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Exiled Rwandan journalist Godwin Agaba escapes assassination attempt in Uganda

by Jennifer Fierberg.

Godwin Agaba is a Rwandan journalist in exile currently residing in a neighboring country in fear of his own safety tonight. Mr. Agaba has been in exile since March of 2010 in fear of death and legal persecution. Mr. Agaba, a formerly jailed reporter for the newspaper Umuvugizi and website 256 News, faced re-arrest in 2010 in reprisal for his critical reporting. He reports that his news site was hacked and taken down in November 2010 and that he lives in constant fear of his life.

On Tuesday 9th February, Godwin Agaba faced a horrifying attempt on his life at his home. His account of what happened is stated in his own words below:

Godwin Agaba is quoted as saying to this writer, “Last night, (Tuesday 9th Feb. 2011), I narrowly escaped being assassinated in my residence by unknown gunmen.  They shot  and killed one dog at the gate around 3:30 am before fleeing on motorbikes.

Fortunately, I and other members staying in the building remained unharmed physically but one of the two guard dogs was killed.

The police have registered a case against the unknown assailants and started an investigation in this regard.  It may be pertinent to mention here that my landlord told me in the morning that this has never happened of the many years they have stayed here.”

There are the reports saying the Uganda police are holding two Rwandan spy suspects in their custody and one was found with the photos of other Rwandan exiled journalists.”

This writer has been informed that the local police are reporting that they have arrested two Rwandan suspected spies.  One claims that he is working with East African TV.

Action to protect this brave journalist is imperative and needed immediately. Mr. Agaba has been supported in the past by the Committee to Protect Journalists and while calls, emails and faxes have been made the urgency to protect this journalist is imperative. Those of us who work to expose the continued injustices in Rwanda and neighboring countries urge CPJ and HRW to act on behalf of this man in an urgent fashion to assure his safety.

[The Africa Global Village]

February 12, 2011   2 Comments

Rwanda: Four year prison sentence for Opposition Leader Bernard Ntaganda

The four-year prison sentence for Bernard Ntaganda, founding president of the PS-Imberakuri opposition party, strikes a blow to freedom of expression and democracy in Rwanda, Human Rights Watch said today.

On February 11, 2011, the High Court in Kigali found Ntaganda guilty of endangering national security, “divisionism” – inciting ethnic divisions – and attempting to organize demonstrations without official authorization. The court sentenced him to two years each for the first two charges and fined him 100,000 Rwandan francs (approximately US$175) for the third. The charges relate to his public statements criticizing government policies. Human Rights Watch is not aware that he advocated violence in any of these statements. Ntaganda was not present when the judgment was read in court.

Three members of the FDU-Inkingi, another opposition party – Sylvain Sibomana, Alice Muhirwa, and Martin Ntavuka – were also fined 100,000 Rwandan francs each for attempting to organize demonstrations without official authorization. Another PS-Imberakuri member, Jean-Baptiste Icyitonderwa, was acquitted of the same charge.

The verdict comes just one week after two journalists, Agnès Nkusi Uwimana and Saidaiti Mukakibibi, were sentenced to 17 and 7 years respectively in connection with articles in the independent newspaper, Umurabyo, that were viewed as critical of the government and of President Paul Kagame.On February 4, the High Court in Kigali ruled that by publishing these criticisms, the journalists had incited the public to rise up against the state. It found both women guilty of endangering public order. Uwimana, the newspaper’s editor, was also found guilty of “minimizing the genocide,” which accounted for 10 years of her sentence, “divisionism,” and defamation.  Both were arrested in July 2010 and have been in detention ever since.

“These are blatantly political trials,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director of Human Rights Watch. “Ntaganda, his colleagues, and the two journalists – as well as many other men and women across Rwanda – are paying a heavy price for daring to express their opinions.”

Ntaganda, an outspoken critic of the government, was arrested on June 24, six weeks before the August 9 presidential elections. Neither his party nor the FDU-Inkingi nor another opposition party, the Democratic Green Party, were able to participate in the elections, which Kagame, the incumbent, won with 93 percent of the vote.

The PS-Imberakuri was the only one of these three parties that succeeded in registering as a political party. In March 2010, members of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), together with dissident members of the PS-Imberakuri, engineered a takeover of the PS-Imberakuri and replaced Ntaganda with a new and compliant leadership.

Ntaganda and party members faithful to him were subsequently subjected to other forms of intimidation and harassment. These included threats to themselves and their families, causing several party members to go into hiding or exile; administrative restrictions designed to paralyze their political activities; and a statement by members of the Senate’s Political Affairs Commission in April that accusations of “genocide ideology” and “divisionism” against Ntaganda were well-founded.

The intimidation culminated in the arrest of Ntaganda in the early morning of June 24, just hours before a public demonstration planned by his party in Kigali. Several other members of the PS-Imberakuri and FDU-Inkingi were arrested later that day as they attempted to proceed with the demonstration. Further arrests of members of both parties took place in the following days.

Some of those arrested were released in July, after several days of ill-treatment in police custody; they were beaten, held in harsh conditions, and threatened with death in connection with their party activities. Some were handcuffed to each other for several days without interruption, including when using the toilet, eating, and sleeping.

Others remain in detention. On August 11, two PS-Imberakuri members, Sylver Mwizerwa and Donatien Mukeshimana, were sentenced to prison terms of three years and two years respectively for “rebellion” and destruction of property, allegedly for breaking into the PS-Imberakuri office after the landlord had reclaimed it.

“These prosecutions demonstrate that the Rwandan government won’t stand for any criticism or opposition – despite its numerous public commitments to free speech and political pluralism,” Bekele said. “These charges are wholly inappropriate, and the justice system is being used as a tool to stifle dissent and intimidate the public.”

Human Rights Watch called on the government of Rwanda to take the following steps:

  • Allow opposition parties, journalists, and others to express their views, including criticizing government policies, without fear for their safety;
  • Take measures to restore and respect the independence of the judiciary;
  • Accelerate the revision of the “genocide ideology” law, announced by the justice minister in 2010, to include a more precise definition of the crime, in order to prevent misuse of this charge for political or other purposes;
  • Review the 2009 media law, which imposes burdensome restrictions on journalists, and decriminalize defamation.

Background

The trials of Ntaganda and the Umurabyo journalists are a part of a longstanding pattern of government repression against opponents and critics in Rwanda. The repression intensified during the pre-election period in 2010, with the suspension of the two independent newspapers Umuseso and Umuvugizi; the murders of an Umuvugizi journalist, Jean-Léonard Rugambage, and the Green Party vice president, André Kagwa Rwisereka; and persistent threats against others opposed to the government or seen as sympathetic to the opposition. Contrary to some observers’ expectations, the repression has not eased following the elections.

Accusations of “genocide ideology” and “divisionism” have often been used by the government to silence criticism. Other charges incurring heavy prison sentences, such as endangering national security and inciting public disorder, have also been levelled against opponents and critics.

Victoire Ingabire, president of the FDU-Inkingi, was arrested on October 14 and remains in prison awaiting trial. Her application for bail has been rejected several times. She was first arrested in April, accused of collaboration with armed groups, “genocide ideology” and “divisionism,” and released on bail with travel restrictions.  The current charges against her, yet to be confirmed by the prosecution, are believed to include forming an armed group and endangering state security. Members of her party have suffered repeated intimidation and threats.

In January, four former senior government and army officials turned outspoken critics – Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, Patrick Karegeya, Gerald Gahima and Théogène Rudasingwa – were tried in absentia by a military court in Kigali and found guilty of endangering state security, destabilizing public order, “divisionism,” defamation, and forming a criminal enterprise. Karegeya and Gahima were each sentenced to 20 years; Nyamwasa and Rudasingwa each to 24 years, with an additional charge of army desertion.

Although the government has publicly accused the four men of forming an armed group and of being behind a spate of grenade attacks in Rwanda in 2010, the trial did not deal with these allegations. It focused instead on public statements and documents published by the defendants in which they criticized the government and Kagame. On June 19, an assassination attempt was made in Johannesburg against Nyamwasa, who lives in exile in South Africa.

Less prominent individuals who are not politicians have also been severely punished for criticizing state policies. For example Abbé Emile Nsengiyumva, a priest in Rwamagana, eastern Rwanda, was arrested following a Christmas sermon in December in which he had opposed certain government policies, including plans to destroy thatched houses (known as nyakatsi) in favor of more durable housing and proposals to introduce family planning restrictions. In January he appeared before a court on accusations of endangering state security; he remains in preventive detention awaiting trial.

[Humana Rights Watch]

February 12, 2011   4 Comments

Rwanda: Amnesty International Calls for Release of Opposition Leader Bernard Ntaganda of PS Imberakuri

The international human rights watchdog has called for the unconditional release of Rwandan opposition leader Bernard Ntaganda jailed on Friday on politically motivated charges.

Bernard Ntaganda, president of the Ideal Social Party (PS-Imberakuri) party, was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment after being found guilty of breaching state security, of “divisionism” for holding public speeches criticizing government policies ahead of last year’s elections, and attempting to plan an “unauthorized” demonstration.

Ntaganda had been arrested at dawn on 24 June 2010 – the first day that presidential candidates could register for the elections – and remanded in pre-trial detention.

Restrictions on freedom of association and expression prevented new opposition parties from contesting the August 2010 presidential elections.

Ntaganda’s prosecution for threatening state security and “divisionism” was based solely on his speeches criticizing government policies.

The prosecution had requested a 10 year jail sentence for these two charges and contended that “painting a negative image of state authority” could cause the population to rebel and create unrest.

“The ruling once again criminalizes peaceful dissent”, said Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director, Erwin van der Borght.

“The growing trend in Rwanda to convict individuals of threatening national security for criticizing government policies is deeply concerning and in violation of Rwanda’s obligations under international human rights law”.

Last week, two Rwandan journalists, Agnes Uwimana and Saidati Mukakibibi, were found guilty of threatening state security for opinion pieces critical of government policies published before last year’s elections.  They were sentenced to 17 and 7 years respectively.

Vague and sweeping laws on “divisionism” and “genocide ideology” were introduced in Rwanda in the decade after the 1994 genocide.

Up to 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the genocide, mostly ethnic Tutsi, but also Hutu who opposed the organized killing.

The laws prohibit hate speech, but are broadly drafted so that they criminalize expression that does not amount to hate speech, including legitimate criticism of the government.

The Rwandan government expressed a commitment in April 2010 to review the “genocide ideology” law, but it is unclear whether the “divisionism” law will also be revised.

Alice Muhirwa, Martin Ntavuka and Sylvain Sibomana of the United Democratic Forces-Inkingi (FDU-Inkingi) were found guilty of conspiring to participate in demonstrations on 24 June 2010 without authorization.  They were fined 100,000 Rwandan francs.

The prosecution had requested a two month jail sentence.

Theobald Mutarambirwa of PS-Imberakuri and Theoneste Sibomana of FDU-Inkingi, also charged with conspiring to participate in demonstrations without authorization, will be tried separately.

The opposition politicians were arrested on 24 June 2010.

Some of the FDU-Inkingi members were arrested near the Ministry of Justice in the capital, Kigali, where they had gathered to request the registration of their party.

Some of the PS-Imberakuri members were arrested outside the US Embassy, where they had gone to enlist help following Ntaganda’s arrest.

Although the opposition members were convicted of conspiracy to participate in demonstrations without authorization, Amnesty International has found no evidence that they either resorted to, or intended to resort to, violence.

The government failed to put forward any legitimate justification for banning the demonstration.

Ntaganda had requested authorization to hold the demonstration.

The prosecution said the authorities had attempted to notify Bernard Ntaganda that the demonstration was banned, the day before it was due to take place.

But the defence said the demonstrators were unaware of the move.

Those arrested were later released on bail, after spending days in police detention and reportedly being subjected to ill-treatment such as being beaten and handcuffed to each other, even when they went to the toilet.

“Instead of jailing individuals for planning a demonstration, the government should have taken steps to allow for peaceful protest before the elections,” said Erwin van der Borght.

Restrictions on freedom of association prevented new opposition parties from contesting the elections, which President Kagame won with 93 per cent of the vote.

PS-Imberakuri had secured registration, but was subsequently infiltrated by dissident members, who decided not to field a candidate.

Ntaganda was called before the Rwandan Senate in late 2009 to respond to “genocide ideology” accusations.  In April 2010, the Senate’s political commission said they felt such accusations were well-founded.

For further information please contact the Amnesty International press office on +44 7778 472 126.

February 12, 2011   1 Comment

Rwanda’s High Court sentences Opposition Leader Bernard Ntaganda of the PS-Imberakuri to four years in prison

Rwanda jails opposition leader, fines 3 others

Kigali – Rwanda’s High Court has sentenced an opposition leader to four years in prison.

Bernard Ntaganda of the PS-Imberakuri was sentenced Friday for endangering national security, attempting to organize unauthorized protests and inciting ethnic divisions.

Three members of another opposition party, FDU-Inkingi, were fined.

Human Rights Watch says the sentences are a blow to freedom of expression and democracy, and that Ntaganda has criticized the government but not called for violence.

The sentences come a week after two female journalists were jailed for publicly criticizing the government in an article.

Rwanda’s National Public Prosecuting Authority issued a statement welcoming Friday’s sentences.

[AP]

February 12, 2011   1 Comment

PRI claims that Tutsis are the targets of the sterilization plan of men in Rwanda

In an article published by Population Research International and titled “Rwandan Genocide Redux?, Steven W. Mosher rightly condemns the plan devised by General Kagame’s regime to sterilize nearly 1 million men in Rwanda. He writes: “We ask the Rwandan government to end this campaign before it gets underway in earnest. The consequences of sterilizing half of all men of reproductive age will have a serious negative impact on the Rwandan family and economy, and cause additional human suffering among an already-traumatized population.”

But surprisingly, Steven W. Mosher reveals that this condemnation is a move to defend the minority Tutsis. He writes:
It may also reignite the Rwandan genocide, as the majority Hutus target the minority Tutsis for sterilization. We at PRI have documented many cases where U.S.-funded population control campaigns have been directed by an ethnic, racial, or religious majority at a despised minority.

The PRI is right to speak out against this sterilization plan of men in Rwanda. However, I have no doubt that Steven Mosher gets it wrong when he claims that the majority Hutus target the minority Tutsis for sterilization.

Yes, this is a dangerous plan and can amount to a genocidal plan. But the author is mistaken in thinking that it is aimed at reducing the number of the Tutsi minority.
In fact, this plan is devised by the minority Tutsi led by the RPF-Kagame regime and all who know the Rwandan politics fear that its intended outcome is to reduce the number of Hutus to the levels where there will no longer be a Hutu majority.
The plan might be a continuation of the genocide of Hutus by the RPF-Kagame regime as partially documented in the recent UN mapping reports.

It appears thus that the main argument of PRI opposing that genocidal plan was to defend the rights of minorities. The question now is: Now that it is clear that the plan is devised by the minoriy targeting the majority, will PRI be equally outspoken and continue to oppose it by all means?

February 12, 2011   2 Comments

Rwanda: Population Research Institute Pledges to Oppose US-backed Kagame’s Plan to Sterilize nearly 1 million Men

By Colin Mason

Rwanda to Sterilize 700,000 Men, PRI Pledges to “Work Tirelessly” Against It

Steven W. Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute (PRI), expressed outrage today at a clear instance of U.S. tax dollars being used to aid a coercive campaign to sterilize 700,000 Rwandan men in 3 years. The program is being carried out under the active influence of at least two USAID-funded special interest groups: Intrahealth and Family Health International. Mosher vowed that PRI would “do everything in its power” to expose and halt the use of U.S. taxpayer funds on this campaign against the Rwandan people.

According to the BBC and Rwandan news outlets, the Rwandan government is introducing this campaign on the heels of a large-scale effort to circumcise men (a procedure which allegedly “protects against” HIV/AIDS infection). However, as the New Times reports, the real reason circumcision was included was simply because “it allows us get to the men’s reproductive system and in the process we advise them on condom use and vasectomy.”

Not only this, but back in 2008, health officials informed the BBC that these “circumcision campaigns” would be practiced first on “the new born and young men in universities, the army and police.” This is because, while many Rwandans balk at the idea of being sterilized, “correspondents say many in the armed forces will regard it as an order” even though it will be “nominally voluntary.”

“This amounts to coercion,” says Steven Mosher. “First of all, saying that circumcision ‘protects against AIDS’ is an abuse of semantics, as circumcision doesn’t provide a barrier against anything. Secondly, if it will be regarded as an order, it doesn’t matter if it actually is one or not. The men will be circumcised/sterilized because they feel that they must, or risk punitive measures.”

These programs are not being rolled out by the Rwandan government alone, but represent a concerted push by the U.S. government and international health groups. Intrahealth, for one, proudly advertises that it is conducting surveys of men who have received vasectomies already, and will use “lessons learned to inform recommendations regarding the scale-up of vasectomy services in other districts as requested by the Maternal and Child Health Task Force of the Ministry of Health.”

(http://www.intrahealth.org/page/assessment-of-vasectomy-client-satisfact…)

Family Health International, for its part, is “supporting the Rwandan MOH to increase access to quality vasectomy services in Rwanda by training physicians across the country …”

(http://www.fhi.org/en/Research/Projects/Progress/Countries/Rwanda.htm).

“The Rwandan government claims that it wants men to ‘go willingly’ for sterilization,” says Steven Mosher. “But they also have a hard quota — 700,000 — which they are looking to fill. In our experience on this issue, every single time a sterilization campaign has a hard target and a timetable attached to it, it inevitably involves coercion and abusive expansion, just as night follows day.”

“Not only that,” Mosher continues, “but these groups are funded by USAID, which receives tax dollars from the United States. Our own laws make it illegal for our tax monies to fund forced abortion or sterilization, and campaigns that involve quotas have always been considered coercive.”

“We at PRI urge the Rwandan government to end their involvement with such unethical groups and end this campaign before it begins. The unforseen consequences on the Rwandan family and economy will be far-reaching, and the suffering is too much to ask of an already-traumatized population who deserve every chance to heal,” Mosher concludes. “We will work to expose the coercion and corruption inherent in the U.S. Partner organizations of this campaign, and then we will bring the evidence before officials in Washington DC. We’ve found that the best way to end campaigns like this is to hit them at the source — by cutting off their funding.”

[
Population Research Institute
]

February 12, 2011   2 Comments

Rare mountain gorilla twins born in Rwanda

Rare mountain gorilla twins have been born in Rwanda, conservationists said.

The occurrence of twins in the population of mountain gorillas is extremely unusual and the new arrivals in the Volcanoes National Park are only the fifth set of twins recorded for Rwanda’s gorillas.

There are fewer than 800 mountain gorillas living in the wild, according to UK-based charity the Gorilla Organisation.

The organisation said the pair were born on February 3 to Kabatwa, a member of the Hirwa group of gorillas, who was reportedly proving to be an excellent mother.

Emmanuel Bugingo, the Gorilla Organisation’s programme manager in Rwanda, said: “It is very rare to hear of mountain gorilla twins, so we were all excited to hear the news from rangers.

“The twins are both boys and we feel very positive about their future.”

Ian Redmond, chairman of the Ape Alliance coalition, and a father of twin boys, said: “Gorilla mothers usually have only one baby every four years or so – which is one reason why they are so vulnerable – so twins give a rare double gain in one birth.

“But coping with two infants is a challenge for any parent – as my wife and I know from experience – so I wish Kabatwa, and the boys, the best of luck in the coming weeks and months.”

[UKPA]

February 12, 2011   1 Comment

Rwanda’s Reproductive Bill to Sterilize Disabled People

Many Rwandans and Observers express their worries about the current policy of RPF-Kagame regime to sterilize nearly one millions poor Rwandans. But sadly, people have almost forgotten that, two years ago, Rwandan Parliament has drafted a law requiring compulsory HIV testing and requiring the sterilization of mentally disabled people.
At that time, Human Rights Watch had condemned the move in these terms (July1,2009):

(New York) – The Rwandan Parliament should remove provisions in a draft law that would mandate compulsory HIV testing and require the sterilization of all individuals with intellectual disabilities, Human Rights Watch said today. The organization said that the provisions, in a reproductive health bill, are deeply flawed and violate the government’s obligations to uphold and protect human rights.

Compulsory HIV testing and forced sterilization are counterproductive to the Rwandan government’s goal of improved reproductive health,” said Joe Amon, health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Provisions in the current bill that increase stigma, rely on coercion, and deny individuals their reproductive rights should be removed.

Human Rights Watch said that the reproductive health bill, drafted by the parliamentary committee whose duties include promoting social welfare, contains three particularly troublesome provisions related to HIV/AIDS testing. First it provides that all individuals who plan to marry must undergo HIV testing and provide a certificate beforehand. Second, married individuals are required to be tested for HIV/AIDS upon the request of their spouses. Third, if a physician finds it “necessary” for a child or an incapacitated person to be tested for HIV/AIDS, he or she may conduct the test without seeking consent and may show the result to the parent, guardian, or care provider.

Ensuring that all HIV testing is confidential, conducted with informed consent, and accompanied by counseling is widely recognized as integral to effective HIV prevention and treatment strategies. Mandatory HIV testing and disclosure have been condemned by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the World Health Organization, and the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights as violations of the right to privacy and counterproductive to effective HIV/AIDS control.

These organizations have also stated that mandatory testing and compulsory disclosure can put women at increased risk of abuse and undermine public trust in the health care system. Research by Human Rights Watch on HIV testing has documented significant abuses associated with coercive testing programs.

The proposed bill also obligates the Rwandan Government “to suspend fertility for mentally handicapped people.” Systematic, forced sterilization has been recognized as a crime against humanity by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

In May 2008, Rwanda ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The convention upholds the rights of persons with disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, to equal rights. Human Rights Watch said that laws on sterilization, including for persons with disabilities, must respect both a person’s right to bodily integrity and informed consent to medical procedures. Decision-making about sterilization must take into account each individual’s capacity to give informed consent, and where such capacity is lacking an individualized consideration must be made of the best interests of the person concerned.

“While Rwanda has made notable progress in fighting stigma and responding to the AIDS epidemic, and has pledged to advance the rights of persons with disability, forced sterilization and mandatory HIV testing do not contribute to those goals,” Amon said. “These elements of the bill undermine reproductive health goals and undo decades of work to ensure respect for reproductive rights.”

One extra worry for all of us is that the architects of these eugenic sterilization laws in Rwanda may have been inspired by the Nazis. Does General Kagame’s regime which, according to experts, has already claimed the death of more than six millions in Rwanda and RDC, want at all costs to beat the world record of cruelty?

February 12, 2011   1 Comment