Rwanda – Rwigara case: An outlawed state
The acquittal of Diane and Adeline Rwigara on Thursday, December 6th, 2018 is to be welcomed. The verdict in this long-awaited trial, pronounced only a few days after American pressure, should not, however, make us forget that the two women should never have been prosecuted let alone beeing imprisoned. Meanwhile, the fate of several members of Diane Rwigara’s political movement who have disappeared in the past two years remains unknown to this day. In this article, Jambonews demonstrates through the chronology of the main facts of this case, how Rwandan institutions, from the judiciary to the mayors’ offices, the electoral commission, the police and the revenue authorities have been, under Paul Kagame’s impetus, diverted from their objectives in order to serve as an instrument of political repression against the Rwigara family. On this Wednesday December 12th,Rwanda’s chief prosecutor said he would appeal.
4 February 2015: Murder of Assinapol Rwigara
To understand this case, which has reached a turning point on December 6th, we must go back to the evening of Wednesday, 4 February 2015, the date on which Assinapol Rwigara, a wealthy Rwandan businessman, was killed in Kigali after several years of persecution by the Rwandan government marked by the grabbing of his properties, as well as disappearances and forced exile.
His death, which the family describes as an assassination, occurred less than a month before a major trial where the businessman was to face Kigali city council, for which his lawyer had declared himself confident about the chances of success.
That evening, his family received a call telling them that the businessman had just had a fatal traffic accident. Anne Rwigara, one of his two daughters, and Adeline Rwigara, his wife, immediately rushed to the scene of the accident. “When we arrived on the scene” says Anne Rwigara, “the police were using a tow truck to remove the car with our father still inside and alive (…) Once out of the car, they put him directly into a body bag. He was alive, we touched him, he was alive. We would tell them: “You can’t put him in a bag, he’s not dead”. An ambulance came, but it was sent back by the police.”
The young woman stated that when she arrived at the police station morgue, her father had wounds on the back of his head that he did not have earlier at the spot of the accident. She also claims that according to the autopsy, her father’s death was caused by these injuries, which were probably caused “by a knife”. According to the young woman, witnesses reportedly saw Mr. Rwigara getting attacked in his vehicle by unknown men just before his accident.
5-13 February 2015: Mourning in terror
In the days following the assassination, the family mourned. In Rwandan culture, when a family is in mourning, it is common for friends, neighbors, and often even acquaintances to visit the family of the deceased to comfort them and support them in their grief. Rwigara’s family was no exception and a lot of people did paid visit to the mourning family in these difficult times.
During the 9 days of mourning at the Rwigaras, a climate of fear started being felt at the Rwigaras and rightfully so as unexpected visitors crashed into the mourning ceremonies. “We were inside the house, and when we looked outside there were always people who had put chairs there, they were always there and looked at everything that was going on inside. When we would get out and into our cars, one of them also would get into theirs and follow you, when you talked to someone you saw a person approaching you, bending over without embarrassment and listening,” says Emérence Kayijuka, one of Adeline Rwigara’s sisters who was present with the family in Kigali throughout this period.
In her testimony, she recounts how she experienced fear in her stomach during her stay: “We were so scared that we didn’t even think we’d take the plane home, we thought we’d be stuck somewhere in an unknown place because we were so scared… I’m normally vocal when something is bothering me but during those two weeks I learned to keep quiet. I can’t even say it’s fear, it’s more than fear. In Rwanda, there is a climate of fear that is problematic.”
March 13, 2015: The family alerts the media
A few weeks after their father’s death, Assinapol Rwigara’s children, worrying about their safety, sent a letter to President Paul Kagame asking for an investigation into the circumstances of their father’s death at the hands of people who were “wearing police uniforms“. They elaborated in detail why they did not believe in the version given to them by the Rwandan Police and therefore asked for an independent investigation into what they believed was an assassination of their father.
They informed the media of their approach to the President of the Republic. Anne Rwigara, Diane’s younger sister, comes out of silence for the first time and details to BBC and RFI what she witnessed and why she was so certain that her father was murdered.
Informed observers were surprised by this move because in Rwanda, few families of victims dare to publicly denounce the injustices suffered by their relatives, for fear of reprisals in turn.
April 3, 2015 : Paul Kagame makes mocks the Rwigara family
On April 3, 2015, Paul Kagame made his first public statement on this case. When questioned by a journalist, he stated, without giving details, that an answer had been given to the family through the minister in charge of the presidency.
Visibly uncomfortable with the question, he ridiculed the family after a strange moment of hesitation during the press conference: “But they first went to see RFI, BBC, and you name it, things in Rwanda are difficult. I don’t even know what they did first at BBC and RFI, but maybe RFI even communicated for them before they got there because they[RFI] follow a lot of what is happening in Rwanda and give the interpretation they want, which is not in line with reality, but that is the world we live in.”
July 14, 2015 : Hotel soon demolished
In the weeks following Paul Kagame’s press conference on 3 April 2015, reprisals against the Rwigaras family were not delay in matter of days, the State decided to hit the portfolio. Several properties were seized on the grounds that due taxes had not been paid, and on 14 July 2015 the family received a letter from the city of Kigali announcing the imminent demolition of their hotel. According to the newspaper Igihe, which announced the news in an article on August 3, 2015, the demolition was motivated by the fact that, the hotel did neither meet building standards nor was built without authorization.
August 7, 2015 : Arrest of a mother along with her son
On 7 August 2015, Assinapol Rwigara’s widow, Adeline, was arrested with one of her sons for undisclosed reasons. She was released the following day.
On the same day, the family denounced the authorities’ relentlessness. “We’re not afraid;” Diane Rwigara told RFI. “They will not leave us until they have all our possessions. That’s why they killed our father: to get his property. Because my father is the only businessman in our country who never wanted to sell his companies to them. You have two choices in this country: either you run away to save your life, and leave them your belongings, which is what most people do, or you stay and they control everything and my father never wanted it.“»
11-13 September 2015: The demolition
On 11 September 2015, while the case is still in court, bulldozers began the spectacular demolition of this hotel owned by the Rwigaras, worth an estimated $30 million.
15 September 2015: Speaking for him
In the days that followed, Diane Rwigara organized several press conferences in which she expressed her dissatisfaction of the State’s persecution of her family “while there are enough enemies of the country outside or even inside the country”. “I defended this country,”says the young woman, “even on Facebook I spent my time arguing under pseudo with people to defend this country, and (…) just like us, our father loved this country. While before 1994, we had a good situation, he decided to flee to help those outside to return, he was a member of the RPF and he never associated himself with those fighting the state, he was just conducting his business.”
“They killed him psychologically before killing him physically,” before adding about her father’s murder; “and today the state is attacking us because it doesn’t want us to express the injustice we face, they don’t want our truth to come out.»
She then sobbed and said that she had no regrets about her family’s decision to speak out despite the reprisals her family was suffering: “Whatever happens to us, we will at least have spoken for him because if it had happened to us, he would have done the same thing.»
2016: Birth of an Icon
Throughout 2016, little information about the Rwigara family was shared with the public. Behind the scenes, however, things were moving. The persecution of the Rwigara family opens Diane’s eyes to the nature of the regime she once defended and the problems and persecutions faced by her fellow citizens.
She travelled the country from East to West, from North to South to meet the population and in particular young people with the aim of being the voice of those who cannot express themselves under this dictatorship which forces the population to live in constant fear.
Together with other young people, she decided to create a movement whose goal was to raise awareness among Rwandans about their rights and encourage them to hold the government to account. The presidential elections scheduled for coming 2017 year seemed to be the most direct way to make their demands and the decision to stand as a presidential candidate is made.
The young woman then spends her days discussing the project with other young people who want peaceful change in the country and spends her nights on her keyboard putting all of it in writing.
During the 2016 year, a major incident occurred in Addis Ababa: Diane Rwigara, in transit at the Ethiopian capital’s airport, who was on her way to the United States for a short stay, was about to recover her suitcase when she was informed that her suitcase had never left Kigali.
She quickly understoog that her suitcase was probably intercepted by the powerful Rwandan intelligence services. In this country where criticism of the government can be worth a death sentence, she started to panic. Despite the risks to her life, she decided to return to Rwanda to continue the struggle and not abandon her comrades in arms.
26 December 2016: disappearance of Thadeyo Muyenzi
The repression was not long in coming and on 26 December 2016 Thadeyo Muyenzi, the manager of Diane’s future presidential campaign and one of the main figures of the emerging movement, disappeared in Kigali. This will be the first of a long series of disappearances among members of the movement in creation.
The Manager behind @ShimaRwigara Presidential bid and movement was kidnapped by the state on December 26th 2016.
His name is Thadeyo Muyenzi. He was taken few months before she announced her intention to run.
she realize it has been a long time since his forced disappearance. pic.twitter.com/eEKWDl7oKA
— National Human Rights Network (@NHRN254) October 29, 2018
23 February 2017: press conference in Kigali
On 23 February 2017, Diane Rwigara organized a resounding press conference in Kigali. While few critical voices are heard within Rwanda and even in exile many Rwandans are stunned at the idea of talking about their country’s problems, the young woman speaks out loud and clear on most of the problems Rwandans face on a daily basis, from poverty to injustice and security, and the problem of lack of freedom of expression.
March 14, 2017: “For how long will we keep silence?”
On March 14, 2017, the young woman broadcast a youtube video in which she reviewed her press conference, explaining that she had not spoken on behalf of her family or any organization “there is injustice in many areas, there is insecurity for many Rwandans, people disappear, people are killed or murdered and the perpetrators of these crimes are never arrested or punished,” says the young woman. She went on to highlight the contrast between the situation experienced by Rwandans and that experienced by tourists who come to Rwanda and feel safe while many Rwandans do not feel safe in their own country.
“How will we be able to find solutions to problems that we are not allowed to address?” asks Diane Rwigara “People know what is going on but choose silence because they are afraid, people choose not to say anything because they are afraid of the consequences, people choose not to say what they feel because they are afraid of losing their jobs, they are afraid of prison, they are afraid for their lives or the lives of their loved ones and prefer to continue to suffer in silence rather than dare to express themselves and risk losing everything.”
May 03, 2017: Presidential candidate
On May 3, 2017, Diane Rwigara announced her candidacy for the Rwandan presidency at a surprise press conference in Kigali. She said she wanted to “fight poverty and injustice” and deplored the lack of freedom of expression in Rwanda: “The only people we hear are those who praise the regime. There is nothing wrong with complimenting the government, but there is a category of Rwandans whose views need to be heard.»
To these words, she adds: “What the RPF has not been able to accomplish during these 23 years in power, it will never accomplish it in the future.”
May 05, 2017: The nudes
Only two days after the announcement of her candidacy, nude photos of Diane Rwigara begin to circulate on social networks. About these photos, she told CNN: “These are fake naked pictures of me modified with Photoshop, it’s one of the many tactics used to silence me.»
Neither the ruling party nor the Rwandan government condemns this campaign of defamation against Diane Rwigara.
07 July 2017: You can’t run for President
Despite a difficult start to the campaign, her supporters being harassed, tortured or arrested and herself facing a violent online smear campaign, Diane Rwigara, accompanied by her mother, submitted her candidature file to the electoral commission on 20 June 2018.
Less than a month later, on 7 July 2017, the electoral commission announced the rejection of Rwigara’s candidacy for “falsification of signatures”. She allegedly conspired with Joseph Uwingabire, a volunteer from the electoral commission, to forge the signatures of 26 voters. The electoral commission also states that on the list of signatories who supported the young woman’s candidacy would include several deceased persons.
July 14, 2017: People salvation movement- Itabaza
On July 14, 2017, a week after the disqualification of Diane’s candidacy in the presidential elections by the National Electoral Commission, Diane Rwigara launched the “People salvation movement – Itabaza”, together with other young people despite the climate of fear in Rwanda, “a platform to educate Rwandans to defend their rights, awaken their civil rights, fight against fear, oppression, and encourage Rwandans to demand accountability to the government“.
August 4, 2017: Paul Kagame re-elected with nearly 99% of the votes
On August 4, 2017, Paul Kagame, relieved of his main challenger, was unsurprisingly re-elected for a third term with nearly 99% of the votes for a participation rate of 97%.
29 August 2017: Young supporters tortured, jailed and many disappeared
On August 29, 2017, Diane Rwigara announces via her Twitter account that many of her supporters had been tortured, imprisoned, and many had disappeared.
Many families do not dare to communicate publicly about the fate of their loved ones for fear of reprisals.
Diane Rwigara shares a video of the testimony of one of the victims’ sister, who “courageously testified about her brother’s disappearance”
August 30, 2017: The warning
On August 30, 2017, during the inauguration ceremony of the new government, Paul Kagame warns Diane Rwigara: “People who think that the country has more obligations towards them than they have towards the country, people who abuse the people’s property and above all brag about it, even if they wanted to run for president and failed, that does not give them the right to impunity.»
30 August 2017: The “kidnapping”
On the same day, the public learned via the BBC that the Rwigara family had been unreachable since the day before, on 29 August 2018. Diane Rwigara’s uncle, Siméon Ndwaniye, told the BBC: “They were attacked by the CID [Criminal Investigation Department], they searched their home, seized phones, computers, money… Diane Rwigara’s office was also searched, they seized all documents and other property, and then the family [Diane, her mother and siblings] was taken to an unknown place.»
The police denied holding the Rwigaras but announced that they have opened an investigation on Diane for the use of false signatures in her candidacy application file but also on her family for tax fraud. Police denials while there is no news from the family, lead many observers to talk about a potential “kidnapping”.
1 September 2017: Presidential guards at home
The day after this announcement, journalists from several media including the Voice of America went to the Rwigaras´ home to unravel the truth from the false between the contradictory versions. On the spot, a domestic worker informs them that he has not seen the family since the day before but that they could be present because he has not been in the rooms. Journalists note that around the Rwigaras´ home, members of the presidential guard in civilian clothes, as well as cars and motorcycles guarding the residence, are roaming around. They also find that they are followed when they are away for lunch. Upon their return, they were driven out by a man in civilian clothes who presented them with his presidential guard membership card. The audio of the incident is broadcasted.
That same evening, the police spokesman denied the information that journalists had been prevented from doing their job by the security services. He speaks of a “misunderstanding” and reiterates that the Rwigaras were not detained by the police and that everyone, including their lawyer, was free to visit them.
Several observers then asked why the presidential guard would have to monitor the residence of a suspect in an investigation into the use of forged signatures.
4 September 2017: The arrest
On Monday, September 4, 2017, several journalists were invited by the police to attend the family’s arrest and to see that during the whole period during which his disappearance was announced the family was “hiding in their kitchen” as reported in the New Times, the main pro-government Rwandan daily newspaper.
In a video of the arrest, Diane Rwigara gives, in a dark anger, her version of recent events: “You locked us here, you took all our money, you took all our phones, how could we go to the station when you left us nothing? You’re just liars and thieves! If you want me, arrest me, bring me, we all know what you blame me for, that I was a candidate in the election, but what does my family have to do with it? What do you blame my mother for? What do you blame my brothers and sisters for?»
In another audio of the arrest, we hear her mother say: “It has been a week since my children and I were in this house, handcuffed and under the supervision of the presidential guard, they looted us, they destroyed our house, the ceiling was destroyed, everything is on the ground, all the doors were broken down, they took all our money! “And after a noise interrupted her, we hear her declare in panic:“Be careful you’re going to kill my child, he’s killing my child, they want to kill my child, that’s all they’ve been doing since 1995, a state of killers, you’re Interehamwe of another kind!»
Diane, her mother and siblings are then brought to the police station.
5-19 September2017: endless interrogations
On 19 September 2017, Diane broke the silence and communicated for the first time since her arrest by giving successive interviews to France 24 and the BBC.
She recounts her family’s daily life over the past few weeks and says she is exhausted: “We have been spending almost three weeks there, spending our days and nights in conditions that are not very easy. The first few days we were handcuffed all day, we had nothing to eat and until now we’re not allowed to have a lawyer.”
At the BBC, she explains that the whole family is subjected to interrogations that sometimes end at 1.am, sometimes at 2.am at the CID. The interrogations sometimes last 15 hours and during the first days, they were interrogated handcuffed and lying on the ground.
She says that the police destroyed the doors and cupboards of their residence, and seized their documents, telephones, driver’s licenses and all the money they had at home.
She describes the accusations against her and her family as vague and shifting: “They constantly make up accusations”
Indeed, she was initially accused of forging signatures in order to run for election and soon after, other accusations had emerged: she is accused of the statements she made at her press conferences and of founding her movement “which looks like an illegal creation of a political party“.
She claims that her family is not the only one affected by the persecution, and that members of her Itabaza movement are also affected.
23 September 2017: imprisonment
On the evening of 23 September 2017, after three weeks of daily interrogations, Diane, her younger sister Anne and their mother Adeline Rwigara are officially arrested and thrown into the prison.
According to police spokesperson Theos Badege, Diane Rwigara is accused of “using forgery in politics” and “attempting to destabilize public security”.
Anne Rwigara and her mother are for their part, “as managers of the family business of manufacturing BTC cigarettes”, prosecuted for failure to file tax returns, a civil offence that cannot legally justify detention, let alone preventive detention.
Clearly aware of these legal largesse, the police spokesman stated that the three women “could have been prosecuted by being free, but stated that they did not want to cooperate with the Criminal Investigation Police.”
25 September 2017: Whatsapp audios
On 25 September 2017, just two days after the arrest of the three women, audio recordings of private conversations on Whatsapp between Adeline Rwigara and her younger sister Tabitha Gwiza who resides in Canada, were leaked on the Internet via a tabloid close to the regime.
These audio recordings were found on Adeline Rwigara’s phone, which was seized at the time of their arrest. In the audio, we hear the mother entrusting her grief to Tabitha Gwiza, with very harsh words towards the masters of Kigali whom she calls “demons”. With a low voice that portraits the climate of fear that reigns in Rwanda, she tells her little sister about the misadventure that happened to her daughter at the Addis Ababa airport and fears that the intelligence services may have intercepted her suitcase containing her entire political project, in a country where political ambition can amount to a death sentence. “God only knows what will follow” confides the mother.
At this news, her little sister, Tabitha, panicked for her family and advised her to flee Rwanda for fear that the consequences would affect the whole family. “You’re all dead, it’s over (…) you should get organized and leave, (…) they’re killers and demons.”
The police have never ruled on the unofficial publication of Whatsapp audio exhibits that would serve as evidence in an impending criminal trial.
6 October 2017: The court
On October 6, 2017, the three women appeared for the first time before a judge. Diane and her mother report that they were prevented by the police from meeting their lawyer. Anne, for her part, says she doesn’t have a lawyer. The charges of tax evasion that initially justified their detention are dropped and new charges are being laid.
Among the charges that suddenly emerged at the time of the trial was that of “incitement insurrection amongst the population” punishable by 10 to 15 years’ imprisonment under the Rwandan Criminal Code and which the three women shared.
The accusation of “sectarianism”, punishable by 5 to 7 years in prison, also suddenly emerged as a charge against Adeline Rwigara.
In addition to inciting insurrection, Diane Rwigara remains accused of falsifying documents, without it being clear whether the offence in question is the use of false documents punishable by 5 to 7 years’ imprisonment in the Rwandan penal code or the use of false documents in electoral matters and only punishable by one month to one year’s imprisonment.
11 October 2017: “Not guilty”
On October 11, 2017, a few days after the first appearance, the three women found themselves facing the judges again. The attendance is exceptional and security measures are reinforced, with every person entering the room being carefully searched.
Adeline Rwigara announces that she wants to take another lawyer because, given the volume of her case, 600 pages, she considers it preferable to have her own lawyer and not a common lawyer with her daughters. As all their money had been seized by the police, she asks that the police be ordered to return part of it to them to pay for lawyers’ fees. They are denied the request “until the trial is over”. The charges remain unchanged.
16 October 2017: Tears in Court
On 16 October 2017, when they returned to court, the three women were finally informed of the material evidence on which the accusations of Inciting insurrection (common to all three women) and sectarianism (concerning the mother) against them were based.
Concerning Anne Rwigara, the accusation that could result in her being sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison is based on the fact that she advised her sister via WhatsApp to flee Rwanda by telling her that she had no hope for the future of the country, which is ruled by a “mafia” and a “gang of criminals” and on the fact that she wrote to Jeune Afrique magazine that her father had been murdered by the authorities in place.
The young woman denies having written such a letter to Jeune Afrique and states at the hearing about her father: “He was put in a bag, he was stabbed in the head and I myself supported his head and my hands filled with his blood, I don’t see what wrong with did except writing to Paul Kagame asking for an investigation. Even today, when I sleep, I see my bloody hands again;” before collapsing into tears and being comforted by her mother and sister.
Regarding her private remarks about the masters of Kigali [that it would be a mafia], she explained that it was due to the fact that after her father’s death, the government seized their property and destroyed one of their hotels worth $30,000,000 before coming to give them the demolition bill of 150,000,000 Rwandan francs.
Concerning Adeline Rwigara, new charges are still emerging, namely the accusation of minimizing the genocide and that of spreading false accusations against the State.
The minimization of the genocide, punishable by 5 to 9 years’ imprisonment, is based on words “interahamwe of another kind” that she expressed towards the police during her arrest. In particular, she asked how she could minimize a genocide of which she herself had been the victim of.
The other elements on which the prosecution relies to support the charges against the mother are the whole series of private conversations she had on Whatsapp with her younger sister and other relatives. A total of 20 WhatsApp audio recordings are included in the folder. Twelve are heard at the hearing, and the others are asked to be held from the public “for security reasons”.
On the charge of “spreading false information to provoke public hostility against the Rwandan State”, she persists and signs at the hearing: “I repeat here before you, my husband was killed, my children and I witnessed it.»
Moreover, she sees no harm in “confiding her grief to her little sister in private conversations about WhatsApp“.
23 October 2017: Anne Rwigara’s release
On 23 October 2017, the court requested that Anne Rwigara, a U.S. national whose diplomacy had been activated behind the scenes to follow the case, be released while awaiting trial.
The judge ordered that Adeline Rwigara, who has Belgian nationality, and Diane Rwigara be held in pre-trial detention for a period of 30 days.
29 October 2017: The “Witch”
On October 30, 2017, in an interview with TV5Monde, Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s then Minister of Foreign Affairs, recently elected Secretary General of La Francophonie, described Diane Rwigara as a “witch”.
She explains that this “young lady” is in court because she cheated “at several levels on her way to qualifying for the presidential elections“.
December 14, 2017: Paul Kagame makes fun of Diane Rwigara again
In front of RPF’s members, Paul Kagame once again sneers at Diane Rwigara, “a young girl who wanted to become president,” in an ironic tone that makes the audience laugh,” and has been harassed and now she is even imprisoned, this is what they allow her to say to damage Rwanda’s image. But they find themselves in front of the RPF-Inkotanyi who does not fear these kind of things. When they come to question us, we tell them what they deserve to hear, we show them the problems they cause or the problems they have at home, and they pretend they no longer know this person, who ends up carrying boxesor warming up in prison. »
28 March 2018: High security auction
On 28 March 2018, while Diane and Adeline Rwigara were still in pre-trial detention, commercial property belonging to the family was auctioned off for “non-payment of taxes”.
Anne Rwigara goes to the site, despite the difficulties of access to the warehouse where the auction takes place. She told the press: “May God forgives you, you don’t know what you’re doing, you work for killers who killed our father, the next day they take his property, what you do is looting in the name of the law.” She adds that the tax authority was proceeding with the sale while a legal action is pending and was selling the property for a price well below its value.
To these words she adds: “I tell you, we are in a country that does not respect the law, what is happening here is sad. Rwigara Assinapol has worked and built this business all his life, this factory that you are selling at auction has financed the RPF’s struggle to take power, and it was the RPF that murdered and looted Rwigara. You’re pitiful and you’re working on behalf of the murderers. You are agents of satan. Satan has invaded us in this country. »
22 May 2018: Prosecution of the aunt
On 22 May 2018, at yet another hearing, the trial was once again postponed. The prosecutor considers that the people with whom Adeline Rwigara supposedly committed her crimes in the Whatsapp conversations should as well be prosecuted.
The prosecutor announces that he needs two months to summon them to court. Four people were mentioned, including Tabitha Gwiza, Adeline Rwigara’s younger sister living in Canada. They are accused of having propagated “false information in order to provoke the population’s hostility against the Rwandan “State“.
July 24, 2018: The charges
On 24 July 2018, after almost a year of pre-trial detention, and while article 38 of the Rwandan Criminal Investigation Code provides that ” Any person held in custody by the Judicial Police shall be informed of the charges against him/her
and his/her rights including the right to inform his/her legal counsel or any other person of
his/her choice” the charges are finally clarified and the two women know exactly what they are being charged for.
Two charges are brought against Adeline Rwigara:
Sectarianism: on the grounds that in the WhatsApp conversations seized she was told that the Rwandan state used “Rwandans from Burundi as well as Abagogwe (a clan of Tutsi ethnicity living in northern Rwanda)” to commit its crimes.
She is also accused of inciting insurrection. The prosecution announces that Adeline Rwigara’s “accomplices”, who are, according to the prosecution, the people she addressed in her WhatsApp conversations, will be tried in absentia. Those are Tabitha Gwiza, Mukangarambe Saverina, Mushayija Edmond and Jean Paul Ndayishimiye, living in North America.
These two charges which were based on events discovered after the arrest can therefore in no way justify her arrest and even less a one-year pre-trial detention.
The two charges of falsifying documents and inciting insurrection are still pending against Diane Rwigara.
The prosecution accuses Diane of having called on the population to mobilize to fight the state on the grounds that “it would exterminate civilians”.
23 August 2018: #FreeDianeRwigara
On August 22, following the arrest of Ugandan singer Bobi Wine, young Ugandans joined by Kenyans launched a major Twitter campaign under the hashtag #FreeBobiWine.
24 hours later, under the impetus of the famous Kenyan blogger Abraham Mutai, an influential Pan-African activist, convinced that political detentions in East Africa must stop and that young people must be able to exercise their political rights freely, the hashtag #FreeDianeRwigara is reaching new heights. One of Mutai’s most remarkable tweets witch get more than 10 000 retweets was: ” Her only crime was to run for presidency against DICTATOR @PaulKagame. She was quickly arrested, charged for incitement. Her mother was arrested. Their family business and property was sized by Government. And now she faces 20 years in Jail. The world is SILENT #FreeDianeRwigara »
The campaign to demand the release of all Rwandan political prisoners is rapidly gaining momentum on the social network Twitter, reaching 7th place among the most popular hashtags for the day of 24 August 2018 in Kenya, for example.
Her only crime was to run for presidency against DICTATOR @PaulKagame. She was quickly arrested, charged for incitement. Her mother was arrested. Their family business and property was sized by Government. And now she faces 20years in Jail. The world is SILENT #FreeDianeRwigara pic.twitter.com/62aj0xD7Ix
— Lord Abraham Mutai, #ConsumersBeware (@ItsMutai) August 23, 2018
9 September 2018: SOS by Anne Rwigara
On 9 September 2018, Anne Rwigara launched an SOS on a South African radio station to raise awareness about the fate of her family and Rwandan citizens in general ” This interview probably putts me in danger, but we have seen so much as a family, we have seen so much as Rwandan that at some point, you have to get to a point where you come out, I was jailed for a text message, if we are not allowed to exchange messages between family, what are we allowed to do »
” My sister has been jailed because she wanted to run for presidential elections in 2017. My mother, Adeline, has been jailed because she exchanged whats app messages with her sister living in Canada, explaining her how she was grieving after my father was killed on the 4th of February 2015. The authorities found watts app audio in her phone, in which she was explaining her sister how upset she was after the killing of my father by the government. I myself have been incarcerated as well, over the same charges as my mother because of a text message I sent to my siblings expressing my frustration, calling the Rwandan system being a mafia’s state, so when they took my phone, they found the message, and that was good enough for being incarcerated»
The young woman then commented on the situation in the country: ” Buildings and clean street are not a measuring factor of progress for me, let’s first respect human lives, let’s first respect people who have different opinions and exchange and be able to sit down and have different point of views, and then we’ll talk about progress”
On the reasons why Rwandans are persecuted, Anne Rwigara states: ” What is Kagame afraid of if everything is going so well? My guess is that When what you are holding on is not legitimate, when you sell a lie to the outside world, you are constantly in fear of losing that thing you have been selling to everyone because you yourself you know it’s not real, so you live in constant fear”
She concluded by calling for a peaceful change in the situation in Rwanda, considering that urgent action is needed: ” They are so many opportunities, so many peaceful solutions to change the outcome of what is happening in our country, and If we don’t do something today, when are we going to do it? When everyone is dead? Because everyone has been silenced all along, people are harassed, people are tortured, some have disappeared, you can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea»
October 3, 2018: new auction, on the sly
On October 3, 2018, a new auction of the family’s commercial property was held. This time, it is being held on the sly, without the knowledge of Anne Rwigara, the first person concerned. The Rwandan Revenue Authority is auctioning the remaining part of the Premier Tobacco Company family factory. The officer, dressed in police uniform, later told Voice of America Radio that the auction had been successfully conducted but refused to comment on the value of the goods sold or on the name of the buyer.
October 5, 2018: The Parole
On 5 October 2018, more than a year after their detention, and only a few weeks after the surprise release of two other famous political prisoners, Kizito Mihigo and Victoire Ingabire, the Rwandan justice system ordered the release on bail of Diane and Adeline Rwigara.
October 10, 2018: “the prison has strengthened my determination”
On 10 October 2018, just five days after her release from prison, awaiting trial after a year’s pre-trial detention, Diane Rwigara made her first public statements on the BBC and appeared in an interview with CNN.
Despite what she has just endured, the young woman shows her determination to continue her political struggle “I don’t want to go back to prison but if I have to go back to prison, I will go back and we will see what happens (…)Jail has not squashed my political ambitions at all On the contrary, it has given me more determination because I just don’t see myself and everyone else I know keeping on living in fear” before regretting that the State has also attacked those around her “It is one thing to punish me for my beliefs, but it’s another thing to punish everyone around me”
7 November 2018: 22 years’ requested
On 7 November 2018, after a trial that lasted only 5 hours despite the heavy charges against the accused, the prosecutor requested a sentence of 22 years’ imprisonment for the two women and 15 years’ imprisonment for their co-accused.
Adeline Rwigara told the audience that in a norman state, it is her family that should be suing the state for what the state did to them, but that in this country “where citizens have no rights”, it is the other way around.
November 27 – December 4, 2018: US pressure
From November 27 to December 4, 2018, several members of the US Congress mobilizedand called on the Rwandan government to drop the charges against Diane Rwigara and her mother. On 4 December, just two days before the verdict in this trial, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan committee of the United States House of Representatives, is organizing a conference highlighting the case of the Rwigara family and the issue of human rights violations and political prisoners in Rwanda.
December 6, 2018 : Acquitted
On December 6, 2018, at the end of this long series of political and judicial persecutions, the two women were acquitted of all charges against them.
Regarding the main charge of incitement to insurrection against Adeline Rwigara, the judge acknowledges that it is unfounded since the charge is based on private WhatsApp conversations.
Concerning the one against Diane Rwigara based on her press conference, the judges acknowledged that Diane Rwigara was merely exercising her freedom of expression as enshrined in the Rwandan Constitution and international laws.
Concerning the falsification of signatures, the judges ruled that it is not proven that Diane Rwigara was aware that the signatures were false.
At the end of the hearing, the young woman said that she was determined to continue her fight: “I am continuing with my political journey because there is still a lot that needs to be done in our country. Everything I talked about in the past has not been resolved. There are still many political prisoners in the country.»
December 12, 2018: The appeal
On Wednesday December 12, 2018, Rwanda’s prosecution agency has said it will appeal the recent acquittal of Diane and Adeline Rwigara.
“From the onset, we said we were not satisfied with the High Court ruling and promised to review the judgement and decide the next step. We read through the judgement and did not feel convinced, so we are appealing that decision” Mr. Jean Bosco Mutangana, Prosecuror General said.
Diane Rwigara answered to this news on her twitter account “We are ready to continue defending ourselves against these trumped-up charges. I believe that this process is aimed at silencing me from continuing to speak out on the issues we face as a country. There was no evidence in the first place, there won’t be evidence in the appeal.”
We are ready to continue defending ourselves against these trumped-up charges. I believe that this process is aimed at silencing me from continuing to speak out on the issues we face as a country. There was no evidence in the first place, there won't be evidence in the appeal.
— Diane Shima Rwigara (@ShimaRwigara) December 12, 2018
Ruhumuza Mbonyumutwa and Alfred Antoine Uzabakiliho
In Paul Kagame’s language, “carrying boxes” means going into exile. It is a term used with contempt by the Rwandan President to refer to Rwandan refugees, whom he often refers to in these speeches as people without occupations, vagabonds or “boxes carriers”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8quATNiX2Ls&t=110s