan Dictator’s Courtroom?

Diane Rwigara wearing Oh Canada in a Rwandan courtroom on charges of inciting insurrection against the Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame.

Open Letter To The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Dear The Right Honourable Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau,

This letter refers to an unusual subject that you might initially find puzzling. In the African nation of Rwanda, a young woman named Diane Rwigara, together with her sister, Anne Rwigara, and their mother, Adeline Rwigara, appeared in court on October 6, 2017. The three women are accused of inciting insurrection against the Rwandan dictator, Paul Kagame, who recently won a presidential election by 99% in 98% voter turnout. Diane Rwigara had attempted to run against Kagame but was barred due to her vision of Rwanda – a democratic state free from fear and violence.

Mr Prime Minister, the purpose of my letter is not about the irrationality of the charges against the three women. It makes no sense, for example, that a man elected by nearly 100% of the population would still worry about insurrection. Be that as it may, my letter is about Diane Rwigara and Oh Canada. As can be seen in the above attached photo, Diane Rwigara chose to wear a maple leaf and Oh Canada in the court. Why would she wear Oh Canada in her first court appearance for a crime that carries a ten-year minimum prison term? We cannot ask Rwigara this question because prisoners in Rwandan jails are inaccessible.

Mr Prime Minister, I believe that Diane Rwigara deliberately chose Oh Canada. She sought to send a message to the world. She defiantly wore a well-chosen role model for democracy and human rights – Canada. I cannot think of a better symbol of freedom, audacity, and hope than wearing an Oh Canada inside a dictator’s courtroom.

There is more – Canada has been spearheading a second generation Underground Railroad. The second generation Underground Railroad is not about a secret network of abolitionists against enslavement in the United States. It is the leadership and responsibility of welcoming thousands of Africans escaping all manner of repressive regimes. This is how I landed in Canada back in 1974. That is how Diane Rwigara’s relatives and thousands of other Rwandans were welcomed to Canada especially from the 1990s onwards. By wearing Oh Canada in court, Diane Rwigara was reaching out to us, Canadians, because of who we are. Our solidarity with the oppressed is deeply rooted in the Canadian soul.

Mr Prime Minister, reputations of nations are usually ranked by specialized agencies and think tanks. This time, the ranking of Canada’s true character came from the oppressed of the earth – in a dictator’s courtroom in Rwanda. May Canada become an even greater role model for those who yearn for freedom and democracy. May Canada never ever make a false tradeoff between protecting our national interest and fighting for democracy and freedom on the global stage. The Canadian national interest and support for freedom are two sides of the same coin.

That is why Diane Rwigara wore Oh Canada in a dictator’s courtroom. She found a perfect symbol for her cause and courage. And solidarity from us she should receive aplenty and without any reservation.

Most Sincerely,

David Himbara,

Toronto, Canada