A Rwandan journalist Godwin Agaba is being reported missing after President Kagame today demanded that all top investigative journalists be arrested and questioned over links with fugitive army officers.
Mr. Agaba, a career writer and leading investigative journalist in the country was until his disappearance today a reporter with the Uganda based online newspaper 256news.com.
Reports from his bosses (256news.com) claim he was last heard from in the morning of today when he filed his last story. Agaba was meant to be attending President Kagame’s press conference over the fleeing of Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Rwandan Army Chief who has since fled to South Africa.
According to 256news, Agaba has not been available on all his known contacts since he made a call to his bosses in Kampala over his last story, today morning.
The arrest of this investigative journalist who was the first to break the news that the fugitive General was in South Africa will shock few. Rwanda under Kagame continues to oppress and operate a very tight and strongly censored press. Independent minded journalists have either been booted out of the country, murdered or made to disappear as Kagame and his henchmen try to hang on to power.
Dissent in Rwanda is regarded a cardinal sin and newspapers are strictly guarded to monitor what is fed to the outside world as well as the Rwandan public. From the onset, 256news and Agaba were seen as being out of control and as one senior government official put it to me today, “something was going to happen soon or later”.
A darling of the West, dictatorial Kagame continues to sternly gag media so much like he does the opposition. Lt. Gen Nyamwasa today said in an interview aired on Voice of America that his problem was standing up against the oppression orchestrated by Kagame and calling for reform. Asked why he chose to flee instead of fighting his case out in Kigali, he said he trusted not Rwandan institutions and was very much sure justice was likely to be denied to him.
Ignatius Kabagambe, the Director General at Rwanda’s ministry of Information would neither say a word when contacted. A member of the High Council of the Press in Rwanda, a body that oversees journalist’s work, Kabagambe, while working as Managing Editor of the pro-government daily, The New Times, was the first to employ Agaba. He snatched him from the weekly independent newspaper Umuseso in an elaborate move to weaken it. He however fell out with Agaba after failing to convince him to drop stinging stories that he saw as being anti-government. Agaba was subsquently lured in a corruption trap and sent to Kigali Central Prison where he spent four months.
He was later released by the courts when the government failed to pin him on any serious crime and recruited by 256news.com for whom he has vigorously worked until his suspected arrest or death today. Agaba’s unique style of reporting got him a string of sources around Kigali who trusted in everything he wrote. They so often contacted him for stories big enough to be even broken by the leading dailies and 256news had recently resurrected his reporting career.
In the knowledge that Agaba might be killed or charged with treason, we call upon the Kigali government to stop the harassment of journalists and provide security to its people. Journalist by the nature of their job are bound to be in contact with anyone, that does not mean they are collaborators. Linking everyone who has been brave enough to report the events in Rwanda as they ought to be is not right and should be avoided. President Kagame should stop misusing his powers as head of state and instead address the very issues that his government seems to have created and which in turn are leading to all the differences.