Diane Shima Rwigara

Meet Diane Shima Rwigara, the Rwandan activist who had once declared her interest to run for the Rwandan presidential elections.

The Rwandan women’s rights activist and businesswoman contended with Paul Kagame for the presidency during the 2017 presidential election. Although she was later disqualified, Rwigara hoped to be the very first female President and the first female independent candidate in the country.

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Diane Shima Rwigara Biography, Family

Rwigara was born in Kigali in 1981, to a Tutsi family and has three siblings. Her father Assinapol Rwigara who was an industrialist and a key supporter of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) died on February 4, 2015, in an alleged politically motivated murder in Gacuriro, Kigali. Her mother’s name is Adeline Rwigara.

When it comes to her educational background, the young activist attended high school in Belgium and college in California in the United States. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance from Sacramento State University and a Master’s degree in Accounting from San Francisco State University. Prior to her return to Rwanda, she taught at Stanford University in the Department of Linguistics.

The controversies surrounding Assinapol Rwigara’s death marked a new beginning for his daughter Rwigara who become a fierce critic of Paul Kagame, the country’s president, and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Adamant and decisive as she is, Rwigara took up a fight against injustice and oppression which according to her was becoming a norm in the country.

The Rwandan election was scheduled for the 4th of August 2017 and on May 3, she announced her intention to run against Paul Kagame who has been in power since 2000. Diane Shima Rwigara challenged president Kagame and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) saying they have succeeded in creating an oppressive political environment that stifles dissent in the central African nation. Kagame has ruled the country with an iron fist since sweeping to power after the genocide against Rwanda’s Tutsi minority in 1994.

The young Rwandan patriot expressed her reservations over RPF’s role in the 2015 referendum that has given President Kagame the green light to run for a third term. The 2015 referendum legally affords the incumbent president Kagame to stay in power until 2034. But the woman activist slammed the decision, saying that as a matter of integrity, leaders needed to honourably step down when their ruling time is up.

Barely 72 hours after she announced her bid for the county’s top seat as the first female Independent Presidential Candidate, her nude photos were leaked allegedly by the government to scare her off. But that has not deterred her. She vowed to fight injustices, encourage freedom of speech, eradicate poverty and implement a number of reforms, including opening up the political space and revisiting the issue of term limits for elected officeholders.

In a press conference on February 23rd, 2017 in Kigali, Rwigara addressed issues such as poverty, injustice and insecurity in the country. She moved that the right to freedom of expression for Rwandans be upheld.

In her manifesto, she said that her priorities were to eradicate poverty, champion free speech, and provide health insurance for all Rwandans.

See Also: Top 10 African Countries Promoting Gender Equality

Having the US-educated activist to contest in the upcoming Rwandan election is a further proof of female gender tolerance in Rwandan politics. The East African country is internationally acclaimed for being the leading country for women in politics. With an impressive 64%, Rwanda is the top in the world with a share of women in the national legislature.

On 7 July the National Electoral Commission disqualified her from participating in the election on the ground that she used forged signatures in her presidential bid and had submitted only 572 valid signatures rather than the required 600. Though this came as little surprise to most Rwandans, it marked the end of the young activist’s political ambition, perhaps, for the meantime. Not only was she arrested and detained in Prison alongside her mother, she was tortured as well. Her siblings were not left out in this, they were also placed under house arrest.

Kagame won the election in August with more than 98% of the vote, securing a third term in office and extending his 17 years in power. As of September 1, 2017, news outlets reported that Rwigara still could not be reached and that her family continued to claim she is missing.

Rwigara Married, Husband

Miss Rwigara has not been married neither is there any information about her love life. The young woman who thinks age is just a number has always taken political issues and how it affects her society seriously.

Other Facts

  • Diane has for long been declared missing and searches are still going on to find out about her whereabouts.
  • She was reportedly captured by unknown armed men in civilian clothes who held her at gunpoint while the house was searched.
  • While she was arrested, the young patriot said that she doesn’t fear for her life and that she was ready to die for the just course.
  • Along with Rwigara, several leaders and members of the Forces Démocratiques Unifiées-Inkingi opposition party were also detained.
  • Rwigara’s father was a key financial backer of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the ruling political party now led by Kagame.
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