Rwandan journalist shot dead

2010-06-26 11:42

A Rwandan journalist who accused the regime of attempting to

assassinate a dissident general in Johannesburg was gunned down in Kigali,

police said on Friday, fuelling tensions ahead of August elections.

Jean-Leonard Rugambage’s colleagues and media watchdog Reporters

Without Borders said that Thursday’s killing was linked to reports alleging the

involvement of President Paul Kagame’s services in the assassination bid.

“He was killed in front of his house when he was going home at

10pm,” said police spokesperson Eric Kayiranga, adding that the “unknown gunman”

responsible for the attack had fled.

Rugambage ran Umuvugizi, a banned publication.

The newspaper’s

exiled editor said there was no doubt as to why his deputy was gunned

down.

“It’s clear that Jean-Leonard was killed following his

investigations into last week’s assassination attempt against General Kayumba

Nyamwasa in South Africa,” Jean Bosco Gasasira told Reporters Without

Borders.

Nyamwasa, a former comrade-in-arms of Kagame in the Tutsi rebellion

that ended the 1994 genocide, fled Rwanda earlier this year after being accused

by the authorities of masterminding grenade attacks in Kigali.

The former army chief survived the June 19 shooting in front of his

home in Johannesburg, for which Rwanda denied any responsibility. Four people

were arrested.

The Umuvugizi website, in an article dated June 24, reported

telephone calls between an intelligence chief in Kigali, Emmanuel Ndahiro, and

“Rwandan citizens arrested in South Africa after the attempt”.

A second article, dated Friday, was headlined: The Kagame regime

killed the deputy boss of Umuvugizi newspaper. It was illustrated with a picture

of Kagame dressed as Adolf Hitler.

Reporters Without Borders said it was “urging the French

authorities and the European Union delegation in Kigali to ensure that an

independent inquiry into this homicide is undertaken”.

The group said Thursday’s shooting was the first murder of a

journalist in Rwanda since 1998.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also demanded a

full investigation into the murder and regretted that it would fuel a climate of

fear among the press ahead of the August 9 presidential poll.

“We call on Rwandan authorities to conduct a thorough and

transparent investigation exploring all leads for possible motives and

masterminds, and make the results available to the public,” said the Africa

advocacy co-ordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mohamed

Keita.

“This murder will add to the climate of uncertainty among

independent journalists in Rwanda ahead of the August presidential election,” he

added.

Both Rugambage and Umuvugizi had several run-ins with the Rwandan

authorities over the past few years.

Prior to Umuvugizi being banned on the grounds that it incited

insubordination in the ranks of the army and the police, Gasasira was found

guilty of defamation and invasion of privacy, and fined.

Gasasira, now in exile in Uganda, was badly beaten by unknown

assailants in Kigali in 2007.

Rugambage was imprisoned while working for another publication,

Umuco, in 2005.

He was accused of criticising the workings of the grass roots

gacaca courts tasked with trying the bulk of those accused of taking part in the

1994 genocide of Tutsis by Hutus.

Several reporters and editors have gone into exile, while rights

groups have accused Kagame’s regime of tightening its grip on the country and

stifling dissident voices.

Rwanda holds presidential elections on August 9.


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