Leading Rwanda dissident defiant as treason trial looms

Rwanda is “like a prison” with Paul Kagame its imperious warden, according to Diane Rwigara, a young politician who sought to challenge for the presidency and whose treason trial begins on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old, who was released on bail in October, struck a defiant tone speaking to AFP ahead of her trial for treason, insurrection and forgery.

“I just came out of a prison but my country still feels like a prison. And the prison guard is none other than the ruling party… dictating to us how to live, what to do and what to say,” she said in an interview at her home in the capital Kigali.

“I was not surprised by my arrest. I was kind of expecting it because of what I was doing in the country: if you dare criticise the government that is what happens, you get arrested, imprisoned or lose your life. I expected some form of retaliation.”

Victoire Ingabire, another woman who sought to run for the presidency in 2010, was blocked from competing, arrested, tried and spent six years in jail before her release in September.

Other political dissidents abroad have been assassinated, abducted or threatened. Rwigara believes her own father, Assinapol, who died in a 2015 car crash in Rwanda, may have been the victim of a political murder after he fell out with Kagame.