A week after being barred from contesting for the Rwandan presidency, Diane Shima Rwigara has now turned her focus to human rights activism.
The 35-year-old businesswoman Friday announced that her newly formed People Salvation Movement will continue her work of sensitising Rwandans about their rights and criticising policies and actions of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) party.
“I should be out there campaigning today as a presidential candidate, but the electoral commission chose to disqualify me simply because they are not as independent as they say,” she told journalists in Kigali Friday.
Last week, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) disqualified three independent presidential candidates citing failure to meet set requirements. Ms Rwigara, along with Gilbert Mwenedata and Fred Sekikubo Barafinda, were barred by NEC for failing to get 600 signatures – at least 12 from each of Rwanda’s 30 districts.
“But that won’t stop my work. Through my new movement, I will continue to call out the divisive politics of RPF and help to sensitise Rwandans about their rights, regardless of what party they belong to,” Ms Rwigara said.
Since declaring her intention to run for president of Rwanda in the August 4 elections, Ms Rwigara has faced both praise and criticism.
In addition to nude photographs being circulated in the Internet – which she disowned – she reported that ten of her representatives had been arrested and threatened with “treason charges” but later released with no charge.
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On Friday, Ms Rwigara paraded the nine men and a woman she claimed had been harassed and tortured for supporting her.
She may also face a lawsuit after PS-Imberakuri party threatened to sue her for allegedly using its members’ list as part of the signatures she submitted to the electoral commission.
Speaking for the first time about the allegations, Ms Rwigara said the claims were not true.
“I don’t know what PS-Imberakuri is talking about. Party members have a right to move or to support other candidates, so if some of their party members supported me, it is normal,” she said.
“I have also been accused of having dead people signing for me, but these are all lies.”
In a country where human rights groups are closely monitored by the government, Ms Rwigara pointed out that her movement will not take on a political role but serve as forum for Rwandans who are persecuted for what they believe.
Campaigns kicked off Friday with the elections slated for August 4. Rwandans in the diaspora will vote a day earlier.