Political opponents released from jail as opposition parties make strides in Parliament
In a rare development, two Green Party opposition candidates were elected to parliament for the first time during parliamentary elections that were held on 5th September 2018. Another small party, PS Imberakuri, also won two seats for the first time. However, the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) party retains a majority, amid accusations that it has for years stifled, harassed, and jailed opposition figures.
#Rwanda's President Paul Kagame has decided to commute the sentences of jailed opposition leader, Victoire #Ingabire, and singer Kizito #Mihigo, alongside early release of ~2,140 eligible convicts https://t.co/ScjjXPXfzO— Erin Jessee (@erinjessee) September 15, 2018
On 15th September 2018, two thousand, one hundred and forty (2,140) prisoners were released, including jailed opposition leader Victoire Ingabire of the FDU-Inkingi political party, and gospel musician Kizito Mihigo. Ingabire returned from exile in 2010 to run for president, but was arrested within a few months and accused of undermining the government and genocide denial. In 2012, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison, in a trial described as politically motivated by international civil society organisations. After her release, Ingabire called for the release of other political prisoners, while President Paul Kagame responded by warning the newly released prisoners to be "humble" and "careful" or they would return to jail.
Gospel musician Mihigo, was arrested in 2014 after he released a song about the 1994 genocide. He later pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill president Kagame, among other crimes, although civil society groups reported that he had been beaten and coerced to make the confessions.
On 10th August 2018, the observatory for human rights in Rwanda reported the disappearance of Jean de Dieu Ndamira, a Rwandan citizen, who had been sharing stories of his life on social media and on websites such as the Rwandan Media Network. He shared these stories regularly from January 2018, however, on 9th March 2018, two days after he shared his last story, he disappeared and has not been heard from since. While his stories were widely well received by his audience, it is reported that some readers often accused him of exposing ‘family secrets’. On 2nd March, Ndamira left Nairobi for Rwanda to renew his passport. While in Kigali, he shared another one of his stories, which was published on 7th March. On 9th March, he communicated with his confidant to whom he confirmed that his passport had been renewed and that he was immediately travelling back to Nairobi. However, that was the last time Ndamira was heard from. According to reports, it is believed that he may have been detained by Rwandan authorities because of his writing, which has been considered by some pro-government critics to be against the Rwandan government.