Umuseso Editor Escapes Rwanda to Save his Life – Rwandan Government Continues to Suffocate Freedom of the Press

By Eric Brown

Charles Kabonero, Editor of the independent weekly Umuseso newspaper fled Rwanda at the end of the Month of May desperate to save his life. Kabonero has recently faced great danger as a result of his independent reporting, which does not sit well with the Kigali government. The Rwandan authorities have been on a witch hunt to silence any independent media, especially those who may report the government’s shortcomings or misdeeds. As part of this witch hunt the BBC Programs on FM airwaves were banned by the government of Rwanda. Free speech and independent reporting are being systematically removed altogether from the country. This is in spite of the fact that Rwanda has one of the worst records in freedom of the press and free speech. According to the Economist online newspaper, there is much more freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Zimbabwe than there is in Rwanda.

Kabonero, a champion of freedom of the press in Rwanda is an unwavering critic of the Rwandan government led by the notorious war criminal Paul Kagame. As a result, he has faced court charges, smear campaigns, and death threats lately. Among the court charges was a ludicrous charge of “divisionism” and “libel” which he beat. “Divisionism” is a crime invented by the RPF Tutsi dominated government to exploit the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. However Kabonero beat both of these charges. Nonetheless, according to Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Boarders) Kabonero was handed a heavy sentence for simply questioning the political ambitions of senior officials and examining the networks of influence within the government.” In the month of April, using forged emails; the Rwandan government conducted a smear campaign against Kabonero. When all of the above failed, threats to Kabonero’s life began and Kabonero fled the country.

According to allafrica.com, Kabonero has been seen at the offices of East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders. Knowing the brutality of the Rwandan government and the seriousness of their threats, Kabonero has made a wise decision. One only has to look West to the Congo, where Five Million (5 Million) lives of mostly babies, children, women and the elderly have been killed as a result of Rwanda’s invasion. In spite of this being a good decision by Kabonero, it is a tragedy for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. All free thinking citizens of the world should stand and hold the Paul Kagame’s government responsible to respect some of the most basic human rights.

13 responses to “Umuseso Editor Escapes Rwanda to Save his Life – Rwandan Government Continues to Suffocate Freedom of the Press

  1. Godfrey Rutabingwa

    It is not fair to put an article like this for the world to read about Rwanda. I am sitting here in London, and when i open news to read about home i meet this sort of unfair article. Rwanda is to big and busy to enter a boxing ring with one person called Kabonero. Why does he write failures of Rwanda and not successes of Rwanda like ICT and good governance. Kabonero is fled? but anybody could have him if they wanted. The title of this article is offending Rwandese i am sorry.

  2. Dear Mr Rutabingwa,

    You are wondering about an individual criticizing a government and in many cases exposing its failures. That’s what the press is there for. They bring the news to the public. The question should be, why is the Rwandan government so afraid of an individual exposing its failure to the point where his life is threatened? Freedom of speech and Freedom of the press is a basic human right. Rwandans are offended and dare I say terrified about not being able to freely express themselves in their country as opposed to them being offended by the truth being told.

  3. But i think criticizing is not a crime here in Rwanda, when they criticize you that means you have to improve positively on what you are doing. Kabonero’ criticism is not the problems of Rwandese, the problems Rwandans have is freedom of press, freedom of speech. dictatorship from low level to high level of the government. Umuseso is not a problem.

    • Hirwa K Kevin,

      You are correct that the issue is freedom of press and freedom of speech. Anyone who dare expresses themselves in similar ways as Umuseso will be banned, harassed, jailed, assaulted and sometimes killed by government forces. That is exactly the issue. BBC was banned in Rwanda because Rwanda does not tolerate freedom of speech and expression. There are ridiculous laws that will get someone arrested for speaking unfavorably of the Rwandan government.

  4. Blind flowing driven by blind hate to please criminals so that you can get what to eat can not build anation and the world Mr. Rutabingwa! ICT achivement in Rwanda to day and its level visa vi to the problems of Rwanda concerning poverty and humanrigths abuse my dear it cant be aticket to turn anation into abig grave yard for its nationals on expense of their rigths after all universal.

    • Rushirabwoba,

      Somehow supporters of Paul Kagame and his government don’t seem to think much about human rights. Economic development of the capital city does not replace human lives. Kagame’s leadership leaves a lot to be desired not only in Rwanda but in the whole region.

  5. Julius Ukwishaka

    Listen Gentlemen for those who truely are, Wasnt Kabonero there when the Genocide was commiteed or was about to be committed in Rwanda? He must have been there because for all I know he is not 19.
    Please send me one article written by Kabonero trying to sensitise the world about the Genocide. Dont tell me he wasnt a journalist by then!! what inspired him to be a journalist after the Genocide that didnt inspire him to be one before? It must have been that the genocide stopped!! let Kabonero and others know that man has freedom to life and you cannot threaten life with impunity

    • Julius,

      I believe Kabonero was a journalist even before the genocide. I have to research on that to be sure but I am almost sure that he was. At any rate, I am sure that Umuseso existed before the genocide and was a critic of the government. I will get back to you after I confirm.

  6. Listen my friends, Rwandan problems willnot be solved by one man, journalist or soldier. The country is only nursing a bunch of greed careless governers. these people turned the country into vampire one forgetting that Rwanda use to be the safe heaven for inyangamugayo like Rwigema who wanted it to carry its status, genda mwese muri ibisambo.

    • Emilio,

      I am not understanding some parts of your post. I will look for translation for the part you wrote in Kinyarwanda.

  7. Jonason Munana

    You must be sick, to say Umuseso existed before the genocide. The paper started in 2001! Kabonero? He was iin Uganda. He is among those whose families gave everything to RPF so, Rwanda can be home again. He sees no change, and writes the truth…

    • Dear Jonason Munana,

      I agree with you that Kabonero was good for Rwanda in terms of reporting. I will be glad to take back that Umuseso existed before the genocide if indeed it’s true. Whether Kabonero was in Uganda or not does not mean that there was no newspaper called Umuseso in Rwanda before the genocide.

  8. Kabonero? a hero indeed. If he hadnt fled, he would be dead now-his coleague was killed there after! he did everything to spur Rwandans-and somehow, he has been successful because, some people have come out now. I have all repect for Umuseso and Kabonero-now, he is back with the Newsline-courtesy of him, we still have an alternative-and again, the gov here has feared the Newsline-people like him are important at this time-we need a real revolution

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