by Ann Garrison
Supporters of Victoire Ingabire and all Rwandan political prisoners demonstrate outside the Dutch Parliament in The Hague, wearing the pink color of Rwandan prison garb. Journalists have been sentenced to prison for speech crimes like those that Ingabire is accused of. Others have fled or been assassinated.
The trial of Rwandan political prisoner Victoire Ingabire resumed for one day in Rwanda’s capitol on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, then adjourned
for another month to give Ingabire and her lawyers time to study the documents that Dutch authorities helped the prosecution seize from her home in the Netherlands.
Rwandan journalist Jean Bosco Gasasira was granted refugee status in Sweden in 2010, where he continued to publish an online version of his banned Rwandan newspaper Umuvugizi until his apprarent disappearance there last month. Swedish authorities confirmed on Feb. 13, 2012, that he is safe in an undisclosed location.
Four days earlier, Ingabire’s husband, Lyn Muyizere, stood in the snow outside Dutch Parliament in The Hague with more of her supporters. All wore pink, the color of Rwandan prison garb, over winter sweaters and overcoats, in one of their weekly protests
for Ingabire and all Rwandan political prisoners, including journalists.
Jean Bosco Gasasira was in intensive care after three men attacked him with iron bars in Rwanda in 2007, shouting that they’d make sure he never wrote again.
Many journalists have been convicted of the same speech crimes that she is accused of: discussing ethnicity or disagreeing with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his regime, also known as “divisionism,” and disagreeing with the constitutionally codified history of the Rwanda Genocide, also known as “genocide ideology.” Others have been convicted of defaming President Kagame or other officials or inciting civil disobedience.
On Friday, four members of Rwandan Journalists in Exile, a group of journalists with political refugee status in Europe and North America, sent a letter to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Borders and Swedish authorities expressing concern for their colleague, Jean Bosco Gasasira, whom they say has been missing for a month in Sweden. Gasasira has not published anything since Jan. 11. None of his colleagues have seen or heard from him since Jan. 13, and one colleague reports that his cell phone seems to have been disconnected. There were two posts to Gasasira’s Twitter account on Jan. 21.
Funeral for Jean Leonard Rugambage, acting editor of Jean Bosco Gasasira’s publication Umuvugizi, who was gunned down in front of his home in Kigali, Rwanda, just before publishing his investigation concluding that Rwandan President Paul Kagame had ordered the assassination attempt on exiled Rwandan Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa in Johannesburg, South Africa, in June 2010 – Photo courtesy of Jean Bosco Gasasira
On Feb. 13, a credible source who nevertheless preferred not to speak on the record said that Swedish authorities had informed him that Gasasira is safe in Sweden but that they cannot yet disclose his location or allow him to communicate with anyone directly.
Until his seeming disappearance, Gasasira had continued to publish his criticism of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime from exile in Sweden on his website Umuvugizi, despite being sentenced, in absentia, to 30 months in prison in Rwanda, in June 2011, for allegedly calling for civil disobedience and insulting President Paul Kagame.
Rwandan refugee journalist McDowell Kalisa reported colleague Jean Bosco Gasasira missing in Sweden a month ago. He told KPFA Radio and the SF Bay View that if any harm were done to Gasasira, the Rwandan government would be the no. 1 suspect and that he and his fellow Rwandan journalists in exile do not feel safe.
His newspaper, also named Umuvugizi, was banned in Rwanda in 2010, shortly after its acting editor, Jean Leonard Rugambage, was gunned down in front of his home in Rwanda’s capital
, Kigali. Rugambage had just published an investigation alleging that President Kagame ordered the June 2010 assassination attempt on his former general, Kayumba Nyamwasa, who was then living in exile in South Africa.
Jean Bosco Gasasira’s newspaper, Umuvugizi, was banned in Rwanda in 2010, shortly after its acting editor, Jean Leonard Rugambage, was gunned down in Kigali. Rugambage had just published an investigation alleging that President Kagame ordered the June 2010 assassination attempt on his former general, Kayumba Nyamwasa, in South Africa.
In February 2007 in Rwanda, three men armed with iron bars beat Gasasira, broke his left hand and beat his head, arms and legs while shouting that they planned to ensure that he could never write again. But he hasn’t stopped for much more than the past month, despite consequent physical problems.
Rwandan journalists Agnes Uwimana Nkusi, left, and Saidati Mukakibibi, center, arrived on Jan. 30, 2012, at Rwanda’s Supreme Court for the first day of their appeal in Kigali. In February 2011, Nkusi and Mukakibibi were both given prison sentences of 17 and seven years respectively following convictions on charges of genocide denial, inciting civil disobedience and defamation of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The court will announce its decision on Friday, Feb. 17.
On Feb. 11, McDowell Kalisa, a Rwandan journalist also in exile in Sweden, said that the journalists who signed the statement agreed that Swedish authorities seem to be dodging their inquiries, telling them only that they didn’t know where Gasasira was and couldn’t discuss the police investigation. However, Kalisa said that if a crime has been committed against Gasasira, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his government will be suspect no. 1 and that Rwandan journalists in exile do not feel safe.
He and others also reported that the second most senior official at the Rwandan Embassy in Stockholm had been given 48 hours to leave Sweden, in what they imagined might be a related development. In May 2011, Scotland Yard accused Kagame of sending assassins to kill Rwandan citizens in London, and the BBC reported that a Rwandan suspected of being part of the plot was prevented from entering Britain.
Most mourners at the requiem of Rwandan journalist Charles Ingabire, who was shot dead in a Kampala, Uganda, pub in December 2011 spent the brief, 20 minute funeral hiding their faces, after one of the pastors warned them that there were spies among them “intending to take information to their masters.” The headline in Uganda’s Daily Monitor read "Dread, whispers shroud Rwandan scribe’s funeral.”
On Feb. 13, the Associated Press
reported that several unnamed sources close to the Swedish government confirmed that Evode Mudaheranwa, the Rwandan embassy’s second highest ranking official, had been expelled from the country for “refugee espionage.”
Reporters without Borders ranks Rwanda, a longstanding ally and military partner of the U.S., 156th – 21 countries away from the worst of 179 countries – in their 2011-2012 Press Freedom Index.
In February 2010, Umurabyo reporter Saidati Mukakibibi was sentenced to seven years in prison for inciting civil disobedience. Editor Agnes Uwimana was at the same time sentenced to 17 years for encouraging disagreement with the government, defaming Rwandan President Paul Kagame and publishing a different account of the Rwandan Genocide than that codified as “Genocide Against the Tutsis” in the Rwandan Constitution.
Thirty-one-year-old Rwandan journalist Charles Ingabire, editor of the online publication Inyenyeri, fled Rwanda to Uganda, where he was shot dead in a Kampala pub in December 2011. Ingabire left a wife and 6-month-old child behind. A legal adviser at Uganda’s Refugee Law Project said that the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had rejected him and his family as candidates for resettlement despite abundant evidence that he was “very, very insecure.” Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni recently reaffirmed his longstanding alliance with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Uwimana, like imprisoned opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, has said that not only Tutsis, but also Hutus were targeted in the ethnic massacres. The Rwandan Supreme Court is expected to rule on their appeal on Friday, Feb. 17. Both have spent the past year in prison, and Agnes Uwimana is reported to be ill.
In December 2011, 31-year-old Rwandan journalist and political refugee Charles Ingabire, of no known relation to Victoire Ingabire, was shot dead in a pub in Kampala, Uganda. Ingabire had been asking the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to grant refugee status to him and his young family without success.
Didas Gasana, left, and Charles Kabonero, are the editors of Umuseso, another newspaper banned in Rwanda at the same time as Gasasira’s Umuvugizi, in 2010. Didas and Charles both took refuge in Uganda that year. But after fellow journalist and refugee Charles Ingabire was shot dead in Kampala, Uganda, they applied for political refugee status, which was granted. Today the Bay View learned that both have arrived safely, along with Charles’ wife Yvette, in an as yet unnamed country. This photo was taken at Charles’ 2011 wedding to Yvette, in Uganda.
Didas Gasana and Charles Kabonero, editors of the banned Rwandan newspaper Umuseso and contributors to the SF Bay View, have since been granted refugee status and left Uganda.
I myself have been denounced in The New Times, Rwanda’s state supporting daily newspaper, five times for producing reports like this one.
I myself have been denounced in The New Times, Rwanda’s state supporting daily newspaper, five times for producing reports like this one for the San Francisco Bay View, Toronto-based Global Research, the Project Censored Yearbook, “Censored 2012,” and Pacifica radio stations KPFA Berkeley and KPFA sister station WBAI’s AfrobeatRadio hour.
Contrary to what “The Exposer” says in this cartoon accompanying their special report, “Ann Garrison, self-appointed spokeswoman of evil,” I do not slobber on the microphone at KPFA, WBAI or any other outlets. And I have never denied the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. I have spoken to scholars, journalists and opposition leaders who disagree with Rwanda’s constitutionally codified history and who, like U.N. Resolution 955, refer to “genocide against the Rwanda people,” not solely genocide against the Tutsi. I have recorded or quoted their voices for KPFA, WBAI, SF Bay View, AfrobeatRadio.net and other audiences. I myself concluded that evidence supports the claim that both Hutus and Tutsis were victims of genocidal massacres in 1994. And, whatever the true history, I do not believe it can be legally enforced by statutes or constitutional amendments creating speech crimes or by intimidating, imprisoning or even assassinating journalists, political opponents or anyone else. – Ann Garrison
In November I submitted an assault complaint to the Sacramento State University campus police against members of the Rwandan contingent at the university’s Third International Genocide Conference
. I wasn’t hurt but two of them did lay hands on me before someone from the university said, “Hey, hey, hey, you can’t do that here.”
In Rwanda, I can only imagine.
San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Global Research, Colored Opinions, Black Star News, the Newsline EA (East Africa) and her own website, Ann Garrison, and produces for AfrobeatRadio on WBAI-NYC, Weekend News on KPFA and her own YouTube Channel, AnnieGetYourGang. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.