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UK PM needs to visit Rwandan jails – opposition

Anne Soy BBC News, Kigali

An opposition politician in Rwanda has questioned her country’s suitability to host the Commonwealth summit.

More than 5,000 delegates from 54 Commonwealth countries are currently in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. The official opening of the heads of government meeting is on Friday, but interest group events have been taking place since Sunday.

Victoire Ingabire, of the DALF-Umurinzi party, told the BBC she had returned home from the Netherlands in 2009 when Rwanda was admitted to the organisation.

“The Commonwealth has values such as democracy, rule of law, human rights and gender equality,” she said. “I thought the UK would really help Rwanda become a democratic country.”

But she says nothing changed. She was arrested and barred from standing in an election after her return and sentenced to 15 years in prison for “genocide denial” and “destabilising government”.

She served some of her sentence in solitary confinement before being released following a presidential pardon in 2018.

Ms Ingabire told the BBC that Commonwealth leaders – including the UK prime minister – should “visit the prison to see members of the opposition, independent journalists and YouTubers”.

In response, government spokesperson Yolande Makolo told the BBC: “Anyone can have an opinion, anyone can register their opposition to government policies or programmes, anyone can start a political party if they want [but] what they cannot do is break the law.”

She said human rights and democracy were work in progress – not just in Rwanda but across the Commonwealth.

Rwanda is among a handful of Commonwealth members without historic UK ties. Gabon,a former French colony, is expected to be admitted during the Kigali meeting.

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