Rwandan president calls for arrest of top journalists

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.

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Author: ellyakanga

I am Eleneus Akanga. Welcome to my blog about my experience as a Rwandan journalist and all that comes with the trade in East Africa. It's been a great journey so far but very challenging at times. Join me, let's get cracking! ellyakanga@usa.com

6 thoughts on “Rwandan president calls for arrest of top journalists”

  1. Gigi, i did not know thieves can have sources. Thanks for sharing. One question though, if someone is a known serial thief, what has he been doing on the streets? Even thieves deserve a place in society for they are part of it. May be you could explain why he is off the radar now under mysterious circumstances. Could this be because those he stole from have finally taken him out – in which case the government MUST show us they are doing something about hitmen or agree that they have failed in their duty to protect citizens.

    I stand corrected Mr Gigi (or Ignatius as you are known to many) but was it not a car that knocked Agaba as he walked on a pedestrian pavement in Giporoso causing the wound on his leg? If indeed it were the company he stole from as you claim, then dont you think you become a principle witness in a case that should now be brought before courts?

    Thanks for sharing Gigi. You definitely know pretty to much for a student in Malaysia, Mr Informed!

  2. Unless Gigi is more than 60yrs old, then i would be amazed to hear such coments from you. Rwandans are tired of all these ideolgies of killed, arrested, fled the country, reported missing, etc. We need developmental issues and constructive ideas from all the Rwandan children. If you think you are spared then ask Br Nyamwansa, he was a very close member of the Gvt. He is now on the run. Next might be you. It does not matter even if you were a doughter to the president or an important member in the RPF. Tell me if you know where former president of RPF Mr Kanyarengwe or former acting Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu may be! No one is immuned my friend.

  3. Rwanda is serious trouble. If really Kagame is as bad as Rwandan refugees say, there is a big problem. But yet, a mass of cowards deserves to be treated like that. This is one side. The second part of me says ‘no, Kagame is not that bad’. A man who stopped genocide, cannot be bad at all unless that concept of genocide was an invention used to promote his propagandist ideas which ended with giving him power. But, personnally, I need more information about this problem of Rwanda.
    Thanks.

  4. Thanks Keith. I have been reading through this and all i can say is if only we had committed and thoughtful investigative journalists like you. It is a shame what the Hutus are going through under the guise of genocide. True impunity should not be promoted but surely anyone who has been to Rwanda knows how innocent people have ended up in prison because of the way Gacaca justice is handled.

    As for the list and what needs to be done to critics, that can only scare the imbeciles for as the African saying goes, a visible stone can never spoil the farmer’s hoe. Good you laid bear all this stuff.

    I will keep reading you and many more will, i know. Well done for sharing. Aluta Continua. At the end of the chess game, the pawn goes back to the same bag as the King and Queen.

  5. Akanga, I am sure you very well know Agaba. You know his long history of writing inacurate and blackmaling stories – at least when he, yourself and I, were still at The New Times. I dont remember whether u were still at TNT but maybe you heard about the story involving PL party wrangles when he wrote a misleading story and reported the reverse of of a court’s ruling.

    At that time I was his editor and I’ll never forget that infamous headline in which we declared the losing faction as the winners. What an embarrasment that was! To myself, the entire editorial team and the publication. And although we’re all taken aback by that level of unprofessionalism, Agaba was never sacked at that time. The paper ran an apology for misleading the public, and gave this man another chance.

    But his character was never to allow him long stay at TNT. One day, a motorbike dropped him to the office and, instead of paying the man, he vanished into the newsroom and the motorobike had to wait outside for hours. That was not the first motorcyle incident involving Agaba, because earlier on he had attempted to give away a TNT camera to a motorcylist after he failed to pay his fare. It took a colleague to pay for him to recover the company camera. He also had so many cases of misconduct, which am sure, you must be remembering very well.

    It was for those very cases that The New Times finally decided to part ways with him, before he was again involved in an extortion/blackmail case in a Kigali hotel, for which he was charged and imprisoned.

    For the record, Agaba has never been a good journalist, let alone a top investigative reporter, as some claim. Sometimes, he would good tips but always ended up misrepresenting facts often times because he had failed to seperate his personal interests from facts. Time came when we stopped trusting his stories and often made other calls ourselves, which more often than not, resulted in totally different versions of his stories.

    In Kigali, he himself had lost hope of ever getting a story through official channels because no one (news sources) ever wanted to associate themselves with him. Agaba!!!!! Remember how he got the nickname of ‘Historical’.

    By the way, The New Times or Ignatius never stole him from Umuseso, the supposed critical newspaper in Rwanda. As a fact, Umuseso, had also fired him largely because of his intolerable personal conduct. I challenge Kabonero and co. to put the record straight.

    You dont expect such a person to have succeded at TNT; although when he came (by the way as a freelancer), pple were hoping that he had reformed probably on the basis that he had learnt a lesson or two being out on streets unemployed. Unfortunately, that was never to be.

    While I want to see him (Agaba) healthy, happy and reformed, no one should seek to exploit his supposed dissappearance to mislead the world. Facts are there, and can speak for themselves.

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