Monday 23 October 2017

Rwanda opposition figure 'taken' by police, family says

Rwanda opposition figure 'taken' by police, family says
(AFP 09/01/17)

A Rwandan opposition figure who was barred from challenging President Paul Kagame in last month's election has been "taken" by police, her brother said Thursday, a claim denied by the authorities.

Police officers took Diane Rwigara. 35, and some of her family members to an unknown location on Tuesday night after raiding her house in the Rwandan capital Kigali, her brother Aristide said.

An accountant and political newcomer, Rwigara announced her intention in May to run in the August election against Kagame, who has held held de facto power in Rwanda since 1994.

Nude photographs purporting to be Rwigara appeared online soon after she declared her candidacy.

She was later disqualified from running against Kagame, after the national electoral commission accused her of using forged documents to acquire the required number of signatures supporting her bid.

Kagame went on to win his third seven-year term with nearly 99 percent of the vote.

Rwigara's family say the former candidate, her mother and four siblings have been missing since the raid on Tuesday.

"I know for a fact that they were taken to a place I don't know. I don't know how they are. Their phones and laptops plus the house was searched while they were held in handcuffs," Aristide Rwigara, who lives in the United States, said by phone.

"This is about silencing my sister because she exposed some things and she speaks her mind against the wrong things that the government of Rwanda is doing."

A week after her candidacy was turned down Rwigara launched the People Salvation Movement (Itabaza) -- a rights movement.

"Diane was arrested and taken to an undisclosed location," said an Itabaza source who requested anonymity. They added that she and her mother had not been allowed access to legal assistance.

Rwandan police denied arresting Rwigara.

"The rumour that is currently circulating that Diane Rwigara has been arrested is not true," said police spokesman Theos Badege.

"What is true is that police have conducted a search at her family residence as part of preliminary investigations on tax evasion and forgery."

Rwigara's father was a onetime ally of Kagame and financial backer of the ruling party. He died in a car crash in 2015, with family members suspecting foul play.

Kagame first became de facto leader when his Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels halted the 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 mostly Tutsis were killed at the hands of extremist Hutus.

His long tenure has produced strong economic results but has been criticised for muzzling political opposition and stifling free speech.

Kagame's critics have ended up jailed, forced into exile or assassinated.

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