This interview was originally conducted in Kinyarwanda by Gaspard Musabyimana of Radio Inkingi.
Radio Inkingi (RI): How are you doing?
Gasengayire (G): I am doing well.
RI: I would like you to tell our listeners why you was sent to prison?
G: I was accused of inciting the population to revolt against the government.
RI: How so?
G: This is how it all went down. I was on my way to my grandmother’s house, then I came across a group of peasants who were busy cultivating their land. They weren’t supposed to be doing any work on that land. They were supposed to hand it over to the government. I was falsely accused of encouraging those farmers to defy authorities and proceed with their farming activities. How can I be accused of making these farmers defy authorities, they had already decided to defy the unfair expropriation of their property and were already busy farming when I encountered them. The court took this into consideration, and finally I got vindicated.
RI: How much time did you spend in jail?
G: I was in jail for 7 months.
RI: Since you was locked up on false charges, are you going to get compensated for those 7 months you were wrongly incarcerated?
G: In criminal cases, no citizen is allowed to sue the state to seek compensation. That is how the law works here.
RI: As a student, you were busy pursuing your studies, they came and interrupted you, getting compensated sounds logical?
G: There is no such thing as compensation here in situations like the ordeal I just endured. I lost a whole school year, I need to enroll anew and go from there.
RI: You should check with an attorney, people do sue the state when they get wrongly charged and endure damages?
G: There is no such provision in criminal cases here.
RI: Tell me, tell Radio Inkingi listeners the situation in Rwanda’s prisons.
G: First they keep you in jail at the police station, if you get convicted, then they send you to the main prison. Once in prison they process you, put your name and fingerprints in their electronic system, and finally you are kept there in harsh conditions as an inmate. You are escorted everywhere by prison guards, for example if you need to report to the judge they take you.
RI: Harsh conditions. Can you elaborate on that? What do inmates eat, how do they sleep, are they allowed to interact with other inmates?
G: Inmates eat once a day, they are allowed to shower and they assigned very narrow spaces to sleep in.
RI: So, you are telling me that prisons are no longer overcrowded as they used to be in the aftermath of the genocide?
G: Prisons are getting overcrowded once again, but it’s not as bad as it used to be.
RI: Tell me, which prison were you in?
G: I was in Muhanga prison.
RI: How many inmates were locked up in there?
G: Muhanga prison is occupied by approximately 4800 inmates.
RI: Muhanga prison is a desolate place indeed, isn’t this Muhanga prison the same one that caught fire not long ago?
RI: A lot of people must have perished in that fire. This prison is notorious for being extremely harsh. In the aftermath of the genocide, this prison was so overcrowded that people slept standing up, or piled up some on top of others, and as a result those who got out and didn’t die in there were missing limbs, things of that sort. What types of inmates are locked in there? What crimes are they convicted of?
G: As time progresses, those guilty of taking part in the genocide are getting fewer and fewer. Most are locked up for trafficking and selling illegal substances. Drugs and Kanyanga (homemade liquor) have become a huge problem in this country.
RI: You must been the only one locked up for your political views?
G: I think so. Other would be political prisoners are former dignitaries of the old regime, they are accused of taking part in the genocide.
RI: Former dignitaries meaning former mayors and governors?
RI: What are the feelings of inmates about FDU Inkingi, do they know it exists?
G: Actually while in prison I got harassed by RPF fanatics.
Ri: Come again? RPF fanatics in prison?
RI: RPF has cadres in prisons? RPF plants propagandists in prisons, help me out, I am a bit confused here?
G: Some RPF cadres do get sent to prison, and once there ironically they continue to advocate for it
RI: Are inmates tortured or abused in some kind of way?
RI: In the place where you was incarcerated, was it all female?
RI: You have stated that most are locked up on illegal substances charges. You mean to tell me that all those women were involved in the trafficking and selling of illegal substances?
G: I cannot give you the exact statistics, but my guess is that about half of those women were picked up on illegal substances charges.
RI: Back to living conditions, you stated that they are harsh, that inmates don’t get enough spaces to sleep in, elaborate on that.
G: Inmates sleep in narrower triple bunk beds, they don’t get enough room.
RI: Did you have an attorney? Can Someone such as yourself who is anti-government easily find legal representation?
G: Many attorneys are afraid to take high profile political cases such as mine. I was deserted by my first attorney, when I attempted to contact him via a colleague of his, he replied and said that my case was too sophisticated so he opted out.
RI: Now that you got released, do you find the Rwandan judicial system getting any better? Can you give a positive review?
G: Yes! There has been some improvements, My wish is that we continue in that direction.
RI: Is there anything you wish to tell Radio Inkingi listeners?
G: I want your listeners to know that we, members of the opposition here in Rwanda, continue to be persecuted. Imagine getting arrested simply because you traveled to your village, We live in constant fear. We are not safe.
RI: This is the second or third time you got incarcerated. The first time they locked you up for two years. The second time they kidnapped you and held you incommunicado for two weeks, Aren’t you fearful that one day they will take you and murder you?
G: I am fearful for my life. Definitely.
RI: Despite all those risks involved, what gives you the strength to go on? Is it the fact that you fight for justice knowing that the truth is on your side and that being a member of FDU does not equal being an enemy of the state?
G: When you fight for a just cause, that alone gives you strength. I am determined so giving up is not an option. I have to do it. I cannot coward, my perseverance is an encouragement to others, I must not let those who look up to me down.
RI: Thank you, I hope that you will be able to resume your studies soon
G: I will be able to resume when the next school year begins in September.
RI: Thank you. Bye!