Newswire : Rwanda jails women’s rights activist after presidential bid

Rwanda election
 Rwandan election rivals Diane Rwigara and Pres. Paul Kagame

Oct. 2, 2017 (GIN) – Diane Shima Rwigara, who took on Rwandan President Paul Kagame in recent national polls, has been arrested and sits in jail, charged with “offenses against state security and forgery.”

“These charges are false; and nobody in Rwanda believes the validity of these charges,” said Rwigara’s brother, Aristide Rwigara, who lives in the United States, speaking with Voice of America.

“It’s punishment to my sister because she was running for president,” he declared. “You don’t do that in Rwanda. You don’t exercise your constitutional rights.”

A police spokesman said Rwigara and her mother and sister face charges of tax evasion. Diane Rwigara additionally is accused of using fake documents while she was gathering signatures for (her) presidential candidacy. He said Rwigara had failed to respond to three summonses.

President Kagame’s party has faced criticism from human rights groups for harassing opponents and using intimidation to stifle dissent. After announcing her candidacy, nude photos of Rwigara appeared online, which she denounced as fake. Later, she was disqualified from appearing on the ballot due to an alleged lack of signatures.

Kagame later won that election with 98 percent of the vote to secure a third term.

During a recent talk at the Council on Foreign Relations, the President defended his human rights record. “You know, me as the leader of my own people, to be accused of violating their rights is just an absurd insult. But my answer is simple — is to do my best to serve my people the best way they can be served.”

Journalist and author Anjan Sundaram commented: “Initially, when Kagame took power in 1994, just after Rwanda’s genocide, a lot of observers were willing to make allowances for Kagame’s authoritarian style of leadership believing that it was justified in the aftermath of a genocide.” “And there may have been truth to that.”

“Twenty-four years since the genocide, however, observers are seeing fewer and fewer justifications for such authoritarian leadership.”

Under recent constitutional reforms, Kagame is eligible to run for two additional five-year terms as president after his current seven-year term ends.

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