Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Diane Rwigara: Rwanda government critic acquitted

A Rwandan court in the capital, Kigali, has acquitted government critic Diane Rwigara and her mother of charges of inciting insurrection and forgery.

Diane Rwigara is a prominent critic of Rwanda's President Paul Kagame
Diane Rwigara is a prominent critic of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame

Ms Rwigara was imprisoned for over a year, after being barred from running in presidential elections against the long-standing incumbent Paul Kagame.

The 37-year-old opposition leader faced up to 22 years in prison for charges she said were politically motivated.

A three-judge panel told a packed room all the charges were “baseless”.

Amnesty International welcomed the result, but said the mother and daughter “should never have faced charges for expressing their views”.

Since her arrest, Ms Rwigara’s family have been subject to interrogations and their family assets forcibly auctioned.

“I am very happy with the verdict,” said Ms Rwigara, who has been out on bail since October. “I am continuing with my political journey… because there’s still a lot that needs to be done in our country.”

During the hearings, the businesswoman asserted that Rwanda’s economy was mainly controlled by the governing party’s elite.

“Everything I talked about in the past has not been resolved. There are still many political prisoners in the country,” she told journalists after the high court ruling.

Ms Rwigara has repeatedly accused President Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his party’s unyielding grip on power since it assumed control after the country’s civil war.

In Thursday’s ruling, the high court judges said the prosecution failed to prove that Ms Rwigara had personally forged supporters’ signatures and ruled that her criticism of the government during press conferences was protected by freedom of speech in both the constitution and international law.

They also ruled freedom of speech protected the Whatsapp voice notes Adeline Rwigara privately sent to relatives accusing the state of ruling through fear. BBC