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Posts from — January 2011

Rwanda opposition leader Victoire Ingabire denied bail again

A Rwandan court on Thursday refused for the fourth time to grant bail to opposition leader Victoire Ingabire who has been in detention since her arrest in October over terrorism charges. The High Court rejected her bail application and she will remain in custody until her next bail appeal or trial, whose date has not been fixed.

Opposition Leader
Victoire Ingabire
Political Prisoner in Rwanda

Ingabire is the leader of the unregistered Unified Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi) party.

“We are not happy about the decision of the judge because Victoire Ingabire is innocent. We don’t see why she must stay in jail for many days as we have seen,” said Sylvain Sibomana, the FDU secretary general.

Boniface Twagirimana, Interim Vice President of FDU-Inkingi, noted however that “The judge did not have much choice as President Paul KAGAME informed a press conference  on 18 January 2011, two days before the verdict, that Ms. Victoire INGABIRE will face the laws up to the exhaustion of the process.” And he added a further comment:
Who is the judge strong enough to contradict him in Rwanda? Only God.

Ingabire arrived in Rwanda early last year after 17 years in exile in the Netherlands. She has been an outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame and his regime.

January 24, 2011   No Comments

Ingabire’s detention order expired on Christmas

Ms Ingabire illegally detained

Completing her 3rd month in prison, the illegally detained  opposition leader Ms. Victoire INGABIRE was finally summoned by the High Court for a bail appeal hearing due on Monday, 17th January 2011, at 08:00.

The detention order expired on 25th  December 2010 and the GASABO intermediate Court rejected  her emergency motion  in that respect. This has been a breaking point, and another confirmation that she will never get a fair trial in Rwanda under the current regime, meddling into the case at all levels.

The president, who visibly is taking this case too personal,  is still pulling the wires. In fact the Rwandan News Agency RNA reported on 12th January 2011: “Jailed opposition politician Ingabire Victoire came to Rwanda with the thinking that the country’s laws did not apply to her – which western critics encouraged her to do”, says President Kagame”.

The independence of the Rwandan judicial remains a very serious question.

Today, a Military High Court panel headed  sentenced  in absentia Lieutenant General KAYUMBA NYAMWASA and Dr. Theogene RUDASINGWA to 24 years while Colonel Patrick KAREGEYA and Dr. Gerard GAHIMA were given a sentence of 20 years each. After they left the ruling party, they recently in exile launched an opposition political party, the Rwandan National Congress.

The Court is not qualified to try a Lieutenant General and the legal basis to try civilians in this case is not clear either. No appeal is possible.

Today was closed the hearing of the case against other opposition leaders accused of illegal protest and endangering the state security. A verdict is due on the 11th February 2011.

Mr. Bernard NTAGANDA, Founder-president of Parti Social Imberakuri; Ms. Alice MUHIRWA, FDU-INKINGI Treasurer; Mr. Sylvain SIBOMANA, FDU-INKINGI Interim Secretary General; Mr. Martin NTAVUKA, FDU-INKINGI Kigali leader are the main defendants.

Very narrow is the hope for the verdict not to reflect the anger of the presiding judge Pie MUGABO, who publicly threatened and abused  the lawyer Mr. GATERA GASHABANA  and the defending opposition members.

Those who believed that the August 2010 elections masquerade would bring peace in Rwanda did not expect this endless score settling intimidation campaign. The incumbent scored a Stalinist 93.5 % landslide vote but his judicial and state police are cleaning up the “political mess” before the local elections due in March 2011.

Boniface TWAGIRIMANA
FDU-Inkingi Interim Vice President.

January 17, 2011   2 Comments

End of Year One of Ingabire’s open struggle for Democracy and Reconciliation in Rwanda

by Eugene Ndahayo

Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza in Rwanda: the year One of the struggle for democracy and dignity.

Dear compatriots,

Dear friends of Rwanda,

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

January 16, 2010, it’s already a year ago, when Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Chairperson of the United Democratic Forces, FDU-INKINGI knelt down for the first time and kissed her homeland that she left 16 years before.

A year of achievements, dedication and courage. A real struggle for democracy, for freedom, for the right to life and personal security, the right of association, freedom of expression, for political rights. A thrash against the iron fist of the dictatorship.

A year of solidarity with Rwandans in the country for the right of remembrance for all  victims of the Rwandan genocide and other crimes against humanity; for all victims’ rights; for all the voiceless; for the rehabilitation of second class citizens. A real struggle for equal access, equal opportunities for all the children of our homeland.

A wrestling against an unfair justice that has deprived Rwandans of the right to a  defense of one’s choice and the right to a due process. The controversial “Gacaca” justice parody has thrown hundreds of thousands of litigants to humiliating community services with no hope of return.

A  year of solidarity with the population of Congo (DRC) facing the consequences of military invasions responsible of over 5 millions of victims, and the plundering of the country’s natural resources. Since 1990, the whole region is engulfed in an endless turmoil.

The Rwandan President, praised by some people and some partisan media to be an all fields miracle champion, a super star, a country’s development success story, believed himself in his political invincibility.

By her presence in Rwanda, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, has brought to light the true dimension of the dictatorship: a totalitarian regime monopolized by a handful of military and ethnocentric militants who, by the means of a political police and a sprawling network of secret services, has an upper hand over all public institutions, the judicial and the civil society.

In just one year, the regime has accumulated political errors and serious violations of human rights:

– Assassination of late André Kagwa Rwisereka, Deputy-Chair of the Democratic Green Party of Rwandan, on July 13, 2010,

– Assassination of the Journalist Jean-Léonard Rugambage, Editor of Umuvugizi newspaper, on June 24, 2010,

– Life attempt against General Kayumba Nyamwasa on June 19, 2010,

-Kidnapping followed by the arrest of Mr. Deogratias Mushayidi, Chair of PDP-IMANZI on March 3, 2010,

– Arrest of Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Chair of FDU- INKINGI on April 21, 2010, bailed out, under house arrest the next day and rearrested on October 14, 2010,

– Arrest of Professor Peter Erlinder, US attorney, defense lawyer for Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza on June 17, then bailed out  after weeks,

– Arrest of Mr. Bernard Ntaganda, Chair of PS-IMBERAKURI on June 24, 2010

– Arrest and detention of Journalists Ms. Agnes Uwimana Nkusi and Saidati Mukakibibi,  (Umurabyo newspaper) on July 8-10, 2010,

– Arrest of a dozen of party leaders of FDU-INKINGI and PS-IMBERAKURI on June 24, 2010 then released on bail,

– Arrest of Mr. Theogene Muhayeyezu, Rwandan lawyer for FDU-INKINGI on June 24, 2010 then released 15 days later,

– Rigged Presidential elections on August 9, 2010 with total exclusion of the opposition,

– Arrest of several high-ranking officers in the Rwandan Army: General Charles Muhire, Major General Karenzi Karake, Colonel Rugigana Ngabo, etc.

– Publication on October 1, 2010 of the UN Mapping Report on war crimes, crimes against humanity and a possible genocide committed in Congo mainly by the Rwandan army.

Yes, in less than a year, the superstar Paul Kagame has faded from the limelight! The touted and self portrayed “African new generation leader” is just real, a tyrant to avoid.

His apologists are just confused and on the brink of loss of credibility. How do they justify the total seal off the political space; assassinations; arbitrary arrests and detentions of democracy leaders? How do they explain the repeated landslide Stalinist election score of 93%?

And gradually, the economic miracle of sustained growth appears to be the result of an unfortunate combination of a criminal economy, unbalanced, uneven and sorry. The Congolese blood minerals and other natural resources have a share in the miracle. There is a puncture of rural savings of 90% of the population in favor of an urban economy represented by 10% of the Rwandan population as well. The gap caused by uneven national income distribution is very deep. According to the UNDP reports, 10% of the richest population owns over 50% of the national wealth while 50% of the poorest population owns less than 10% of the national wealth.

That is the record of a year of achievements of our Chairperson, a record of FDU-INKINGI. Together with all our supporters, we are proud.

Our leader is in maximum prison since October 14, 2010. We all keep in our minds her words, just a few days back to the homeland:

“I believe in the political project that I share with my colleagues in this struggle, I love my country and all its inhabitants and I know I am not alone in this and Rwandans from all social classes, ethnic backgrounds and generations are with us. It is my source of strength and an oath that I would never betray. I will not waver in my dedication as I promised my colleagues and friends. I know and I have thoroughly thought about it, the regime may persecute me, imprison me. Let me say in conclusion that I am ready to face and endure all the difficulties and obstacles on my way until the final victory. And in case the regime attempts on my life, I trust you shall continue from where I will fall.”

In prison, where she is incarcerated, the morale of our Chairperson Ms. Victoire Ingabire is high. She is free in her mind and soul. Not because of her innocence and belief that the justice system will set her free. No, she does not believe at all in the dictator’s justice. She saw how his judicial works: trumped up accusations; fake witnesses; witness preparation and rehearsals; lack of independence; interferences and orders taken from  the State House.

No, she is simply strong because she is courageous and trust that we shall empower the momentum of the wind of freedom and the seeds of democracy she already sowed.

It is the correctness of her political struggle that will set her free. It is the faith in our political project, it is our ability to organize, it is the strength and impact of our current and future political rationale and alliances that will set her free.

Thus, our determination, our consistency in the political struggle shall overcome the dictatorship and its international  backers or lobbying organizations.

Together, we will set free the Chairperson of FDU-INKINGI and beyond, we set free our people.

Done in Brussels, on January 16, 2011

Chair of the Support Committee for FDU-INKINGI

Eugene Ndahayo.

January 17, 2011   1 Comment

“Don’t fail Rwanda again. Your silence is killing people and it is killing democracy”, says FDU-Inkingi Treasurer Alice Muhirwa

Here follows the interview offered by Alice Muhirwa to Afrobeat Radio on Democracy in Rwanda :

Alice-Muhirwa-fdu-inkingi

WJ: Please give us a brief background of the political environment in Rwanda as we speak?

AM: The political environment can be described as totally dry. As you know, the presidential election process was rigged and the opposition questioned it’s legitimacy. The time leading to the poll was critical, namely, the main opposition political parties were denied registration; the registered Parti Social Imberakuri was divided.

Many opposition leaders from our parties were in detention, others were out on bailed and their ability to move around was restricted. The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda’s vice president, Mr. André Rwisereka Kagwa, was beheaded. An independent journalist was murdered in Kigali. Two independent newspapers closed. While some members of the independent media were put under arrest, others fled into exile. The underlying military crisis also reached new height; Army generals were arrested, others fled into exile, and one actually survived an attempted assassination in South Africa.

As we speak, Ms, Victoire Ingabire, the democracy leader has completed two months in prison today. Mr. Bernard Ntaganda, the leader of the Parti Social Imberakuri is also in jail. Frank Habineza, the president of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda has been in exile for many months and is unable to come back into the country. Deogratias Mushayidi, leader of another political party, PDP IMANZI, is in prison along with many other political prisoners. The trials of other executive members of FDU INKINGI will start on January 5th, 2011.

WJ: On November 12, Victoire Ingabire was denied bail, can you speak to her condition? And the condition that she is held in?

AM: These charges against Mrs. Victoire ingabire are politically motivated. President Paul Kagame is involved in the process. Every hearing is a new masquerade, like Cinema series with endless episodes. New allegations; new prepared witnesses with no possibility for cross-examination; new promises of never-revealed “overwhelming evidence” and fresh discoveries. At least those who believed that there was solid evidence before the arrest and detention have seen the mirror of this justice.

She shares her prison cell with two female inmates brought in by the special police. We bring food for all of them every single day. Visits are heavily monitored and last only 10 minutes. Party members from all over the country are rotating to see her once a week.

WJ: What is she really charged with? And what are the prognosis of of her defense team?

AM: She has not yet been officially charged to date. Today, Dec 15, 2010, the detained opposition leader, Mrs. Victoire ingabire was taken to the High Court for a fresh bail appeal. This time the Prosecutor affirmed that the Criminal Procedure law gives him the right to request the extension of provisional detentions up to 12 times. Meanwhile there is no rush until they complete the evidentiary edifice on which they construct their case:

  • Genocide ideology
  • Divisionism
  • Formation of a terrorist organization- Threats to national security by act of terrorism
  • Smear campaign of rumors against the state and its institutions

They keep on changing the charges. A final charge list will be given when the evidentiary stage opens.

WJ: What has absence meant to her family and the party and other opposition?

AM: As a normal family, they miss her. They always call me to find out how she is keeping up. It has been a year that she has been away from home. Her detention is torture for a loving mother who’s family has deep affection for her. They are a very lovely family.

As for the political party, she is our hero, our democracy icon. She is a national symbol. A source of courage and determination. We believe in change; the wind of change is here, we feel it, and its coming our way. We believe in unity. If South Africa can succeed, why not us?

WJ: She is not the only opposition figure held in jail, who else is being held?

Within FDU-Inkingi; there are 14 other people under arrest recently in southern and western provinces in order to produce new witnesses with guilty plea deals. There are also other political figures such as Bernard Ntaganda (chairperson of imberakuri PS), Deo Mushayidi, Charles Ntakirutinka, and others.

WJ: Lt. Aloys Ruyenzi, former RPA officer and close bodyguard of Kagame revealed the untold and horrendous stories of Kagame’s secret killing grounds, torture chambers, and the systematic killings of critics. Can you speak to these revelations?

AM: Those are testimonies of people who say they are “eye witnesses” and I have no authority to challenge what they say. It is only a court of law that can cross-check, confirm or reject these allegations. Information about the criminal responsibilities of the regime’s leaders is largely available. Look at the UN Mapping report in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Crimes against humanity, war crimes. They are accountables. But there is no Court to hold them accountable.

WJ: What is your reaction to the UN Mapping Report on the Congo released in October?

In the FDU-Inkingi, one of our key political principles is the rule of law and the eradication of impunity. We are not too concerned about the judicial terminology of the crimes committed in the Congo, whether they are “genocide” or “war crimes.” A court of law, an international Court of law will determine that. Those who are supporting silence and injustice on those crimes in Congo and in Rwanda have reasons to be silent. They have a lot to hide.

WJ: Can you speak to Rwanda Human Rights Report submitted to the Parliament? Has it been released publicly?

This report submitted to the parliament has not yet been made public but it is out. It is confirming what many are saying openly. A judiciary under the bayonet, illegal detentions, and violations of laws; the delays of court processes, namely the failure of the Gacaca system; it even mentioned some hair raising cases.

There is no justice here. No law. No life.

WJ: Many journalists and opponents of the government are in exile, or have been assassinated, some even in exile. Are you afraid for you life or your safety?

AM: Yes, I am and I feel the danger every single day.

Fear. It used to silence people, to intimidate and even to kill. There are many examples, but I still believe that change is possible. I believe in an open dialogue. That democratization is a process which has initiators. Together we can build a better future for the coming generation by understanding each other, by emphasizing fundamental human rights, and by instituting an open political space and free speech in the media.

As long as we are being denied the right to register our political party, we are not safe. Many of our members are being intimidated. Even the ones from the executive committee have been sacked from their jobs. Some have received and continue to receive blackmails and serious threats.

Democracy activists in a dictatorship are taking a big risk. We have to take it. The cost is high in terms of victims and time, but the fruit is worth it; a long lasting solution.

WJ: Is there something you’d like to tell the outside world?

AM: Don’t fail Rwanda again.

Your silence is killing people and it is killing democracy. Don’t allow political prisoners any more on this planet.

The international community preferred to remain silent during the 1994 genocide. After that disaster, they helped in reconstruction and rehabilitation. They failed in reconciliation. They provided donations, increased aid as a sign of recognition. But again they are silent when the country is sliding back there and into dictatorship. Why can’t they understand Rwanda is on the edge? I think the easy way to promote peace and security is to prevent such type of crisis by helping people to open up a sound political space, to defend human rights and justice, and to support peace and reconciliation, not only in terms of financial assistance, but in terms of a result-oriented approach involving all stake holders and not only the ruling system.

WJ: What in your or the opposition’s opinion is the responsibility that President Kagame bears in the current political situation and in the UN Mapping Report?

AM: He is “the strong man,” the decision maker, the leader. He is answerable. This should never a be a question. He is the number one responsible person.

(13 January 2011)
[Afrobeat Radio]

January 14, 2011   1 Comment

Rwandan Embassy in UK Plans to Eliminate Refugees

by Gasasira,
Umuvugizi Newspaper.

This is a full translation from Kinyarwanda of Umuvugizi Newsletter article: [ see Kagame yahagurukiye impunzi z’abanyarwanda mu Bwongereza]
QUOTE:

Newspaper Umuvugizi has just received information from reliable sources that Kagame’s government might be planning a series of eliminations and acts of division within the Rwandan exiled community[in UK] by means of assassinations, poison and division.

Plans were initiated in a meeting between military and intelligence authorities in Kigali. The objective of the meeting was to find a way to eliminate exiled dissidents currently living in [United Kingdom]. Information material we received confirmed that Colonel Mupenzi, currently studying in UK, was invited to this meeting to give his insight into the community and the dissidence.

Colonel Mupenzi invitation was impromptu but he travelled as on school vacation. [Prior to his departure] he discussed with his embassy-based team of intelligence operatives regarding ways of eliminating dissidents as well as about means and funding of the mission.

He presented to his bosses in the meeting, the situation on the ground and his proposed solutions for an effective and quick elimination of the opposition so far as it is still possible.

He then presented the concern that Rwandan refugees in UK continue to shy away from the embassy while they are successfully settling in the country and achieving. He assessed that, otherwise, families of these refugees will continue to sympathise with the opposition.

He presented them a list of local representatives of FDU-Inkingi, RNC and Imvura political parties and assured them that they have been able to find agents to infiltrate them. Information we received also confirms that the current involvement of BBC Journalists were equally discussed.

On his return to United Kingdom, Colonel Mupenzi received new instructions. He passed them on to his operatives whom he instructed on how to eliminated opponents of Kagame’s regime, especially Rwandan refugees living [in UK].

Two days after his return, he instructed the Rwandan Embassy to call a certain lady Lieutenant Jeanne D’Arc Umulisa, a former Rwandan Defense Force servicewoman, who later went into exiled in 2000. She was called in a meeting in a Nandos Restaurant in Huston, London. They met at around 17h30.

The meeting was led by Rwandan Ambassador Ernest Rwamucyo and was also attended by Intelligence officer Jimmy Uwizeye and Mr. Murego also an intelligence officer. Mr. Murego had fled [Rwanda] in the past as did Lieutenant Jeanne, but he has been brought back to work under Kagame’s umbrella. Lieutenant Jeanne is a founder of “Wariyo Baka”, an association of Rwandan exile ex-soldiers living in UK.

These Kagame’s agents under the leadership of Ambassador Rwamucyo instructed [Jeanne] to dissolve the association and to join RPF party. Otherwise, she would face serious consequences and soon realised her mistakes, in case she refuses to apologize and rejoin the ranks.

The Ambassador Rwamucyo warned her that, if she fails to dissolve the association of exiled RDF servicemen and to apologize, he will take steps to dissolve it and prove her wrong.

The lady explained the objectives of the association, which is to help former soldiers from helplessness, alcoholism and anyone else who was mentally affected by the war. The ambassador replied that they are not in favour of the objectives of her association especially that it intends to commemorate the 2nd October 1990 and that they are aware that she has left the RPF party.

Through our own inquiry, we learnt that Colonel Mupenzi, using one of his many phones, spent evenings of 4th, 5th and 6th of January 2011 calling all exiled ex-military personnel living in UK and asking them to disown her in exchange of some incentives.

This high-ranking military officer, with the help of Jimmy Uwizeye the Rwandan Embassy’s intelligent officer, is currently tasked with locating certain refugees in the [UK] and to lure them. Other refugees will have to be monitored closely to know where they live and what they do.

Information we received also confirms that [there are] plans to eliminate Rwandan refugees by ways of false accusations, using hired English people to be sent to wherever they are or in their homes.

One of the main secret agents is a certain Abera, who resides in UK as a refugee. Abera is acting under the Diaspora initiative in locating Rwandans through their wives. Abera has even transformed her home into a pub to offer a place of meeting to the embassy agents and other refugee-disguised agents who are living off the UK taxpayer’s money.

We also know that secret agent Abera’s husband is Peter Butera. Peter Butera was deported from the United Kingdom after he was found to be engaged in child trafficking of three young girls. The three girls are daughters of his brother-in-law. They travelled under the identity of his own children and wife who are already in UK.

After he was caught, Peter Butera instructed the girls to deny any relationship with Abera. The Home Office had no choice than to look after [the girls]. However, the girls are in contact with two of Abera’s sons and daughters, despite that their parents had denied it.

You will recall that the court case to deport Dr Bajinya and others was initiated by Peter Butera when he was still living in UK. He took the plan to Kigali to seek approval. When the plan was approved, these men were arrested shortly after.

One of the sign of the far reaching determination of intelligent officer Jimmy and his men is the way they planned to set fire on Rwandan Embassy’s building in order to falsely accuse Dr Bajinya and others of terrorism. However, by the UK government and justice system efficiency, these men were not deported and these new accusations were not accepted in the court.

Also, we have information that Rwandan embassy is using some of the former renegade soldiers who had exiled and living poverty in UK. These young men have joined the intelligence network to spy on the UK, Ugandan Embassy and other Rwandan families residing in UK. Are targeted, relatives of the late former President Habyalimana, supporters of Rwanda National Congress, United Democratic Forces as well as local BBC journalists.

This intelligence Network has a deep hierarchy with different branches in the country. At the top of the largest branch is intelligent officer Jimmy who is an experienced spymaster. He was posted to UK following successful missions in Uganda where he was tasked with spying on the cooperation between both UK and Uganda. He was holding an important budget which he used to buy his own agents.

Another branch of the network is the so-called Diaspora initiative. They use this organisation to locate Rwandans, learn what they do and what are their political aspirations that may be opposed to Kagame’s and to RPF policies.

Before we published this news, we learned that a large budget has been spent or put at the disposal of the Rwandan intelligence community especially the military intelligence authorities. The main aim is to silence members of opposition in the Rwandan community in UK by assassinations or poisoning.

We highly wish to call on Rwandans in UK who are opposed to Kagame to be vigilant. They should avoid attending diner parties or same restaurants frequently.

Gasasira

UNQUOTE

[The Proxylake]

January 11, 2011   4 Comments

CPJ opposes harsh prison terms for 2 Rwandan female journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists opposes prosecution demands for lengthy prison sentences for the editor and deputy editor of the independent weekly Umurabyo. State Prosecutor Agustin Nkusi requested a 33-year prison sentence for Editor Agnès Uwimana, at left, and 12 years for her deputy, Saidati Mukakibibi, at a High Court hearing on Thursday in the capital, Kigali.

The two, arrested in July 2010, face charges of incitement to violence, genocide denial, and insulting the head of state in connection with several opinion pieces published in mid-2010, according to news reports.

Some of the columns in contention claimed there were growing divisions within the army and that Hutus victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide deserve justice. One of the columns was accompanied by a photo of President Paul Kagame with a Nazi swastika superimposed in the background. The arrests took place one month ahead of the 2010 presidential elections.

“Using sweeping laws on genocide denial, the prosecutor wants to silence two journalists for opinion pieces,” said CPJ East Africa Correspondent Tom Rhodes. “We call on the High Court to dismiss these harsh criminal charges against Agnès Uwimana and Saidati Mukakibibi.”

A verdict is expected in February, defense lawyer Nsabayezu Evariste told CPJ.

The Kinyarwanda-language weekly, which ceased publication after the arrests, came to prominence after two other private weeklies, Umuseso and Umuvugizi, were banned by the Media High Council, local journalists said. While sometimes sensational, Umurabyo provided in-depth coverage on topics such as the June 2010 murder of Umuvugizi Deputy Editor Jean-Léonard Rugambage and allegations of exorbitant government spending on luxury jets, according to local journalists.

Uwimana had been imprisoned in 2007 on charges of ethnic divisionism and libel after she published a commentary on ethnic violence in Rwanda, according to CPJ research.

[Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)]

January 10, 2011   No Comments

Rwandan Prosecutor requests 33 and 12 years in jail for two women journalists of newspaper Umurabyo

Reporters Without Borders is extremely shocked by the long jail sentences that a prosecutor requested yesterday for two newspaper journalists who, after six months in pre-trial detention, are being tried before a Kigali high court on a range of charges including genocide denial and inciting public disorder.

The prosecution requested 33 years in prison and a fine of 800,000 Rwandan francs (1028 euros) for Agnès Uwimana Nkusi (photo), the editor of the privately-owned bimonthly Umurabyo, and 12 years in prison and fine of 200,000 Rwandan francs (257 euros) for one of her reporters, Saidath Mukakibibi. A verdict is expected on 4 February.

“After a 2010 election year that was very trying for independent news media, these proposed sentences show that the government is not being guided by any desire for change,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Anyone who freely expresses an opinion or is critical of the authorities risks not only arrest but also a severe sentence.”

The press freedom organization added: “We urge the Rwandan judicial authorities not to convict these two journalists, and we call on the government to stop using legislation such as the ‘genocide ideology’ law to suppress the free expression of opinions. Charges such as defamation or insulting the president are too often inflated to ‘genocide denial’ or inciting public disorder.”

When requesting the harsh sentences, prosecutor Augustin Nkusi said: “Their articles, for example in their issue 29, clearly show the intent and motive of the two, which was to incite the people against an elected government. It is deliberate from the language they use, and the fact that they never bothered to speak to both sides in the story, clearly demonstrates their intentions.”

The prosecutor added: “Article 12 of the Media Law indicates that while journalists have exclusive rights and freedoms of speech and expression, there are laws that they cannot break.”

Agnès Nkusi’s lawyer pointed out that her client was seropositive and that her state of health was incompatible with a long stay in prison.

Nkusi and Mukakibibi have been held in supposedly “provisional” pre-trial detention since their arrest on 8 July 2010 on charges of inciting civil disobedience, insulting the president, spreading false rumours and denying the genocide of the Tutsis. More information

Nkusi has had run-ins with the authorities before. She was sentenced to two years in prison on similar charges in 2007, but went back to work as a journalist after serving the sentence. The Media High Council, a government body that oversees the press, gave her two warnings last year before her arrest in July. Although pleading not guilty, Uwimana acknowledged mistakes in her articles and breaches of professional conduct.

Rwanda was ranked 169th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. This was Africa’s third worst ranking. Only Eritrea and Sudan were below it in the index. President Paul Kagame has been on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom” for several years.

[Reporters Without Borders]

January 9, 2011   1 Comment

Victoire Ingabire sees 2011 as a “Year of Justice and Change in Rwanda”

“At every visit, the fire of hope I see in your eyes is a long-winded spring of courage.
As the year draws to a close, observe a minute of silence in memory of all the victims of democracy in Rwanda, those who are dead, those still in chains, those in exile and those in hiding.
Let’s make together the year 2011, the YEAR OF JUSTICE AND CHANGE IN RWANDA. That will be our motto, our goal and our next achievement”.

These are the words of Ms Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, addressing the Executive team of the party FDU-INKINGI and some other members when they visited her in KIGALI prison on 31 December 2010.

January 3, 2011   2 Comments