News24

Rwanda's Kagame warns rival

2010-02-09 11:45

Kigali - Rwandan President Paul Kagame said an outspoken presidential aspirant could be prosecuted for inflammatory remarks about the 1994 genocide.

Victoire Ingabire, a Hutu who was living abroad during the 100-day slaughter, returned to Rwanda last month to launch a bid in the August presidential elections, in which analysts expect Kagame to win a second 7-year term.

"I think this individual is going too far in abusing the country's goodwill and attempting to destroy the positive steps that have been established, but eventually the law will catch up with her," he told reporters in Kinyarwanda on Monday.

Since her return Ingabire's public comments, saying that the memory of Hutus killed during the genocide had not been fully acknowledged, have prompted heavy criticism from Rwanda's largely pro-government media.

They accuse Ingabire of flouting the country's post-genocide constitution which bans sectarianism and acts that could incite conflict or disputes. Rights groups say the law is vague and ill-defined and could be used to suppress views the government deems inappropriate.

Ingabire denies accusations that she is using ethnicity to garner support for the elections and says Rwanda needs to open the political space to defuse ethnic tension through discussion.

"I do not think it is wrong to talk about what is happening in our country and how we can avoid making the same mistakes," she told Reuters by telephone.

Ethnic debate

"I am not worried because I know that I did not do anything wrong... everybody knows that they use this law against everybody who is in opposition."

Ingabire, who worked as an accountant for nine years in The Netherlands, heads the yet to be registered United Democratic Forces (UDF).

"She does not have political status according to the law," Kagame said.

"This is a person who actually counted on being immediately apprehended upon arrival at the airport - this was what she hoped for, so that it would serve her interests. But there is no need to play into that situation."

Last week a mob attacked her, stole her handbag and injured her personal assistant. Police say her aggressors accused her of ethnic divisionism.

Kagame's government has suppressed ethnic debate in an attempt to forge a national identity and move away from tribal politics which led to the genocide of 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Ingabire denies allegations made in a 2009 UN report linking some UDF members to Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern Congo, some of whose leaders were responsible for the genocide.