A Rwandan court, Friday, ordered the release on bail of Diane Rwigara, one of the most vocal critics of President Paul Kagame, who was disqualified from running against Kagame in the country’s 2017 election on technical grounds. Kagame won 98 percent of votes in the election.
Weeks after she was disqualified, the activist was also detained and was charged with incitement and fraud, while her mother was charged with discrimination and sectarian practices and inciting insurrection.
However, when the pair appeared in court, three High Court judges ruled that the prosecution’s reasons for wanting them detained during their trial, were not good enough and ordered that they be freed on bail.
The court decision comes weeks after President Kagame pardoned opposition leader Victoire Inagbire who had served six out of a 15-year jail term after being convicted on charges of terrorism and threatening national security. Like Diane Rigwara, Victoire was to run against Kagame in the country’s 2010 presidential election but she was arrested months before the election.
While in detention, Rwandan authorities auctioned off assets from the family business of Rigwara. The country’s revenue authority sold machinery from the family’s tobacco business for almost $2 million in June in a bid to recover $7 million in tax arrears. Previous auction of the Rigwara family business assets – of processed tobacco – had brought in more than 500 million Rwandan francs ($567,000).
The Rigwara family claims the auction and charges against Diane are politically motivated.
Paul Kagame has been celebrated by many for stabilising Rwanda after the 1994 genocide where about 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu lives were lost to Hutu extremists. However, despite the impressive economic growth and relative peace recorded under Kagame, he has also been widely criticized for clamping down on critics and lacking respect for human rights.