By Catherine Apolot
A former Rwandan presidential hopeful and women’s rights activist has been set free by President Paul Kagame.
Diane Rwigara, a 37-year-old accountant was arrested on September 24, 2017 after she was accused of incitement and fraud. Shortly before her nude photos had been released in was was seen by many as a smear campaign.
Rwigara launched her election bid three months ahead of the August 2017 vote but was disqualified on claims that she doctored the number of signatures needed to qualify and had submitted the names of dead people, allegations she denied.
Who is Diane Rwigara?
Rwigara was born in Kigali in 1981, to a Tutsi family and has three siblings. Her father Assinapol Rwigara who was an industrialist and a key supporter of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) died on February 4, 2015, in an alleged politically motivated murder in Gacuriro, Kigali. Her mother’s name is Adeline Rwigara.
The young activist attended high school in Belgium and college in California in the United States. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Sacramento State University and a Master’s degree in Accounting from San Francisco State University. Prior to her return to Rwanda, she taught at Stanford University in the Department of Linguistics.
Rwigara’s Political Journey;
The controversies surrounding Assinapol Rwigara’s death marked a new beginning for his daughter Rwigara who become a fierce critic of Paul Kagame, the country’s president, and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Adamant and decisive as she is, Rwigara took up a fight against injustice and oppression which according to her was becoming a norm in the country.
The last Rwandan elections were scheduled for August 4, 2017. On May 3, she announced her intention to run against Mr Kagame, who has been in power since 1994. Rwigara challenged President Kagame and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) saying they have succeeded in creating an oppressive political environment that stifles dissent in the central African nation.
She expressed her reservations over RPF’s role in the 2015 referendum that had given President Kagame the green light to run for a third term. The 2015 referendum legally afforded the incumbent to stay in power until 2034.
In 2017, she slammed the decision, saying that as a matter of integrity, leaders needed to honourably step down when their ruling time is up.
Barely 72 hours after she announced her bid for the county’s top seat as the first female Independent presidential candidate, her nude photos were leaked allegedly by the government to scare her off. But that did not deter her. She vowed to fight injustices, encourage freedom of speech, eradicate poverty and implement a number of reforms, including opening up the political space and revisiting the issue of term limits for elected officeholders.
In a press conference on February 23, 2017 in Kigali, Rwigara addressed issues such as poverty, injustice and insecurity in the country. She moved that the right to freedom of expression for Rwandans be upheld.
In her manifesto, she said that her priorities were to eradicate poverty, champion free speech, and provide health insurance for all Rwandans.
On 7 July, 2017 the National Electoral Commission disqualified her from participating in the election on grounds that she used forged signatures in her presidential bid and had submitted only 572 valid signatures rather than the required 600. Though this came as little surprise to most Rwandans, it marked the end of the young activist’s political ambition, perhaps, for the meantime. Not only was she arrested and detained in prison alongside her mother, but her business empire suffered massive losses in terms of fines when the country’s tax body came calling. Her siblings were also placed under house arrest.
Kagame won the election in August, 2017 with more than 98 per cent of the vote, securing a third term in office and extending his 17 years in power. As of September 1, 2017, news outlets reported that Rwigara still could not be reached and that her family continued to claim she is missing.
Rwigara’s love life;
Miss Rwigara has not been married neither is there any information about her love life. The young woman who thinks age is just a number has always taken political issues and how it affects her society seriously.