Rwandan president pardons jailed opposition leader, thousands of others

Rwandan President Paul Kagame pardoned 2,140 convicts, including an opposition party leader and a political activist, the country’s Justice Ministry said.

Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire poses for a photographer in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2010, the year she was arrested. Ingabire was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2013 after a conviction for conspiring against the government but this week she was pardoned. Photo by Olivier Boulet/EPA
Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire poses for a photographer in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2010, the year she was arrested. Ingabire was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2013 after a conviction for conspiring against the government but this week she was pardoned. Photo by Olivier Boulet/EPA

The prisoners were released before serving their full sentences, the ministry announced Friday.
Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, a former presidential candidate, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2013 after a conviction for conspiring against the government. Musician Kizito Mihigo was jailed in 2015 for 10 years after writing a song that criticized the government.

“Cabinet today approved the early release of 2,140 eligible convicts. Among them are Kizito Mihigo and Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who received a Presidential commutation of the remainder of their sentences, following their most recent requests for clemency in June 2018,” the ministry posted on Twitter.

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Rwandan law allowed the early release of prisoners for good behavior or if the convicts are suffering from incurable diseases.

Human rights activists had criticized Kagame for stifling dissent, Bloomberg reported.

Kagame, the current head of the African Union, is lobbying to lead the International Organization of Francophonie, which works to promote cooperation between French-speaking nations and states on issues that include human rights and democracy.

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Kagame, who won re-election for a third time last year with 98.8 percent of the vote, has been praised for reforming Rwanda’s economy.

As Ingabire left jail, she was dressed in the colors of her party, Democratic Green. Two opposition candidates from the party won parliamentary seats for the first time this month.

Ingabire, who returned from exile in the Netherlands in 2010 to take part in presidential elections, says her trial was politically motivated.

ByAllen Cone