Rwandan opposition leader freed

Kigali - Rwandan opposition leader Charles Ntakirutinka vowed to remain critical President Paul Kagame's government as he walked free Thursday at the end of a 10-year prison sentence for incitement.

“We thought it was time for Rwanda to have some political opposition so we formed a political party,” said Ntakirutinka, who was arrested in April 2002 shortly after forming the Democratic Party for Renewal party.

“But they said our party was based on 'divisionism,' which was not true. They just didn't want any opposition,” added the 62-year-old former minister.

Ntakirutinka appeared healthy and happy at home in Kigali, crediting his good condition to the home-cooked food his wife provided in over 3 000 prison visits during his decade-long incarceration.

However, when asked if he was now afraid of speaking out critically, Ntakirutinka was defiant.

“I have to speak the truth. If that means I'll go back to prison, then I'm ready. Just take me back,” he told AFP.

Ntakirutinka was jailed on charges of “inciting civil disobedience” and “association with criminal elements” after a trial condemned by rights groups as unfair.

Rights group Amnesty International, who said his trial “fell short” of fair trial, called on Kigali to release other prisoners

“Ten years after Charles Ntakirutinka was jailed, political opponents and journalists still spend years in prison for speaking out,” Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International's Africa Director, said in a statement.

“The Rwandan government should put promises to respect freedom of expression and association into practice”. - Sapa-AFP