Minister accuses rival of links to terrorism

Rwanda's foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo had an unusually – for a politician – blunt answer when The Independent asked her about Victoire Ingabire's allegations this week.

"She is a criminal", said Ms Mushikiwabo. "She is bad news, she is connected to the FDLR and terrorist groups and she has a criminal history. She is not under house arrest, she has only been told not to leave the country."

Ms Mushikiwabo, in London ahead of Monday's poll, accused the international media of "hype" about the plight of politicians and journalists critical of the government. The government has denied any involvement in the recent murders of figures critical of the government and Ms Mushikiwabo said there was a "deliberate attempt" to depict Rwanda in a negative light.

The President Paul Kagame enjoyed immense popularity but "certain people have an axe to grind" with him. "He is very demanding and very strict and some cannot stand the scrutiny and level of accountability that he demands," she said.

She accused Ms Ingabire of being an "opportunist" who had lived outside of Rwanda for 16 years and still wanted to conduct a politics based on ethnic differences, which was "unacceptable". "She seems to be a concern everywhere but not in Rwanda. I don't see too many of our citizens worrying about her rights."

Asked about the crackdown on the press, the Foreign Minister, who herself spent 20 years in the US before returning to Rwanda, insisted that Mr Kagame was committed to democracy. "But democracy is a culture, it is not something that comes overnight".