Day of reflection on Victoire Ingabire's heroic sacrifice
KPFA Weekend News Anchor Sharon Sobotta: This week marked the fifth anniversary of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza's arrest and imprisonment in Rwanda. Ingabire attempted to run for president, against incumbent Paul Kagame, in 2010, and went to prison instead. Today supporters of Ingabire and freedom for all Rwandans and all peoples of the African Great Lakes Region gathered in Brussels, Belgium, for a day of reflection on the meaning of Victoire Ingabire's heroic sacrifice.
KPFA's Ann Garrison spoke to Gloria Uwishema, who traveled from the Netherlands to the event in Brussels.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Could you tell us about the event in Brussels today?
Gloria Uwishema: The event of today was about remembering the five years that Victoire has been in prison in Kigali and hundreds of people were present and you could see her spirit was really alive, as everybody was interested in how she'd been surviving the last five years in prison. And there were a lot of testimonies - how people lived with her before she left Holland to go back to Rwanda. And it was actually very touching and emotional and a big reminder of what she stands for.
KPFA: Do you have any news of Victoire's case at the African Court of Human and People's Rights?
GU: Nothing new, actually. They didn't announce anything new. And the one thing that was brought to our attention was the book that she wrote from the prison, and it covered her experience for the first three years, because it was collected from the letters she was writing for the first three years up to now, actually, a little bit. Since she got to Rwanda, how she's been followed and how the RPF government have tried to manipulate every situation to make it seem as if she has committed crimes. And the book ends when she encourages people to stay believing in what she left saying, as she knew what she was going to do.
And the biggest message that we got from her today was that, if today she was proposed to be free, just for the sake of being free, she would reject that because she has decided to only come out of prison when what she's fighting for has come to realization and that is freedom and freedom of speech of every Rwandan in Rwanda.
KPFA: Was Victoire's family there?
GU: Yes, her husband was there and he took time to talk to people who were there. And it was a very very emotional speech, as he reminded us that they have been together for 27 years. He reminded us that Victoire was in the Netherlands in '94 and she then managed to have a manifestation [demonstration]. The husband told us a story that she was standing at the Parliament and she was just with two friends, asking for people to have action to save Rwanda. And he reminded us the story when her family joined her in the Netherlands, and the moment the journalists asked her if she was happy that her family was there, her first reaction was, "Yes, I am happy but I will never rest until every Rwandan has the right to live where they want to live and has the right to have an opinion."
And at that moment, her husband became very emotional and he said, "Kagame, you are threatened by a woman because you know yourself she's strong enough and stronger than you. If she was a weak person, you would not imprison her." And in closing, he requested from everybody who was there to please always remember and support the wife who he has accepted that today she's no longer just a wife or a mother but a hero to every Rwandan who needs freedom for his country.
KPFA: And that was Gloria Uwishema, the Rwandan Dutch representative of the International Womens' Network for Democracy and Peace based in Brussels, Belgium.
In Berkeley, for Pacifica, KPFA and AfrobeatRadio, I'm Ann Garrison.