Barely 24 hours after news began filtering through that hard-talking politician Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza had quit a party she founded, she is labouring to defend herself against accusations from her former colleagues.
This Saturday afternoon, Ingabire, called a press conference to officially reveal her new party. With only women standing to her left and right as she sat at a table in her home in Kigali, Ingabire announced the news.
From green-white theme dressing, Ingabire, 51, said her new party is “Development and Liberty for All Umurinzi” or DALFA Umurinzi. The group’s website was also unveiled.
Ingabire said she was finding it very difficult to manage FDU Inkingi yet many of senior party leaders were outside the country. As a result, she said she has constantly struggled to fend off a tag put on her by the authorities that Ingabire represented foreign interests.
“It was a difficult decision but which I ultimately have opted to take,” she said.
Responding to questions from a small band of journalists from mainly small private new organizations and foreign media, Ingabire sought to convinced the public that she would indeed remain with the “independence” she has painted herself to be for years.
Ingabire said she did consult FDU members before setting up the new formation. “Some have even suggested that am going to work for RPF. People need to get to terms with the fact that the political landscape has evolved,” said Ingabire.
“In the 8 years when I was in jail, I was supported by many friends in and outside prison. Some were from other political organisations. They are still supporting me until today and hopefully will continue going forward despite launching a new political organization.”
Ingabire, with other exiles in Europe launched FDU Inkingi around 2008, joining many other groups. In January 2010, she returned to Rwanda, which she had left as young woman years before the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
Ingabire went straight to the Kigali genocide memorial site, where more than 260,000 victims are laid to rest. She made statements there, which would eventually bring the state machinery after her.
Ingabire said the site should also have remains of “other Rwandans” killed by the RPF rebels, which she had repeatedly called as “Hutus” back in Europe. Within months, Ingabire was behind bars.
The state opened a complex legal, political and diplomatic offensive against her. The Netherlands was happy to send its police officers to search Ingabire’s house in The Netherlands. According to documents produced in the preceding court battles, troves of papers showed she had been funding rebels activities in DR Congo and had herself been there.
Government accused her of armed rebellion and negating the genocide, charges which were broken up in a long list up to the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court found Ingabire guilty of spreading rumours with intention to incite the public to rise up against the State, endangering state security and minimising the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Supreme Court increased her High Court sentence of 8 years, to 15, which fell short of the 25 years demanded by the State.
On September 14, 2017, President Paul Kagame fresh from a landslide presidential election victory, gave Ingabire mercy.
Speaking today at launch of her new party, Ingabire said the party will prepare registration of the party within the laws of the country. The committee would also come in the coming days.
However, the announcement today is just the start of what will be a long process. Her organization will need to fulfil quite a voluminous list of requirements including holding a delegates conference where a government official will manually verify each of the hundreds of delegates’ signatures.
Going by what happened during her failed attempts to register the FDU Inkingi, and other parties like the Green Party of Dr Frank Habineza, it is difficult to imagine which district or venue will allow to accept to host her delegates’ conference.