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Rwandan Opposition Appeals to Washington over Harassment

Detained Opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza is accused of forming a terrorist organization

A leading member of Rwanda’s opposition coalition has called on U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration to put pressure on President Paul Kagame and his government to stop the harassment and intimidation of opponents with dissenting views.

Frank Habineza, leader of the opposition Democratic Green Party, told VOA all three opposition candidates that challenged President Kagame’s ruling Rwanda Patriotic front (RPF) during the recent presidential vote have undergone what he said are serious and dangerous trials.

“We will like to call upon President Obama and his government to urgently intervene into the Rwandan problem because, ever since the assassination of our first vice president, this government (Washington) has not been very vocal on this issue…because one of our opposition colleague, Madam Victoire Ingabire, was arrested on fabricated charges.”

Rwanda President Paul Kagame
Rwanda President Paul Kagame

Habineza also said there is need for Washington to use political leverage since it is one of the main donors and supporter of President Kagame.

Last week, Rwandan police arrested prominent opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza after she was accused of forming a terrorist group. It is a charge supporters of the opposition leader deny describing the allegations as politically-motivated fabrication aimed at stifling any opposing views.

According to the opposition, she has been subjected to what they call dire and humiliating conditions.

“Since her arrest and subsequent detention, Miss Ingabire Umuhoza has spent day and night in handcuffs. The jailers have kept away all the items supplied (including a) mattress, clothes.”

Habineza said there is a need for the international donor community to convince Mr. Kagame that his political opponents are not evil, beasts or terrorists.

“If they can stand now with us, we think they can help to (dispel) the national tension, which we are really experiencing both (in) the military and in the political life.”

He further said that the charges against Ingabire are “recycled” adding that the only difference is that the opposition members believe in democracy, justice and peace, but Mr. Kagame does not.