President Paul Kagame on Friday approved the early release of 2,140 eligible convicts.
Among them are Musician Kizito Mihigo and Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who received a Presidential commutation of the remainder of their sentences, following their most recent requests for clemency in June 2018, the Ministry of Justice said.
The president has authority to exercise the prerogative of mercy in accordance with the procedure determined by law and after consulting the Supreme Court on the matter, according to the constitution.
Ingabire, who will celebrate her 50th birthday on October 3, is the chairperson of the Unified Democratic Forces (UDF), a coalition of Rwandan exile opposition groups, some of them in armed efforts to conduct terrorist acts against the state.
Ingabire was sentenced to 15 years in 2013 by the Supreme Court on charges of terrorism and threatening state security.
Mihigo was sentenced 10 years in 2015 by the High Court for conspiracy to murder and formation of a criminal gang.
On Monday, Kizito Mihigo and co-accused Jean Paul Dukuzumuremyi, withdrew their bid to challenge the decision of the High Court.
In the hearing, the jury announced the appeal case was withdrawn pursuant to the defendants’ request dated August 26, without clarifying on the content in letter.
Apparently he and Ingabire, had requested the president to pardon them.
Taarifa is informed that before the sentencing, Ingabire had on several times been advised to seek clemency, but the process was jeopardised by her unreasonable demands.
And later her conviction broke the hopes of a possible settlement.
Dr. Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a researcher and a political commentator on Rwanda politics, spoke to Taarifa shortly after her release.
He said he was not surprised by her release. “I had heard that she had written asking for clemency…I only don’t know the terms of her release.”
Golooba believes President Kagame was waging that she had learnt her lessons, “but he can’t guarantee what she does after she is released.”
“The point has been made that no one in Rwanda is above the law,” Golooba said, adding that, “Nothing is obvious though. We don’t know what she going to do after he release.”
She might join her family that lives in Netherlands, but since the conditions of her release have not been communicated, no one knows yet what she is eligible for.
However, being known for dabbling in divisive politics, there is a likelihood that the conditions of her release include her having committed not engage in politics for now.
Ingabire’s release has been received with mixed reactions. Some observers suggest that her release portrays President Kagame as a merciful leader.
Others argue that her release is pushing those who fear her devicive and ethnic political beliefs to the edge of their chairs.
Nevertheless, all the pardoned convicts have revisted their crimes, going by an example of former President Pasture Bizimungu, who was freed in 2007 after a presidential pardon for a 15-year sentence he received in 2004 on charges that included inciting ethnic violence.
He is has abandoned politics for good and now lives an ordinary life. Chances are that Ingabire might also quit politics for good until a foreseeable future despite her illegal party members who in exile holding elections and retaining her as President.
Kagame gave no reason for the commute.