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Rwanda: political opponents assaulted and arrested by Kagame police

by Victoire Ingabire and Frank Habineza.
(Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda)

Rwandan Opposition Leaders and members have been assaulted, arrested and hundreds are still missing.

– “The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda is deeply concerned with the deteriorating political harassment and denial of political space in Rwanda ahead of the August 9th Presidential elections.

– “We call upon the Rwandan Government to postpone these elections until the political field is levelled enough to allow a peaceful competition for political power in Rwanda.
Victoire Ingabire and Frank Habineza (PCC)

A planned demonstration against the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has been blocked today, while they are receiving nominations for the Presidential Elections.
The genuine opposition has been denied a chance to participate in these presidential elections.
The planned demonstration was blocked this morning when Maitre Bernard NTAGANDA, founding president of PS Imberakuri was violently grabbed from his home by unidentified armed plain clothed officers. Sources suggest that he is held incommunicado in a police cell.
On the same occasion Ms. Victoire INGABIRE of FDU Inkingi woke up to find that her house had been surrounded by armed policemen and was prevented to get out of the residence.
The Democratic Green Party Leader, Mr. Frank HABINEZA, and his Vice President, Andre Kagwa RWISEREKA were held up by police, their National Identity cards and phones were taken for almost one hour at US Embassy in Kigali.
Two Executive Members of FDU INKINGI, the Secretary General Sylvain Sibomana and the Treasurer Alice Muhirwa are missing.
The Secretary General of PS Imberakuri, Theobald MUTARAMBIRWA is believed to be in police custody.

The ‘Parti Social Imberakuri-PS Imberakuri, had written to the Mayor of GASABO district on 17th June 2010, requesting for permission to demonstrate on 24th June 2010. The Letter specified that the demonstrations were to start from the Prime Minister’s Office in Kimiruhura, continue to the Parliament and then end at the Ministry of Local Government in Kacyiru, where a public message was to be read.

The District never responded by Wednesday, 23rd June and Maitre NTAGANDA a senior Lawyer and advocate, confirmed to other opposition Leaders that legally in this case silence is not NO, and the program remained as planned.

To our surprise early this morning, the Democratic Green Party Leader, Frank HABINEZA, received a phone call from PS Imberakuri Secretary General, informing that the party Leader had gone missing and they have changed plans and instead of the planned demonstrations they will go to the American Embassy in Kacyiru and ask US Embassy officials to intervene in this serious situation. They also asked the Green Party Leader to help them out so that Maitre NTAGANDA could be released.

To our surprise upon arrival at the US Embassy visitors parking at around 09:00 local time, when we called the PS Imberakuri Secretary General, instead of getting his response we heard a lot of commotions on his phone and by the time we reached outside the US Embassy buildings, we saw police chasing PS Imberakuri members and also saw others being arrested and being put on Police Vans. The Secretary General is believed to be in police custody with hundreds of other Imberakuri members.

We proceeded and talked to US Embassy officials and after a while as we were leaving the US Embassy grounds, police stopped us and took away our National Identity Cards and Phones for about an hour. Both the President and Vice President of the Green Party were released, thereafter but without any harm.

Meanwhile, hundreds of members of FDU Inkingi were arraigned and beaten by policemen at Gishushu (Remera) and in front of the Ministry of Justice in Kimihurura. They were heading to a peaceful demonstration in front of the Ministry of Justice to request the government to lift restrictive measures and false charges against their leader Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza who remains since April 22nd 2010 bailed under house surveillance deprived of her political rights.
Demonstrators spontaneously reacted to the statement by the General Prosecutor that the government does not have enough evidence to prosecute and challenge the case in a court of law.

The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda is deeply concerned with the deteriorating political harassment and denial of political space in Rwanda ahead of the August 9th Presidential elections.

The Government of Rwanda has continuously done all political manoeuvres to deny the genuine political opposition a chance to exist and be able to participate in the upcoming Presidential elections.
The Ruling Party-RPF has indeed shown to the Rwandan people and the International community that it is too scared to compete with the real opposition and has rather resorted to getting stooge candidates to compete with.

That is the real picture of President Kagame’s RPF competing with stooge candidates of PSD, PL and other satellite partners, who have been comfortably enjoying ministerial and parliamentary positions along the RPF state party for the last 16 years.

The opposition in Rwanda has been subjected to verbal, physical intimidation and abuse.
The legal framework has also been used to stop the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and United Democratic Forces (FDU–Inkingi) from registering their political parties and exercising their political rights.
The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s founding convention on 30th October 2009 was sabotaged violently, by people suspected to be connected to security organs and others to be working for the Government.
The Green Party Leader, Mr.Frank HABINEZA has also received several death threats, the latest one indicating that he is supposed to be killed before the August 2010 Presidential Elections. Despite the fact that he reported this matter to the police and wrote to the Minister of Internal Security, he never received any response.
The FDU Inkingi Leader, Ms.Victoire INGABIRE was physically assaulted early this year in a Government office at Kinyinya-Kigali. She has also faced serious allegations and has been charged for working with a terrorist organisation and as well for having a genocide ideology. Her Party has also been refused chance to register on pretext that its leader has criminal charges, which must be cleared first. The problem though is that even though she was charged in court, she has never been given chance to defend herself.
Instead her lawyer, Peter Erlinder, was arrested as well.

All these actions are done by the Government to demonise these politicians and make them hated by the population.

PS Imberakuri is the only opposition party that had managed to get registered last year, but its leader Maitre Bernard NTAGANDA, has faced a lot of challenges and was summoned by the Rwandan Senate on charges of having the genocide ideology. The party has now been divided into several factions, one illegal faction was recently recognised by the Government after its head was appointed Vice President of the pro- Government’ Political Parties Forum, though they very well know that this Lady has never been gazetted or approved by the cabinet according to the Rwandan Law.
The legally recognised Leader, Maitre NTAGANDA is now unable to present his credentials for official nomination as a Presidential Candidate by the Electoral Commission. This division is believed to be done by the Ruling Party-RPF in order to weaken the real opposition and deny it a chance to participate in the upcoming August 2010 presidential elections.

Neither Ms.Victoire INGABIRE, FDU-Inkingi’s Presidential candidate, nor, Mr. Frank HABINEZA, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s Presidential candidate will be able to present their credentials for approval by the Electoral Commission, since both of their parties have been denied a chance to register in time and they are not criminals.

We call upon the Rwandan Government to postpone these elections until the political field is levelled enough to allow a peaceful competition for political power in Rwanda.

We request the President of Rwanda to use his powers as vested to him by the Constitution to impress upon the Rwandan Government officials to allow political parties that are critical of the ruling party-RPF, (the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and FDU-Inkingi) to get registered and exercise their full political rights and as well let the legally recognised leader of PS Imberakuri, Maitre Bernard NTAGANDA, manage his party without any outside interference.

We would like to remind H.E. Paul KAGAME that he took an oath seven years ago, to protect the Rwandan Constitution. He is the custodian of the Law. The Constitution guarantees multi-party politics and democracy in Rwanda. We call upon His Excellency, the President of the Republic to respect his pledge.

Done at Kigali, 24th June 2010.

Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
Chairperson, United Democratic Forces

Mr. Frank Habineza
Chairman, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda

The Permanent Consultative Council of Opposition Parties in Rwanda (PCC)
C/O. B.P. 6334 Kigali , Rwanda
Tel: +250 788563039,+250 728636000, +250 788307145

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June 26, 2010   No Comments

Rwanda: Newspaper’s deputy editor gunned down in Kigali

by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders is shocked and outraged to learn that Jean-Léonard Rugambage, the deputy editor of the fortnightly Umuvugizi, was gunned down outside his home in Kigali at about 11 p.m. on 24 June. He was the first journalist to be murdered in Rwanda since Emmanuel Munyemanzi in 1998.

“We have for months been condemning the climate of terror in Rwanda, the escalating repression of independent journalists and totalitarian tendencies,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It seems that newspaper closures, trials of journalists and blocking of websites have not been enough to elicit a reaction from the international community. Will this tragic development finally open the eyes of those who support this government?

The press freedom organisation added: “As the August presidential election approaches, the government is organising a tightly controlled and monolithic electoral campaign in which all sources of criticism are being suppressed. This undertaking seems to have culminated in the ambushing and murder of this renowned journalist.”

In a resumption of diplomatic relations, French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Kigali in February and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, attended the Africa-France summit in Nice on 31 May and 1 June.

Reporters Without Borders believes that dialogue cannot be resumed unless particular attention is paid to press freedom and it therefore calls on the French authorities and the European Union delegation in Kigali to ensure that an independent investigation is carried out into this murder. Monitoring this case should be a priority for France’s ambassador to Kigali, Laurent Contini.

Rugambage was slain by four shots fired at close range by gunmen who have yet to be identified. The police took his body away to carry out an autopsy. Also known as “Sheriff,” he left a wife and two-year-old child. His murder has caused shock and dismay in both Rwanda and abroad.

“Jean-Léonard was without doubt killed as a result of his coverage of last week’s attempted murder of Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa in exile in South Africa,” Reporters Without Borders was told by Jean-Bosco Gasasira, his newspaper’s editor, who is himself in exile.

Rugambage reported that telephone calls were made between Rwandan intelligence chief Emmanuel Ndahiro and the Rwandan citizens who were arrested in South Africa after the shooting attack on Gen. Nyamwasa. In a story about the shooting in Le Monde on 22 June, headlined “Rwandan stray bullets,” French journalist Jean-Philippe Rémy wrote: “It is not easy to say what distinguishes Rwanda from a full-blown dictatorship.

Rugambage had experienced several run-ins with the authorities. Accused of murder during the genocide and then sentenced to a year in prison for contempt of court, he was detained for 11 months in 2005 and 2006 before finally being acquitted. He edited Umuco for a long time before joining Umuvugizi.

He was also the Rwanda correspondent of the regional press freedom organisation Journalists in Danger (JED). “He told things as he felt them,” said a journalist who participated with him in a workshop in Brazzaville in 2007 for JED’s regional correspondents. “He was a very committed guy who paid with his life for his courage as a reporter. He did not beat about the bush, unlike some of his Rwandan colleagues.”

Rwanda was ranked 157th out of 179 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. This was the fourth lowest ranking in Africa, above only Eritrea, Somali and Equatorial Guinea. President Kagame has for years been on the Reporters Without Borders list of Predators of Press Freedom.

[Reporters Without Borders]

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June 26, 2010   1 Comment

Rwanda: Newspaper editor skips media council summon, given last chance

Kigali: A troubled female publisher of the Kinyarwanda tabloid UMURABYO Agnes Uwimana on Friday refused to attend a scheduled hearing of her case by the Media High Council which has threatened to close the paper.

The media council summoned her Friday to renew the demand that she apologises to the country and all those she has allegedly offended in her part.

The Council had ruled on May 27, after summoning Uwimana that she makes corrections to several stories which negate the Tutsi Genocide, undermine government programs and threaten national security.

The content in Issues 21 and 23 reportedly defame President Kagame and several other government officials. In Issue 21, the paper describes the President as somebody who does not listen to any advice from anybody, according to Council documents.

The paper is also accused of running content which promotes the double Genocide theory. The Media Council says in Issue 23, UMURABYO apparently writes that: “All Rwandans slaughtered each other during the Genocide.”

Though Uwimana did not attend the Friday media council summon, she admitted to journalists in attendance after the May summon that her paper had serious errors which would be corrected. But more copies have been published every Monday, and there have been no retractions.

The Council said Friday that the paper has a last chance to publish the apologies or the law will take its course – including a lengthy suspension. The paper also faces possible complete ban from the streets, says the council.

Uwimana was jailed about two years ago and the paper suspended for articles in the same paper deemed to have been promoting ethnic divisionism.

It returned to the streets early this year, but rose to fame with the ongoing suspension of the two controversial tabloids UMUSESO and UMUVUGIZI.


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June 26, 2010   1 Comment

Exiled editor of the recently banned newspaper Umuvugizi Says Rwandan Security killed his successor

Jean Bosco Gasasira says acting editor Rugambage was killed because his paper was investigating the shooting of a Rwandan general

The exiled editor of the Umuvugizi newspaper in Rwanda said his acting editor was shot and killed late Thursday night in the Rwanda capital, Kigali.

Jean Bosco Gasasira said deputy editor Jean Leonard Rugambage was shot outside his home and died later at a hospital.

Gasasira said Rwandan security killed acting editor Rugambage because the paper was investigating the shooting of Rwandan General Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa.

“I’m 100 percent sure it was the office of the national security services which shot him dead. This happened after publishing a story on the Umuvugizi website which cited Rwanda’s chief spy of being involved in the shooting of General Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa,” he said.

Police spokesman Eric Kayiranga told VOA that police do not know who was behind the attack or what the motive was. He said police were investigating.

Gasasira said the article on the Umuvugizi website quoted information which showed that there was communication between Rwanda’s chief spy and his driver.

He said the chief spy ordered the driver to finish up the general (Kayumba Nyamwasa) at the hospital with a promise that Rwandan President Paul Kagame would reward the driver.

“One security operative revealed to my editor that he knows that it is their officers who carried out that suicide mission. But they apparently revealed to my editor thinking that he was a hotel worker,” Gasasira said.

Gasasira said the Rwandan security began watching acting editor Rugambage after they realized he was a journalist and not a hotel worker.

Gasasira said he told acting editor Rugambage to leave Rwanda and cross into Uganda. But he said his offer came too late.

“He called me before using another line, informing me about the constant surveillance. Then I told him if he feels things getting worse, I told him to cross and flee Rwanda into Uganda to see how we can handle the issue. But unfortunately they killed him before,” he said

Rwanda’s Media High Council this year suspended Umuvugizi and Umuseso for six months on the grounds the two weekly newspapers violated Rwanda’s media laws and incited public order.

Gasasira said the killing of acting editor Rugambage fits the pattern of the Rwandan government’s campaign against the independent media.

“We are under tense surveillance. My journalist was also beaten up by the spokesman on Thursday when he was in an office of an opposition leader where he had gone to investigate some story. The same goes to me. Since Sunday, I’m not allowed to get out of my house. Security sources where I am say there are lots of spies they have sent to finish me,” Gasasira said.

Source: VOA.

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June 26, 2010   No Comments