KIGALI – Rwanda government officials have said their courts are competent enough to try Diane Rwigara, a critic of President Paul Kagame, and asked the United States to stop interfering with the court process.
Rwigara and her mother Adeline face charges of inciting insurrection, promoting sectarianism and forgery of electoral documents, facing a prison sentence of about 22 years if found guilty.
Several US Senators have described the charges as trumped up and called for the release of the duo.
But the Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye, is quoted by the East African newspaper as saying that “courts should not be pressured by third parties.”
“I don’t control Congressmen and women, but I know what happens in Rwanda, when matters are in court, they are court matters. I want to guess that is what happens in the US, but if it is the other way round, it is a different case in Rwanda,” he is quoted as saying.
“I do not know what motivates them. If in the US Congress dictates to courts what to do and it is okay, in Rwanda it is not,” Mr Busingye added.
The East African also quotes Rwanda’s State Minister for East African Community Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe accusing the Senator of meddling.
“What is ‘highly questionable’ is for members of the US congress to just discover a case you don’t understand, a case of an African lady you have never heard about, and use it to meddle in a judicial procedure of an independent country, just to show that you have African credentials,” Mr Nduhungirehe said.
Last week, Dick Durbin, the Senior Senator from Illinois, said he is “troubled by what appears to be highly questionable charges against Rwigara for seemingly running for office peacefully.
Senators Patrick Leahy and Barbara Jean Lee also said that Rwigara and her mother Adeline are “being prosecuted for having the courage to speak up against corruption and autocracy.”
Rwigara is the daughter of the late Assinapol Rwigara, a businessman who fell out with the government before his death in a car accident in 2015.