President Paul Kagame has pardoned prominent opposition figure Victoire Ingabire. It is a move that the Rwandan government claims has no political implications despite Ingabire serving six of a 15-year sentence for conspiring to undermine the government and minimise the 1994 genocide.

Victoire Ingabire is one of the 2 140 convicts released by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. This number also includes the popular singer Kizito Mihigo.

Ingabire is the leader of the unregistered opposition party FDU-Inkingi. She returned to Rwanda from exile in 2010 to contest the presidential election at the time. However, he was barred from vying for the position on the basis of ‘genocide denial’. She was subsequently detained in 2012 and given a 15-year sentence for “conspiring to form an armed group to undermine the government and for seeking to minimise the 1994 genocide”.

Speaking on her release, Ingabire said her freedom and the election of two opposition parliamentarians earlier in the month were positive signs.

“There is hope for the opening up of the political space,” Ingabire told Reuters, thanking the president for granting her mercy. “I would also ask him to release other political prisoners who remain here.”

Her lawyer, Gatera Gashabana, welcomed the decision but clarified that there were conditions attached.

“This is a conditional release,” Gashabana said, explaining that Ingabire must report her place of residence to the prosecutor and seek authorisation before leaving the country.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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