Umuseso newspaper editor Didas Gasana grilled by Rwandan police

by Ann Garrison

On Monday, April 26, police detectives in Kigali, Rwanda, interrogated Didas Gasana, editor of the weekly African language newspaper Umuseso for eight hours. Gasana now fears extrajudicial abduction or a prison sentence of up to 25 years.

“Things are gettting tougher here,” Gasana said after his ordeal. “My heart quakes, but no one sees, and we can’t sacrifice the values of liberty and free speech at the altar of state intimidation.”

Thirteen days earlier, Rwandan authorities shut down both Umuseso and Umuvugizi, Rwanda’s two independent African language newspapers for the next six months. Since 70 percent of Rwandans speak only Kinyarwanda, the African language shared by all Rwandans, and, since only 3 percent have internet access, this means that most Rwandans will not have access to anything but state run media until after the presidential election scheduled for Aug. 9.

Rwanda’s “High Media Council” accuses Gasana of constantly insulting Rwandan President Paul Kagame and thus provoking possible insubordination within the army and panic among the population. They also charged that his publication is frightening potential investors that Rwanda is not secure, though many Rwandans have reported increasing tension and instability throughout the past year and the BBC, Reuters, Agence France Press, Global Research, Digital Journal, the Black Star News, the San Francisco Bay View and many other publications have reported the recent string of grenade attacks in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.

Police say they are only investigating Gasana and that they will hand their final dossier over to the prosecutions department, which will decide whether or not to indict him.

Jean Bosco Gasasira, the editor of Umuvugizi, the other suspended newspaper, is also wanted by Rwandan police, but he has gone into hiding. In 2007, Gasasira was treated in intensive care after being attacked and beaten with iron bars.

Gasana was preparing a lawsuit challenging the suspension of Umuseso when brought in for state interrogation, following months of state interrogation of opposition party leaders and presidential candidates in the run-up to Rwanda’s presidential election.

On April 21, Rwanda arrested Victoire Ingabiré Umuhoza and charged her with associating with terrorists and violating “genocide ideology” statutes, which define a speech crime unique to Rwanda. Law Professor Peter Erlinder, lead defense counsel for the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, has since joined Ingabiré’s legal defense team.

Ingabiré’s arrest generated a flurry of press and human rights protest from Africa to Europe, the Americas and Australia, and she and her FDU-Inkingi Party thanked the international community when she was released on bail last Friday.

Democratic Green Party of Rwanda leader Frank Habineza feared arrest upon his return to Kigali, also on Monday, April 26, after giving a speech on Afrikaday in Holland, but he returned to his family without intervention and, like Ingabiré, thanked the international community’s attention for their vigilant readiness to protest his arrest.

Bernard Ntaganda, the presidential candidate of the Parti Social-Imberakuri, the only party legally registered to field a candidate, also expects to be arrested and has asked for the same attention from the international community.

If either editor or another of the candidates is arrested, supporters of peace and social justice in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region of Africa should be ready to post the news and call for his release on social media like Facebook and Twitter and to contact press, Amnesty International, at http://www.amnesty.org/en/contact, and Human Rights Watch, at http://www.hrw.org/en/contact-us.

On Friday, April 23, Rwanda expelled Human Rights Watch researcher Carina Tertsakian, frightening many Rwandans about what might be next.

Speaking to KMEC Radio-Mendocino on April 19, Gasana said, “I would like the Americans to know that the taxes they are paying are used to sustain one of the most brutal dictatorships in Africa. I want them to ask President Obama and the Congress why their taxes are sustaining the Rwandan dictatorship in the form of aid. What they are doing is a betrayal of the Rwandese.”

You can listen to the KMEC Radio report here:

San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Digital Journal, Examiner.com, OpEdNews, Global Research, Colored Opinions and her blog, San Francisco writer Ann Garrison writes for the San Francisco Bay View, Digital Journal, Examiner.com, OpEdNews, Global Research and Colored Opinions. She can be reached at anniegarrison@gmail.com. This story originally appeared in Digital Journal.