Kagame critic Diane Rwigara 'not guilty' of inciting insurrection

Ms Rwigara says she was targeted by the state

Image Ms Rwigara says she was targeted by the state

A Rwandan court in the capital, Kigali, has acquitted government critic Diane Rwigara and her mother of charges of inciting insurrection and forgery.

Rwigara's mother, Adeline, 59, also was acquitted of inciting insurrection and promoting sectarianism.

While the decision will come as a great relief to both women, it will not erase what the pair have been through.

The acquittal of Diane Rwigara and her mother Adeline could be seen a significant step in Rwanda's democracy. Excited relatives who had prayed before the hearing for protection swarmed them with hugs.

On Tuesday, a commission of the US House of Representatives held a briefing on human rights and political prisoners in Rwanda, drawing attention to the Rwigaras.

Her 44-year old campaign manager, Thadeyo Muyenzi, went missing and has still not been found. "I am extremely happy and I now have the energy and the zeal to continue my passion of fighting for freedom of expression and human rights in Rwanda", Rwigara told AFP news agency. I am continuing with my political journey. everything I talked about in the past has not been resolved.

Undeterred, the budding politician launched her own political party called the People Salvation Movement, but the police raided the family home - detained the accountant and her mother for the following 12 months.

She added: "This is what happens when you dare to have a different political opinion - a different view from those in the government".

The activist ran for president in 2017
Image The activist ran for president in 2017

But it is also hard to ignore the fact that there was worldwide pressure, including from the US Congress, to drop charges against her - not that Rwandan authorities are in the habit of listening to external voices.

Rwanda's justice minister and attorney general in a statement said the government respects the verdict and "will carefully study its implications".

Charges were also dropped against Rwigara's mother Adeline, and four others with whom she had exchanged Whatsapp messages accusing the government of killing her husband Assinapol Rwigara, who died in a vehicle accident in 2015 that his family has long held was an assassination.

Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of her court appearance, Rwigara remained defiant, saying no amount of pressure will silence her. "The court finds that the prosecution charges were baseless", said one member of the three-judge panel.

However its economic turnaround and stability since the genocide has also won the country praise, with Kagame regularly feted on the global stage. His government rejects such accusations.

Rwigara previous year acknowledged the risks of running against Kagame, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders.

Then, nude photos - purportedly of Ms Rwigara - were published and shared on social media.

It also ruled that although the documents presented to the national electoral commission had indications of forged signatures, it was upon the prosecution to prove that she personally meant to forge the signatures, which it did not. Kagame won a third term in office with 98% of the vote.

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