- The editor of 'Umuseso', a Rwandan language independent weekly, was tried today on criminal charges of defamation and "divisionism" in connection with an article that accused parliamentary Vice President Denis Polisi of plotting to seize power. The trial is widely seen as an effort to silence the remnants of Rwanda's independent press.
A verdict in the controversial case is expected next week, following the one-day trial of editor Charles Kabonero, who is also director of the Rwanda Independent Media Group (RIMEG), the newspaper's owner. The prosecution asked for a prison sentence of four years and a fine of 300,000 Rwandan francs (about US$ 526), according to local journalists.
Vice President Polisi filed a criminal complaint after 'Umuseso' reported speculation about his political aspirations and divisions in the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). RPF officials and the Rwandan government are not used to read critical articles about themselves in the national press, which is dominated by pro-government publications.
'Umuseso' staff members say they were also harassed and threatened after the August article appeared, prompting editor Kabonero to go into hiding for about 10 days. Mr Kabonero at the time stated that he feared for his life after receiving death threats.
The case against Mr Kabonero has caused local and international protest. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPF) condemned the trial, saying journalists should not be criminally prosecuted for reporting critically about government officials.
- We are deeply disturbed by the unjustified threat of imprisonment that hangs over our colleague, Charles Kabonero, CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said in a statement today. "Governments should not use criminal laws to suppress critical reporting," she added.
Rwandan authorities have frequently targeted 'Umuseso', the country's sole independent newspaper. Robert Sebufirira, former managing editor of the newspaper, and Elly Macdowell Kalisa, the former deputy editor, fled Rwanda in February after getting a series of death threats they believe came from senior members of the government security services. The threats followed articles in 'Umuseso' on alleged corruption by senior officials.
Another former editor, Ismail Mbonigaba, was imprisoned for more than a month in January 2003 and charged with "inciting division and discrimination" for reporting that former Prime Minister Faustin Twagarimungu would run against President Paul Kagame in elections.
Mr Mbonigaba was never tried. In May 2001, John Mugabi, editor of English language newspaper 'Rwanda Newsline', which gave rise to Umuseso, sought asylum abroad after being threatened over articles on the Rwandan military's resource exploitation in eastern Congo Kinshasa (DRC).
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.