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.