KIGALI, Rwanda — A Rwandan court sentenced the country’s top opposition political leader to eight years in prison on Tuesday for treason and a charge stemming from this central African nation’s murderous ethnic attacks 18 years ago: genocide denial.
The opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire, returned to Rwanda in 2010 after living abroad for 16 years and quickly visited the country’s genocide memorial, where she asked why Hutus killed in the violence were not recognized like the minority Tutsis were. She had planned to run for president but instead was arrested.
More than 500,000 Rwandans, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were killed in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. In the wake of that violence, the government set out to deemphasize ethnicity. Many in the country now identify themselves simply as a Rwandan, not a Hutu or Tutsi.
The government accused Ingabire — who has had contacts with the FDLR, a group of Hutu fighters in Congo — of trying to raise an armed group, a charge Ingabire denied.
The court on Tuesday acquitted her on charges of promoting ethnic division, genocide ideology, creating an armed group, and complicity in terrorist acts.
Ingabire’s lawyer, Iain Edwards, said Ingabire will appeal the court’s ruling.