KIGALI — Rwanda needs an opposition to ensure the population — not just the elites — shares in the country's growing economic wealth, says opposition leader Victoire Ingabire. And despite the mysterious deaths of two opposition leaders, Ingabire says she is not giving up on forming an opposition party to run candidates in the 2024 presidential election.
Economically speaking, the sky seems to be the limit in Rwanda, which is enjoying eight percent annual growth, universal health care and improved education.
But according to de facto opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, only the rich get to enjoy the fruits of prosperity.
She says anyone who dares to say that in public gets harassed by government officials and, in the worst case, gets killed.
“Of course, sometimes I am afraid, but I don’t accept to live in fear because we really need to struggle for democracy in our country,” she said.
Ingabire herself spent eight years in prison after trying to run against long-time President Paul Kagame in the 2010 election.
So far this year, two opposition leaders have been killed in Rwanda — one stabbed to death in September, the other found dead in a forest in March.
Human Rights Watch researcher Audrey Wabwire says an investigation shows the government was likely involved in their deaths.
“Sometimes when someone is killed, the evidence suggests that this is something the government is behind and it would be good to have concrete answers to these things. That’s why we push the government to investigate and see who is involved and why these killings continue,” Wabwire said.
The Rwandan government has not responded to HRW's claim it likely had a role in the deaths.
Ingabire continues her mission even though the killers haven't been arrested.
As we drove in her car, she saw a secret service official following on a motorbike. She showed us a slum area of Kigali where people live with hardly any clean water or electricity. There's no asphalt on the road, just red soil.
The area is just a kilometer away from the capital's affluent city center.
“You can see the economic growth only in Kigali. But what we need is to divide this wealth among Rwandese people,” said Ingabire.
Currently, she is working to get her FDU-Inkinge party acknowledged. She says it has enough members but the registration has never come through.
Twenty-three-year-old Tosiaee Iagbile is an opposition party member who says she wants to see things change in her lifetime.
“Of course, I am still very young, but the reason I choose to be in opposition is the situation I see around me. That I see on my young age and I ask myself how it will be in my old years,” Iagbile said.
Ingabire hopes to have her FDU-Inkinge registered in time to challenge Kagame again in 2024.
“If my political party gets registered, I will participate. But the priority for us is not to participate in the elections but the opening up of the political space in Rwanda,” Ingabire said.
And if that happens, Ingabire believes, prosperity will start to flow to the people of Rwanda in Kigali and beyond.