Rwanda frees Victoire Ingabire, more than 2,000 other political prisoners

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Rwanda President Paul Kagame has approved the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners, including opposition leader Victoire Ingabire who was jailed in 2012 for conspiring against the government.

Gospel singer Kizito Mihigo, who was jailed for 10 years in 2015 for making a song that criticised the government, is also among those pardoned by the president. A total of 2,140 prisoners were released on Saturday without any explanation from the government – although Victoire Ingabire expressed her hopes that it represents the start of greater political freedom.

Rwanda releases prisoners

Victoire Ingabire was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2012 after being accused of genocide denial and conspiring against the government – both charges she denied. The opposition leader returned to Rwanda from exile in the Netherlands in 2010 with plans to run for president against Paul Kagame.

However, she was barred from running due to the accusations placed against her and spent the next six years in prison.

Ingabire’s case drew international attention with Human Rights Watch describing the charge of “genocide denial” against her as politically motivated. Her release has led some to believe Rwanda could be on the verge of opening up its political space but others point to the ongoing detention of Diane Rwigara, who attempted to run against Kagame in 2017, as proof that nothing has changed.

Featured image: By © ITU/J.Ohle, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31853361

 

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.