Rwanda Revenue Authority has raised $ 2 million in an auction of equipment from Paul Kagame critic and presidential candidate Diana Rwigara family’s tobacco factory. The taxman is seeking to recover over $6.9 million it says it is owed in taxes.
Rwanda’s Revenue Authority auctioned Machinery and equipment at the Premier Tobacco Company on Monday to MM&RGD, a little-known local company, at the factory premises in Gikondo Industrial Area, Kigali.
The 37-year-old activist, who was barred from contesting against president Paul Kagame last year in Rwanda’s presidential elections, is still in prison after she was arrested for forgery and for “inciting an insurrection.”
Diane Rwigara’s father and former head of the family business, Assinapol Rwigara, died in 2015 in a car accident, when the car he was driving was allegedly hit by a heavy truck. His family claimed foul play, with them alleging he was murdered for ending business with the Rwandan government, and hence fell out of favor with Paul Kagame.
Assinapol Rwigara was a known financier of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Rwanda’s ruling party, during and after the Rwandan civil war. Rwandan activists have also claimed that falling out with Paul Kagame is akin to pronouncing a death penalty on yourself, either metaphorically or literally.
Diane Rwigara, who is also a popular activist for women’s rights in her country, announced her decision to contest against Paul Kagame in last year’s presidential elections in Rwanda, a move that apparently didn’t go down well with many people, including the president himself. While other opposition parties presenting candidates for elections were seen as proxy, her declaration seemed a real threat to Kagame’s eighteen year reign.
Attacks on her and her family soon began after that. First, her nude pictures were leaked online by anonymous people, to discredit her as a woman, then she was arrested by the country’s electoral board for ‘forging’ signatures for her candidacy to run at the elections, and also inciting an insurrection with her campaign rhetoric.
Rwigara’s mother and sister were also arrested and charged with tax evasion (for a business that had been affiliated with the government before), and for also inciting insurrection, according to Rwandan Police. Her brother, Aristide Rwigara told Al Jazeera in September last year that the charges were absurd, and authorities in Rwanda were inventing fresh ways to attack the family. All are still in prison awaiting trial.
Kagame critics have accused him of silencing opposition members, and gagging free speech in the press. Many journalists have fled Rwanda to neighboring countries, fearing reprisal attacks after they criticized the ruling party and the president.
Many analysts have called Rwanda’s government an ‘authoritarian’ state. Diane Rwigara called Rwanda a “pretty girl with a lot of makeup, but the inside is dark and dirty” in an interview with Guardian U.K last year, after she announced to run for president.
Her statement alluded to the fact that Rwanda is loved in the international community, even while it is denying some of its people their rights at home. While everybody loves and fawns over Rwanda and its ‘benevolent dictator,’ not all seems to be well with both of them.