by Jean Paul Ndindamahina on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 at 16:08 ·
In his speech, president of Rwanda Paul Kagame keeps urging Rwandan citizens that they should be able to speak for themselves and not let the outsiders speak for them because they are the ones who know better of what works for them. Taking into account of the high level of lacking of free expression which exists in Rwanda, I did not pay attention to his message until now when our own rights are put into test by a person from outside of our own culture, who does know neither our past nor our struggle to freedom.
Andrew Mwenda is a Ugandan born journalist. In his recent publication in his own news magazine” Independent” , he published the article “ Rwanda and its critics: Inside one nation’s struggle against deeply entrenched prejudice” In this article he argues that Rwanda’s critics to human rights abuse are unfair and baseless and what is done in Rwanda is normal compared to what is done in other countries, giving UK’s recent phone hacking scandal as his own palpable example in his justification to Rwandan independent media ban making him believe that Rwanda is prejudiced by the international organisation and media.
Although he is a man who is respected internationally for his work, Mwenda seems to be struggling to understand Rwanda and her citizen. Besides, he is a man who really should stop being a control freak. His own behaviour with his controversial journalism behaviour has led him to being arrested by the government of Uganda over his attitude to publish inflammatory and hash articles. Despite his past experience, he undermines his Rwandan journalist comrades by giving the same reason which was given against him when he was arrested back in his home country, Uganda.
He argues that what was done to English media naming the news of the world, would be a scandal if that would otherwise been done in Rwanda. Would this journalist so called Mwenda take into account the high level of democracy that British people enjoy, he would not have dared to compare any facts between Rwanda and United Kingdom. In UK, the justice system is independent and neither UK prime minister nor any Authority in UK can influence the court decision. No one in UK is above the law. Hacking inquiry in UK was carried out through the UK justice; the evidence presented in the court may have been too evidently clear rendering the world news defence become weak hence ending 165 years career.
UK’s phone hacking enquiry did not lead to all journalists of the news of the world being arrested before investigation. UK justice system sates that a person can only be arrested under section 24A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 for an indictable offence. That is what was done in UK and the UK phone hacking inquiry is still in process and under investigation.
In Rwanda is a long history that a president is the small god of our land. And that history of superiority Does not only start with president Kagame, the dictatorship started a long time ago back in 1963 when the media had no other choice but to side themselves with the people on power. And, that behaviour in journalism has been taken granted by every authority in Rwanda.
Before 1994, media was used to incite hatred which would in turn benefit people on power and that hatred led to Rwandan genocide. After FPR took over power, with aim of reconciliation, the Rwandan media changed its course from hatred publishing to whistle blowers.
In 2007, one of the British media acted as whistle blower for the government funds which were believed to be mismanaged and that led to UK judiciary investigating the accusation which led to the findings that the members of UK parliament were fraudulently claiming government funds. This type of whistling is very dangerous in Rwanda. It cannot be done in Rwanda!
In 2010, two Rwandan journal Umuseso and Umuvugizi were banned for six months even before the investigation of alleged offense was carried out. The journalists of Umuseso and umuvugizi were threatened to be killed only because their published that government officials were mismanaging government funds. One Rwandan journalist who worked for umuseso , after being interrogated for 8 hours, stated in digital journal “Things are getting tougher here," the journalist said after his ordeal. "My heart quakes, but no one sees, and we can't sacrifice the values of liberty and free speech at the altar of state intimidation”
State intimidation is now the only problem in Rwanda where every citizen is in fear to say what is going wrong in his country. Rwandan citizens are living under the state of fear where they cannot express themselves freely.
In UK, every citizen is aware of his or her rights. It would be hard ,since the UK judicial is independent, for anyone to infringe one’s rights. In UK some citizen disagree with Prime Minister, but I have never seen anyone being arrested or threatened with death because he or she is in disagreement with the authorities in UK.
Mwenda may not know this but back in 2011, two Rwandan journalists were sentenced to 30 years in prison for commenting on President Paul Kagame’s behaviour. They remain in prison under the false allegations.
There are so many things which are done in Rwanda but not in UK and vice versa. You may also complain why the picture of UK Prime minister is not hanged overhead in the court room. Would you answer these questions from one Rwandan citizen who posted on Facebook: “In courtroom, what does the President of the country's picture would represent? Is this a government institution? How an independent jurisdiction will post the Country President picture in the courtroom? Is that picturing "the justice logo in Rwanda? Why the Jurisdiction free system preferred to decorate courtrooms in that way? Is any other country which post Presidents pictures in the wall behind the Judges bench? It is as if "He is saying "guys don’t forget that I am here, I am the last to decide!! If any objections on it, please explain it to me”
What is done in Rwanda and not in UK is impartial justice, intimidation and barring political opposition. You should remember that it is not the first time, Rwanda is told to respect human rights and allow political opposition to work.
In 2010, Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said although Rwanda's economy has grown the political culture remains comparatively closed and the media restricted.
On April 21, Rwanda arrested Victoire Ingabiré Umuhoza and charged her with associating with terrorists and violating "genocide ideology" statutes, which define a speech crime unique to Rwanda.
Rwandan Police arrested Bernard Ntaganda, founder and presidential candidate of Rwanda's Parti Social-Imberakuri, on the morning of June 24th, 2010, after calling for a protest of the opposition's exclusion from the election, saying "Silence is acceptance”.
Mwenda , despite his arrogance of knowledge , he cannot give even one single example of UK or USA politician or a journalist who is in prison because he or she expresses openly his or her own views that different from those on power.
As the case stands, the world news was closed because it infringed others rights without their consent which is a punishable offense in UK judiciary system. Mwenda should know that UK protects its citizen from all crimes including but not limited to that unprofessional behaviour to hack phones for self-gain. Mwenda should also know that while he is welcomed in our country for different purposes , he must also remain professional and keep his biased views at a very low level because we, Rwandans want peace and democracy in our motherland and no one knows our rights better than we do.