Bernard Ntaganda, Rwandan opposition presidential candidate, and Didas Gasana, Editor of Rwanda's banned newspaper, Umuseso, spoke to KMEC Radio on April 18th. Gasana has since fled to Uganda and Ntaganda was arrested in Kigali this morning.
Last night Ntaganda put out an urgent message that his assistant, Mr. Sibomana Rusangwa Aimable, had disappeared at 8 p.m., after a meeting held at the head office of P.S.Imberakuri in which the Party had decided to organize demonstrations today, June 24th, 2010.
Ntaganda said that he feared his assistant's life was in danger, and this morning Ntaganda himself was arrested at his home in Kigali, before he could leave to join protests of the Kagame government's exclusion of all viable opposition from this year's 2010 Rwandan presidential election, with polls scheduled for August 9th. Ntaganda had called for the protests, saying that "Silence is acceptance."
Victoire ingabiré spoke to Rwandan press at the Kigali, Rwanda airport, upon her return to contest the election against Rwandan President Paul Kagame. She has not been allowed to register her candidacy and has instead been arrested. Today her house was surrounded by Rwandan Police who prevented her from leaving to join a peaceful protest.
Police also surrounded the house of FDU-Inkingi Party presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and prevented her from leaving to join the protests as well.
Police arrested Democratic Green Party of Rwanda candidate Frank Habineza outside the U.S. Embassy, where he had gone to protest Mr. Ntaganda's arrest, but released him within a matter of hours. Habineza, who was earlier this year elected President of the African Greens Federation, said that, within hours of his arrest, he had received calls from members of the Global Green Party in Egypt, Sweden, Morocco, and the United States.
Frank Habineza, Interim Chair, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda
"Global Greens can mobilize on the Internet as Peter Erlinder's supporters did," Habineza said, speaking from Kigali after his release. "We hope they mobilize not just to support us, the Rwanda Greens, but to support all Rwandans imperiled by these new arrests, by the government excluding all of us, the real opposition, from the election, and by growing fear and instability."
U.S. Law Professor and international criminal lawyer Peter Erlinder was arrested in Kigali, Rwanda on May 28th, where he had traveled to defend Ingabire. Last week a judge released him on medical grounds. He returned to this country on Monday and yesterday held a press conference at William and Mitchell College of Law, where he said his imprisonment revealed the nature of the Rwandan regime and its secret police. "I have seen how it works and they make the Stasi and the KGB look like amateurs," he said.
The FDU-Inkingi and the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda released this description of their experience and call for international support:
"Rwandan opposition party leaders and members have been violently assaulted and arrested, hundreds still missing
A planned peaceful demonstration for today against the National Electoral Commission (NEC) while they were receiving nominations for the August presidential elections was blocked. The purpose was to protest the fact that the genuine opposition parties have been denied a chance to participate in the presidential elections. The planned peaceful demonstration was prevented this morning when Maitre NTAGANDA Bernard, the founding president of the PS-Imberakuri party, was violently assaulted and taken from his home by unidentified armed plain-clothed officials. Sources claim that he is currently being held incommunicado in a police cell.
At the same time, Ms. Victoire Ingabire, chairperson of the FDU-Inkingi party, woke up to find that her house had been completely surrounded and blocked off by armed policemen. She was prevented from leaving her residence. The Democratic Green Party President, Mr. Frank Habineza, and his Vice President, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, were detained by the police. Their National Identity cards and phones were taken from them for almost one hour at US Embassy in Kigali. Two Executive Members of the FDU- Inkingi, Secretary General Sylvain Sibomana and Treasurer Alice Muhirwa, are missing as of this writing. The Secretary General of the PS-Imberakuri, Theobald Mutarambirwa, is also believed to be in police custody but is missing.
The ‘Parti Social Imberakuri'-PS-Imberakuri, wrote to the Mayor of the Gasabo district on 17th June 2010, requesting for permission to demonstrate peacefully on 24th June 2010. The letter clearly stated that the demonstrations were to start at the Prime Minister’s Office in Kimiruhura, continue to the Parliament and end at the Ministry of Local Government in the Kacyiru District, where a public message was to be made.
The District failed to respond by Wednesday, 23rd June, and Maitre Ntaganda, a senior lawyer and activist, confirmed to other opposition leaders that, in this case, silence does not legally mean "no", and the program should remain as planned.
To our surprise early this morning, Frank Habineza received a phone call from the PS Imbearakuri Secretary General informing him Ntaganda had gone missing and they have changed plans. Instead of the planned demonstration, they decided to go to the American Embassy in the Kacyiru District and ask US Embassy officials to help intervene in this serious situation. They also asked Frank Habineza to help them so Maitre Ntaganda could be located and released from custody.
We arrived at the US Embassy visitors parking at around 09:00 local time. To our surprise, when we called the PS-Imberakuri Secretary General, instead of getting his response we heard a lot of commotion over his phone and by the time we reached the outside of the US Embassy complex we saw police chasing PS-Imberakuri members and we also saw others being arrested and being violently forced into police vans. The Secretary General is believed to be in police custody with hundreds of other PS-Imberakuri members.
We proceeded on and talked to US Embassy officials. After a while as we were leaving the US Embassy grounds, Rwandan police stopped us and took away our National Identity Cards and phones for about an hour. Both the President and Vice President of the Green Party were eventually released without harm.
Meanwhile, hundreds of members of the FDU-Inkingi were brutally attacked and beaten by policemen at Gishushu (Remera) and in front of the Ministry of Justice in the Kimihurura District. They were heading to a peaceful demonstration in front of the Ministry of Justice to request the government to lift restrictive measures and drop the false charges against their Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who remains under house arrest on bail since April 22nd 2010, and has been deprived of her political rights. The demonstrators were reacting to a statement by General Prosecutor Ngoga yesterday that the government does not have enough evidence to prosecute and challenge the case in a court of law yet.
The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda is deeply concerned with the continuous unwarranted political harassment and denial of political space in Rwanda ahead of the August 9th Presidential election.
The Government of Rwanda has continuously done all it can to deny the genuine political opposition a chance to legally exist and be able to democratically participate in the upcoming Presidential elections.
The ruling RPF party has plainly shown to the Rwandan people and the International Community they are scared to compete with real opposition and have resorted to approving stooge candidates to give the illusion of political opposition.
This is the real picture of Rwanda's political space: President Kagame’s RPF party competing against stooge candidates of the PSD, PL and other satellite partner parties who have been comfortably enjoying ministerial and parliamentary positions for the last 16 years while supporting RPF policies and legislation.
The real opposition in Rwanda has been subjected to verbal and physical intimidation along with legal and political abuse. Legal framework has been manipulated to prevent the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and United Democratic Forces (FDU–Inkingi) from registering their political parties and exercising their political rights. The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s founding convention on 30th October 2009, was violently sabotaged by people connected to state security organs and others to be working for the Government. The Green Party's leader, Frank Habineza has received several death threats, the latest one indicating that he is supposed to be killed before the August 2010 presidential election. Despite the fact that he reported this matter to the police and also wrote directly to the Minister of Internal Security, he never received any response and he is in imminent danger.
The FDU-Inkingi's Leader, Mrs. Victoire Ingabire was physically assaulted earlier this year at a government office at Kinyinya-Kigali. She has also faced serious allegations and has been charged for working with a terrorist organization as well as allegedly harboring a genocide ideology. Her party has been refused chance to register on the pretext that its leader has criminal charges which must be cleared first. The problem though is that even though she was charged in court, she has never been given chance to defend herself. Instead her lawyer, Peter Erlinder, was arrested as well.
All these actions are done by the Government to demonize these politicians and make them hated by the population.
The PS-Imberakuri is the only opposition party that managed to get registered last year, but its leader Maitre Bernard Ntaganda, has faced many challenges and was summoned by the Rwandan Senate on charges of allegedly having a genocide ideology. The party has now been divided into several factions, one illegal faction was recently recognised by the Government after its head was appointed Vice President of the pro-RPF Political Parties Forum. They know very well that this lady has never been approved by the cabinet according to Rwandan law.
The legally recognized Leader, Maitre Ntaganda is now unable to present his credentials for official nomination as a presidential candidate by the Electoral Commission. This division is believed was orchestrated by the RPF in order to weaken a real opposition party and deny it a chance to participate in the upcoming August 2010 presidential elections.
Neither Mrs. Victoire Ingabire, nor Mr. Frank Habineza, will be able to present their credentials for approval by the Electoral Commission since both of their parties have been denied a chance to register in time even though they are not criminals and want to represent peaceful and democratic opposition to the RPF party.
Therefore, we call upon the Rwandan Government to postpone the presidential election until the political field is free, fair, and democratic to allow peaceful competition for political power in Rwanda.
We request the President of Rwanda to use the powers vested to him by the Constitution to impress upon the Rwandan Government officials to allow political parties that are critical of the RPF to be legally registered immediately and be allowed to freely exercise their full political rights and let the legally recognised leader of PS-Imberakuri, Maitre Bernard Ntaganda, manage his party without any outside interference.
We would like to remind H.E. President Paul Kagame that he took an oath seven years ago to protect and obey the Rwandan Constitution. He is the custodian of the law. The Constitution guarantees multi-party politics and democracy in Rwanda. We call upon His Excellency, the President of the Republic, to respect his pledge made under oath.
Done in Kigali,
24th June 2010
Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
Chairperson, United Democratic Forces
Mr. Frank Habineza
Chairman, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda"