On Friday Oct 5, 2018, Diane Shima Rwigara, a leading critic of Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame and opposition leader, was released from prison on bail, along with her mother Adeline Mukamugemanyi-Rwigara.
The release, after a year of jail term, comes a few weeks after another Rwandan opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire, star musician Kizito Mihigo and 2,140 prisoners were released early from jail (see AfroAmerica Network:Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire and 2,100 Others Released from Prison ). As AfroAmerica Network predicted, Diane Rwigara, who is AfroAmerica Network Woman of Year 2017 (here), was expected to follow.
The Rwandan High Court ruled that some of the reasons for which Diane Rwigara and Adeline Rwigara had been thrown in jail, no longer existed.
However, Rwandan courts usually rule based on directives from the Rwandan political and military rulers. According to observers and sources within the Rwandan government and the military, on most highly visible political or sensitive cases, the courts await for the directives from the Rwandan dictator General Paul Kagame. Hence, speculations remain on why General Paul Kagame has suddenly decided to authorize the releases of prominent opposition leaders and critics. Some have argued that General Paul Kagame and his government seek to appease the International community at the time when the Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo is seeking to lead the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. The vote is scheduled on October 11-12, 2018 in Yerevan, Armenia. Others have pointed to other reasons, especially the critics about imprisoning women political leaders and critics, such as Diane Rwigara, Victoire Ingabire, and many other women.
The Rwandan government, known for its widespread bloody repression, systematic killings and disappearances of political opposition leaders and critics, has been under mounting pressure over Rwigara’s arrest, especially following the release of Ms Victore Ingabire. Diane Rwigara tried to challenge General Paul Kagame in last year’s election but was disqualified over allegations that she forged some signatures on her nomination papers. She was later accused of and charged with inciting resistance and leading an insurrectional movement.
Anne Rwigara, Diane’s sister, who also was arrested briefly in August 2017, speaking to the media, after Ingabire's release said Ingabire’s release should not be used as smokescreen to make people think that there is now free speech and rights for every Rwandan, in Rwanda. She told the AP that “The momentum to fight for rights for every citizen ... must continue.” The release of her sister and mother may be the first step.
Other observers went further pointing to the mounting international pressure to democratize the country, the prospects of civil war, and heightened conflicts with all neighboring countries, especially Burundi, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
After the release, Adele and Diane Rwigara were ruffled by security forces and the police, when they tried to greet a large number relatives and supporters who had gathered to welcome them. The police officers, while grabing and pushing Adeline Rwigara, threatened both Adeline and the relatives. The officers then quickly shoved both Diane and Adeline into an exit door.