Rwandan police deny holding opposition politician Rwigara

Diane Rwigara spoke out against Paul Kagame’s autocratic regime and was disqualified from running against him in presidential elections earlier this month.

Rwandan opposition politician Diane Rwigara. Picture: @ShimaRwigara/Twitter.

PRETORIA – Rwandan police insist they are not holding an opposition politician whose home they raided on Wednesday.

Diane Rwigara spoke out against President Paul Kagame’s autocratic regime and was disqualified from running against him in presidential elections earlier this month.

Friends of Rwigara say police wanted to interrogate her over allegations of tax evasion and forgery.

Rwigara declared her candidacy against Kagame, saying he had the worst human rights record on the continent.

The electoral commission dismissed half of the supporting signatures she presented and disqualified her.

Rwigara vowed to continue fighting what she calls Kagame’s repressive government.

Fake nude pictures of the 35-year-old accountant were published on the internet.

On Wednesday evening, Badege told Reuters he was “sure they had not been arrested”.

Rwigara, a 35-year-old accountant, has repeatedly accused Kagame of stifling dissent and criticised his Rwandan Patriotic Front’s near total hold on power.

Her brother said he did not know where police had taken his family.

“I fear the worst right now,” he said, referencing the death of their father in a car accident in 2015 that the family has maintained was politically motivated.

“This is not an isolated incident, this all started before my father’s assassination,” he added.

Electoral authorities barred Rwigara from standing in August’s presidential vote, saying she had not submitted enough supporters’ signatures and some of the names she did send in belonged to dead people, allegations she denied.

The US State Department and the European Union criticised the decision to disqualify her from the vote, which Kagame went on to win by 98.8%.

The phones of Rwigara and three family members were switched off on Wednesday morning when Reuters called them and no one answered when a Reuters reporter rang the door bell at the home in the morning.

The phones remained off in the evening.

The police spokesman said the allegations of tax evasion were being jointly investigated with the Rwanda Revenue Authority.

Richard Tusabe, the authority’s commissioner general, said the Rwigara family’s tobacco company had not paid taxes “over a period of five years”.

Kagame has won international praise for presiding over a peaceful and rapid economic recovery in Rwanda since the 1994 genocide when an estimated 800,000 people Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

But he has also faced mounting criticism for what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, a muzzling of independent media, and suppression of political opposition.

Police closed her family business and froze their bank accounts which her supporters say is a customary treatment for Kagame’s opponents.

Additional information by Reuters

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)