8 years for Victoire Ingabire

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire has been sentenced to 8 years in prison by the Rwandan High Court, according to local journalists in Kigali. A relatively mild sentence as the prosecutor was demanding life imprisonment.

Sophie van Leeuwen and Saskia Houttuin

Ingabire, the president of UDF-Inkingi, has been found guilty of treason and genocide denial. She was convicted of financing a terrorist group, the FDLR rebels in eastern DRC, but cleared on several other charges.

Not happy
The verdict has clearly been influenced by international pressure on the Rwandan government, says Ingabire’s daughter Raissa. “Without that, my mother’s situation would be worse, much worse.” Raissa, who lives in the Netherlands, is not happy with the 8-year sentence and continues to insist her mother is innocent.

In Rwanda, the vice president of UDF-Inkingi, Boniface Twagirimana, is not satisfied either. Ingabire deserves to be a free woman, he says. “Just like all political opponents in this country who have been accused of similar crimes.”

President of Rwanda
After spending years in exile in the Netherlands, Victoire Ingabire, who is part of the Hutu community, returned to Rwanda with the intention of running in the 2010 presidential elections. When she arrived in Kigali, as chairman of the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF), she called for the prosecution of those responsible for crimes against Hutus. Shortly after making her statement, she was placed under house arrest. Meanwhile, incumbent President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi and leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), was re-elected.

Ingabire was arrested in her Kigali home on 14 October 2010 for allegedly collaborating with a terrorist organisation, dividing the people of Rwanda and denying the 1994 genocide, during which an estimated 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed over a 100-day period.

Fair trial?
Detained in a prison in the Rwandan capital, Ingabire had boycotted her trial since April of this year. The opposition leader and her supporters accuse Kagame of trying to eliminate all political opponents.
Human rights activists and foreign politicians have expressed doubts as to whether Victoire Ingabire was given a fair trial. Rwandan Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama told RNW, "it’s after the trial that we should be able to say whether it was fair or transparent". Dutch MPs have also repeatedly raised questions about the rule of law in Rwanda.

The Dutch authorities have assisted the Rwandan government several times by authorising searches of her home near Rotterdam and dispatching documents to be used as evidence at the trial in Kigali. Rwanda and the Netherlands have a judicial assistance agreement.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in documents published in 2011, wrote that it had no reason to doubt that Ingabire was being given a fair trial. "There is no clear and solid ground to reject Rwanda's request for assistance in the trial of Victoire Ingabire", the Ministry wrote.