Why the only two Rwandan women who tried to run for president against Kagame ended up in jail

Ismail Akwei August 27, 2018

Why the only two Rwandan women who tried to run for president against Kagame ended up in jail
Diane Shima Rwigara

Diane Shima Rwigara is a 36-year-old women’s rights activist and entrepreneur who is currently behind bars in Rwanda for alleged incitement to insurrection.

Her woes started after expressing interest in challenging Paul Kagame in the August 2017 presidential election as an independent candidate.

The daughter of businessman Assinapol Rwigara, who was pivotal in the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, distanced herself from the party after her father’s death in 2015 in a road accident which she claimed was an assassination.

Two days after announcing her candidacy, Rwigara was hit with a scandal as nude pictures believed to be hers speculated on social media. The pictures which she claimed were “manipulated” were shared widely by blogs and websites in Africa.

She gained a lot of support on social media after the scandal including condemnation of the act of online shaming. After a few days of silence, she bounced back to continue her campaign.

After picking up forms to file her candidacy, she was hit with another blow as the National Electoral Commission disqualified her with other opposition candidates for errors in application forms and inadequate signatures from the districts. Rwigara described the disqualification as a political influence.

She launched an activist group called the People Salvation Movement to challenge the Kagame regime to ensure human rights. This was immediately followed by a raid of her family’s house by the police who said they were investigating them for forgery and tax evasion.

Rwigara and her family faced series of arrests without specified charges. Separate charges including inciting insurrection, tax evasion, offences against state security, use of counterfeited documents among others were levelled against Diane, her sister Anne and mother Adeline.

She remains in prison as her trial is ongoing. Meanwhile, her family’s assets and stock of their tobacco company have been auctioned off by the country’s revenue authority which said it was recovering unpaid taxes.

The family has filed court cases against the confiscation of its assets and the sale of their stock at a much lower rate.

Civil society and rights organisations have described the arrests and intimidation as politically motivated. Amnesty International has called on the Rwandan judiciary to ensure that Diane Rwigara’s trial does not become another means to persecute government critics.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: August 27, 2018


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