KIGALI (Reuters) – Diane Rwigara says she will not leave more than a year of detention to derail her campaign against President Paul Kagame, the rebel turned into a statesman, praised for transforming the small economy of the African nation, but criticized for suffocating dissent .
Diane Rwigara, critic of the veteran president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, gestures during an interview with Reuters in Kigali, Rwanda on January 26, 2019. REUTERS / Jean Bizimana
The 37-year-old accountant tried to attack Kagame in a 2017 election, in which he won a third term of seven years. But he was fired by an election commission and was arrested for charges, including the falsification of documents associated with this offer.
"Before going to jail, I had founded a movement called Movement for the Salvation of the People-Itabaza and my plan is to continue with him," he said in his first interview since he was acquitted in December, Incite to insurrection and forgery.
"I want it to be the channel through which Rwandan voices can be heard," he told Reuters at his home in Kigali.
"I want it to be the platform where we can hold this government accountable," said Rwigara, who was released on bail in October and acquitted with her mother in court in December. Both had denied the charges.
Rwigara, who received the statement from the election commission that had not gathered sufficient support signatures to go to the presidency, has repeatedly accused Kagame of dissipating dismissal, allegations that the president and his government dismiss.
Rwigara is not alone in having a presidential offensive derailed by legal acts. Victoire Ingabire, head of the non-registered FDU-Inkingi party, tried to run in 2010 but was arrested and arrested and then imprisoned in 2012. He was released for presidential pardon last year.
"We should not be jailed to have an opinion. I think the change is possible, but we can not expect the pressure to come from abroad," Rwigara said.
She has also criticized the Rwanda Patriotic Front of Kagame for her almost total presence of power since leaving Kigali in 1994, ending with a genocide in which about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderate were destroyed.
"The party in power and the president of the president, Paul Kagame, have to understand … this country does not belong to a single man or a family or to a small clique of powerful people," he said.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have long criticized the government for squeezing its opponents. Rwanda only has a registered opposition party, which is small and has only two seats in the eight-way parliament.
Kagame has fired criticisms, while his government guarantees freedom of expression and fair elections.
He says the overwhelming majority he has achieved in the ballot box reflects broad support for his efforts to rebuild a nation that has been acclaimed by Western governments in the past as a model of development.
Olivier Nduhungirehe, Foreign Affairs Minister, told Reuters that Rwigara's comments were "populist" and said the Rwandans had chosen the leader who wanted to lead the nation of 12 million people.
"Only people through the elections can decide who heads the country, it is not up to Diane Rwigara to decide," he said.
Reports by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Edition by George Obulutsa and Edmund Blair