U.S. congressional lawmakers are pressing Rwanda’s government against incarcerating dissident politician Diane Rwigara, who faces up to 22 years in prison after being convicted of inciting insurrection and forgery.
Diane Rwigara, a former presidential candidate, is scheduled to be sentenced December 6, along with her mother, Adeline Rwigara. Both women were tried November 7, with the elder Rwigara convicted of insurrection and promoting ethnic hatred. They had been detained by police in October 2017 and jailed for a year but released on bail last month, prior to trial. They remain at home in Kigali, the capital city, under travel restrictions.
“Peaceful political expression is not a crime. Running for office is not a crime,” the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission — a bipartisan congressional caucus named for its co-founder — said in a tweet posted earlier Monday.
The commission, which defends and promotes human rights internationally, has scheduled a December 4 briefing on Rwanda’s treatment of human rights and political prisoners, including the Rwigaras.
Diane Rwigara ran for president in 2017, challenging incumbent Paul Kagame, but was disqualified after election officials alleged that some signatures needed for her candidacy had been falsified.
In July 2017, the activist started the People Salvation Movement to “encourage Rwandans to hold their government accountable,” as she told CNN. She later was arrested on charges of incitement and fraud. Her mother also was arrested for criticizing the government in a WhatsApp exchange with another relative living outside Rwanda.
Diane Rwigara denied the charges, saying Kagame was trying to prevent her from speaking out against injustice. In an interview with VOA after her October release, she called for the release of political prisoners and others unjustly detained.
Kagame oversaw the central African country’s reconciliation after the 1994 genocide, but rights groups have accused him and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front of increasingly clamping down on dissent.
This report originated in VOA’s Central Africa Service.