Kigali, Rwanda | AFP | The pregnant Rwandan-British wife of an exiled opposition official appeared in a Kigali court Thursday accused of seeking to form an armed group and revealing state secrets.
Violette Uwamahoro, who moved to the United Kingdom in 2004, went to Rwanda for her father’s funeral and then disappeared on February 14.
Her husband, exiled in the UK, said she had been kidnapped due to his political activities while Amnesty International warned against efforts to “quell opposition voices” ahead of August presidential elections.
It was over two weeks after she vanished that the government said she had been detained and was suspected of “serious crimes”.
The government had first denied they were the ones holding Uwamahoro, but later, Faustin Rukundo, who is married to Violette Uwamahoro, a dual citizen of Rwanda and Britain revealed Rwandan authorities “have acknowledged that they have Violette in their custody and appear to be accusing her of working with criminals.”
Uwamahoro is charged alongside her distant cousin and Kigali policeman Jean-Pierre Shumbusho. She is alleged to have sent him Whatsapp messages asking him to reveal “information about state security” and “to go to Uganda to form an armed group to attack Rwanda”.
Shumbusho confessed to the charge in court on Thursday while Uwamahoro slammed it as a lie.
“Yes we used to chat but I didn’t talk to him about anything to do with national security. We only discussed family matters. It is a lie.”
Uwamahoro is the wife of Faustin Rukundo, an official with the exiled Rwandan National Congress (RNC) which was formed by former allies of President Paul Kagame. Kigali has qualified the group as “terrorist”.
Kagame is seeking re-election in August after the country’s constitution was changed in 2015, allowing him to seek a third seven-year term.
He has been a main player in the small east African country since 1994 when his forces stopped a Hutu genocide against his Tutsi minority which left some 800,000 dead.
After serving as vice president he was appointed by parliament as president in 2000 and then won presidential elections in 2003.
While Kagame is regularly praised for the stability and economic performance of his small nation, Kagame is also often criticised by rights groups for lack of political freedoms and freedom of expression.
Rwanda is constitutionally a multi-party system but there is only one registered opposition party.