Rwandan Opposition Gathers for a Minute of Silence

Minute of silence observed in front of Kigali maximum prison in memory of victims of democracy and freedom of expression in Rwanda

On 24th June 2011 members of the Rwandan opposition gathered in front of the maximum prison today to observe a minute of silence in memory of all Rwandans who lost their lives struggling for democracy; in memory of those who were assaulted, tortured and arrested a year ago; in memory of all political prisoners; in memory of all Rwandans inside and outside Rwanda sentenced on politically trumped up charges.

Not surprisingly, this solemn moment was interrupted by an officer of the Nyarugenge LPD, Mr Mutezintare, who yelled that the presence of opposition members is an unacceptable threat to peace and security. Like a year ago, members of the police threatened democracy activists. Until the afternoon security guards were still nervous as one of them pushed harder the back of Ms. Alice Muhirwa, FDU-Inkingi Treasurer who was bringing food to Ms. Victoire Ingabire.

On this day, 40 members of the opposition queued at the kigali maximum prison gate for a chance to visit democracy prisoner Madame Victoire Ingabire, FDU-Inkingi Chair, but were refused again. It’s the 13th week of isolation. The political prisoner Bernard Ntaganda has completed his first year in prison; Charles Ntakirutinka, leader of PDR Ubuyanja, is held since April 2002; The presidential candidate Doctor Theoneste Niyitegeka was arrested in September 2005 and is serving a 15 year sentence since; Deo Mushayidi, leader of PDP Imanzi was arrested in March 2010. Ms. Victoire Ingabire is spending her 253 day in captivity today.

On 24th June 2010, opposition leaders and members peacefully demonstrating in front of the Rwandan Ministry of Justice in Kigali were assaulted, arrested, tortured and held incommunicado for several days. The very day, an independent journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage was gunned down. 3 Weeks later on 14 July 2010 was discovered the beheaded body of the late André Kagwa Rwisereka, Vice President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda.

The year 2010 has been a turning point, an eye opener on the real political stability of Rwanda. Similar signs and symptoms of looming turmoil were observed in the country in the late 50s just before the 1959 social revolution and the independence; in 1973 just before the military putsch that removed the first Hutu leaders; in 1990 before the war and 1n 1993, just before the Rwandan genocide. The then leaders and the international community ignored those bedlam warnings until implosion and chaos.

There is no exception today. The independent media is stifled, the opposition thwarted, the opposition leaders are in prison and others in exile, the ruling class is monopolising the wealth, the economy, the power; the judicial is politicised and in the hands of the rulers; there is increasing fear in the country; huge expenses for propaganda and cults of personality; the regime uses the state police to buttress it’s reign; international human rights voices are criticising the sta te of terror in the country.

Now is time for the government to open up the political space, to release all political prisoners, journalists, human rights activists and to stop the harassment of Rwandans inside and outside the country.

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