Mother held in Rwanda faces future in jail

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An impassioned plea for help to the Prime Minister has been issued by the young sons of a Yorkshire mother held in prison in Rwanda as her husband confirms she is five months’ pregnant.

Youth worker Violette Uwamahoro, from Leeds, travelled to the country more than a month ago to bury her father but vanished on Valentine’s Day, sparking fears she had been kidnapped by the country’s military intelligence.

Now, as she is formally charged with revealing state secrets and offences against the government, her young sons have written to Prime Minister Theresa May asking for help to bring their mother home, and her husband is calling on the Foreign Office to intervene as he fears for the safety of their unborn child.

“She’s five months pregnant, we can’t keep that quiet now,” said Faustin Rukundo, who fears his wife is being forced to pay because of his role as a political activist in the opposition to Rwandan president Paul Kagame. “She is suffering, and our child is.

“Violette has no political past or present, Violette is innocent. If Rwanda chooses to crucify her because she is my wife they may just do so as they did it to so many Rwandans before her but the entire world should know that she is an innocent victim.

“The British Government has to be ready to protect its citizens. They have to make sure that justice is delivered.”

Mother-of-two Mrs Uwamahoro, 39, had been set to meet family in the Rwandan capital of Kigali on February 14, but vanished 20 minutes after speaking to her husband. This week she was formally charged and appeared in court, supported by a state appointed solicitor.

But Mr Rukundo, a lab technician who gained British nationality along with his wife in 2014 and has lived in the UK since 2004, is calling for greater support from the British Government as he fears the trial will not be a fair one. Three of her family members have now disappeared, he said, with one, her cousin, appearing before the courts as a key witness against her.

“Nobody knew where he was, his family had been looking for him,” he said. “He’s absolutely been coerced through torture. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. She’s allowed a Rwandan state solicitor, that she can’t always see. She needs someone independent if she is going to get a fair trial.

“The Foreign Office has told us that they will help as much as they can but they can’t promise a lawyer. But the Government has to help. She needs justice. They need to step up pressure.”

The couple’s two boys, David and Samuel Mushinja, eight and 10, have been receiving support from their school in Leeds, said Mr Rukundo, but they are tortured by what is happening.

“They promised that she could contact her children,” he said. “They have failed. The children are suffering. Their mother is in a traumatised state.

“The school in Leeds is offering them a lot of support. But they can’t speak to her. They want to know what they can do. They still don’t believe their mother can disappear, just like that.”

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We are providing assistance to a British woman and her family following her arrest in Rwanda. Our staff in Kigali are in touch with local authorities.”

The the Rwandan High Commission has been unavailable for comment.