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Rwanda's Kagame tries to link bombs to critical press

APJournalists in Kigali are on tenterhooks after President Paul Kagame, left, made new accusations of their supposed involvement in a bomb attack in Rwanda. Just months before Rwanda’s presidential elections, Kigali was recently hit by two grenade attacks that killed two people and injured 30 others, according to news reports.

In a press conference last week, Kagame accused Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former ambassador to India and chief of staff, and another senior ex-military officer, Patrick Karegyeya, of polotting the first grenade attack. The president went on to say that journalists had met with Karegyeya in South Africa prior to the attacks, leaving a not-so-subtle implication of impropriety. “There are those [journalists] who found Karegeya in South Africa and spoke to him. There are even those who went there, but have not returned,” he said.

No journalists were named, but Charles Kabonero and Jean Bosco Gasasira, founders of two private vernacular weeklies, knew that the president’s message was aimed at them. Both papers had conducted interviews with Karegyeya. For his part, Kabonero makes no apologies. "I believe that Kagame is educated enough to know that, as a journalist, if I had a chance to meet [Osama] bin Laden I would not hesitate to do it [in order to] to get news. It’s the job. So, yes, I met Karegyeya for journalism-related purposes,” he told CPJ.

Nyamwasa and Karegyeya have left Rwanda, but Nyamwasa has denied the president’s allegations in interviews with international news outlets. Over the weekend, the former president of the Rwanda Journalist Association, Deo Mushayidi, was arrested in connection with the recent grenade attacks. Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga announced at a press conference that Mushayidi was part of a network of people threatening Rwanda’s security.

This is not the first time the Rwandan government has accused independent journalists of involvement in a bomb attack. The pro-government bimonthly magazine, The Rwanda Focus, claimed in April 2006 that Kabonero conspired with a military officer to launch a wave of bombings in Kigali. Reporters Without Borders investigated the allegations and claimed the allegations were baseless.

Further, Rwanda is not the only African country that accuses journalists of conducting terrorist activities. In December 2008, freelance award-winning journalist Andrison Manyere was seized and imprisoned for nearly four months in Zimbabwe on false bombing charges. Another Zimbabwean freelancer, Frank Chikowore, was arrested on false charges in April 2009 for allegedly setting a bus on fire. Both arrests and accusations occurred around tense election periods.

Godwin Agaba, a Rwandan correspondent for the Ugandan online publication 256 News, went into hiding after he heard Kagame’s televised remarks. The reporter, who has written about Nyamwasa, was warned to stop writing about the general, a vocal critic to the president, according to CPJ sources.

In fact, any interviews with critics of the current regime seem to raise eyebrows with the president. During the same press conference last week, Kagame singled out the Nairobi-based regional weekly, The East African, which he described as “insulting” and “offensive,” for interviewing opposition candidate Victoire Ingabire, according to the Kenya-based Media Institute.

One thing is clear: Kagame’s televised warnings will help silence critics prior to the August presidential election. With pro-government media outlets outweighing the country’s beleaguered private press, the chances of balanced election coverage are now slimmer than ever. 

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Comments

This comment is a typical CPJ observation. It is taking bits and pieces of the whole text, amplifying them and hammering on the part that looks suspicious and taking it out of context. I explain:
First of all it would be better to consider the transcript of the whole press conference.
Kabonero isn’t present in Rwanda but Gasasira is still publishing from Rwanda. Why Kabonero isn’t present has more to do with his extra journalistic business and Umuseso is to date still coming out every week. If Agaba decided to duck that is his personal choice. As a reminder: Agaba used to work for the New Times and was found guilty of corruption and extortion during that time. He only joined Gasasira’s paper after being fired by the New Times. Reporting about Nyamwasa and Karegeya isn’t enough to be in “danger” of repercussion from the “strong man”.
Nyamwasa denied the allegations … fair enough. That leaves us with two opinions. It doesn’t make the one or the other better.
Talking about Mushayidi … CPJ forgets to mention that when he was the president of the Rwandan Journalists Association he fled the country with the whole budget that had been provided by UNESCO for the rebuilding of press institutions after the Genocide. And by the way Mushayidi left behind his wife and child. Meanwhile she rebuilt her own life without him, and she was never stopped to follow him. Mushayidi has since been very vocal on the side of the “opposition” and even claimed he had started an “armed’ insurgence. He also declared that he was present on Rwandan soil in Kinihira. Being a “former’ doesn’t make him immune from being linked to the grenade attacks, does it?
Why is the Focus of Rwanda labeled pro-government by CPJ? The editor is a former colleague of Kabonero and delivers critics on some member of the establishment, government inclusive. Or has CPJ “impeccable” sources to state this.
Reporters Without Borders is cited to have investigated the allegations linking Kabonero to terror threats and decided that they were baseless. So what? Does is it mean the information is correct? Are they Scotland Yard, the Mossad, the CIA or another prosecutor? Fair enough, to date nobody has proved Kabonero was linked to the threats.
Why referring to the “Kenyan Media Institute” to comment and criticize the President’s viewpoint on the interview of the East African with Victoire Ingabire. Why not citing his critic lengthily through his own words and expression? After all it was part of the press conference.
What an offense for national press to hear that according to CPJ there are only three media capable to deliver an objective coverage of future elections. Objective means in this case critical on Kagame.
Well the question remains: how objective is CPJ, how serious is the desk in charge of Rwanda at CPJ?
While everybody should be considered as innocent before being proved guilty, all of the actors mentioned above fall in this category … but what about CPJ?

what was saying by our president is true, b'cause has network gives him tangible informations. Those security organs are eligible and credible as well. President cant be misinformed

niyonteze emmanuel March 11, 2010 4:34:36 AM ET

Politics are the only playing field where when the rules are not fair, and everybody is convinced and confirmed in that fact, the match is played anyway.

Why on earth people having elections when the players don't agree on the rules? Of course there are opportunists who are not inetersted in the rules of the game but only the personal gains they will get by participating.

Is it possible to call off the Rwandan presidential elections until the rules become fairer for every interested party? Rwandan partners have a big role to play in putting pressure on Kagame to change his current position.

Ambrose Nzeyimana March 11, 2010 5:07:25 AM ET

Kagame Government is a terrorist as well. (Read their past and their present, there are only crimes). They are not the best to know who is good and who is bad! Therefore, there is a need to understand that most of Rwandans believe that this terrorist government is planning bombs attacks to kill and put in jail those who are obstacle. There are a lot of rumors that those bomb attacks are done by Security Services. This will help the government to mislead the population about the coming election results.

i believe president Paul kagame is very right,he is a president we all Rwandese Loves for his work,so security is very important for us,kagame has all rights to make sure we Rwandese are very safe since came to Power,we Rwandese believes in his commitment and vision because poverty is very covered by his dedicated Government,bravo President great work,Rwandese have to enjoy security to avoid those terrorists agents!

Jane; I am sorry!!! me I don't love kagame hi is a terrorist a crimer ;he has killed my parents ;so don't say any thing good about kagame , I blieve that his time is caming ; after we can return to our cuntry

Those self-styled journalism "watchdogs" have no credibility at all! How in the world could we evaluate their moral standards? Do u mean CPJ Rwanda desk is immune from complacency or corruption? No way.

It's getting hard for me to believe in Kagame's PR genius, given his worse than flimsy excuses for denying the poitical rights of the opposition, his allegations that journalists were responsible for the bombings, and, now, his goverment's charge that Paul Rusesabagina is a "revisionist" and "Double Genocide Theorist," http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/289105

Ann Garrison, of course Rusesabagina is a revisionist and double Genocide theorist. And everybody knows that he was only propelled into the limelights because of another Hollywood tale. The character depicted in Hotel Rwanda never existed. Any doubts about that? Ask the people who were at 1000 Collines and are still alive. Rusesabagina started to identify himself with that Hollywood character. Only people like you might think it's true and that this hotel staff and taxi driver has any authority and social experience to give any advise on how the Rwandan society should evolve after 94 Genocide. The guy who stopped the Genocide has definitely more to say.

"The guy who stopped the Genocide has definitely more to say" says Ali.
Do you mean the guy who sparked the genocide? Do you mean the guy who has been indicted by anti-terrorist juges for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes?
Yes, he has to say, and we would like him to be ready to face justice, or the still-to-be-set-up Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Perhaps should you read again the article Paul Kagame didn't end the genocide!

OK, Rwandinfo. At least we know at what side you stand of revisionism. A genocide is never sparked. It is planned, organized and rolled out. Somebody stopped it and that is Paul Kagame, no doubt. Anti-terrorist judges bla bla for African doesn't really stand the test of time and Sarkozy is back at square one. Be sure that if there was anything serious on PK, they would have unleashed the Dragon like they do for the "terrorists'. Or you're also in the "conspiracy theory" of PK being remote controlled by Uncle Sam? Anyway the guys is there and there is recognition for his achievements together with People of Rwanda.

I believe Kagame is a good President. I believe he is chosen by God to rescue Rwanda from the very clutches of the devil. His leadership from the start has been based on forgiveness, mercy and peace for the country. For years Rwanda has been the example of a peaceful country for all of Africa. It is exciting to witness how he has ruled the country with vision. Who else could have done the same after the horrors of 1994? He is an example for all of us. Please stop complaining, just pray for your country to keep moving forward with unity from all people because we are all from the same father, God Almighty.