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Agent provocateur emerges in the Kingdom Kagame built

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Victoire Ingabire, the leader of the Unified Democratic Forces political party that is yet to be registered. Photo/FILE

Victoire Ingabire, the leader of the Unified Democratic Forces political party that is yet to be registered. Photo/FILE 

By CHARLES KAZOOBA and ESTHER NAKAZZI

Posted  Monday, February 15  2010 at  00:00
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Less than a month ago, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was informed of a challenger for his seat, Victoire Ingabire, the leader of the Unified Democratic Forces political party that is yet to be registered.

Ms Ngabire, who has lived in The Netherlands since the early 1990s, is the most controversial political figure who has emerged in the recent past to challenge the status quo in the country, which prefers to suppress ethnic debate to forge national healing.

Kagame’s government is threatening to prosecute her for alleged inflammatory speech, and she has faced public intimidation and mob violence.

She is now fighting to get a national identity card so that she can participate in the election as a legitimate candidate.

The big question now is whether Kagame is ready to tolerate political opposition, or he will continue to use the past as a pretext to crack down on legitimate political dissent. Is the modern Rwandan state stable and vibrant enough to deal with uncomfortable truths about the past in the context of political plurality? CHARLES KAZOOBA and ESTHER NAKAZZI from the Kampala Bureau interviewed her on a range of topics.

What do you plan to do differently and what package will you offer women?

I will promote peace and reconciliation. Because women abhor violence, I will ensure that there are more women in power. I will turn around Rwanda’s image, which has been tarnished by the Rwanda Patriotic Front’s unnecessary ventures into other countries. I will set up special programmes for women and promote development projects that will help them gain financial independence.

The Rwandan media has described you as a hard talker. Explain.

I do not waver on my genocide ideology. We must accept reality. Tutsis and Hutus should be held responsible for crimes against humanity. We need to sit together as Rwandans, analyse the genocide and come up with solutions to this problem. It is wrong to tell Rwandans not to talk about ethnic groups. That is what sets us apart from President Kagame’s reconciliation strategy. But Rwanda’s biggest problem is the absence of the rule of law and lack of democracy.

Why do you say so?

Kagame’s government is not ready to accept opposition. This is why they sent young men to beat me and my aide two weeks ago — which was a true reflection of the lack of democracy and freedom of expression in Rwanda.

This treatment extends to all opposition politicians. Kagame must accept that there is an opposition that needs political space. We are not enemies. Instead, he uses the genocide ideology against us. The genocide took place 16 years ago and now is the time for democracy.

But Rwanda holds elections regularly right up to the grassroots level, while the media has free reign.

Do you know how many journalists have been arraigned in court because they wrote political stories?

I have even received a letter that was addressed to all media houses asking them not to interview me. That shows that Rwanda lacks freedom of expression.

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