7 August 2007

Rwanda: Journalist Awaiting Asylum Verdict in Britain

Kigali — A former journalist with a local daily The New Times Mr. Elenues Akanga was detained in the UK and now waits for the verdict about his asylum claim due next week, RNA has established.

According to sources, Mr. Akanga was held in London last week for 24 hours immediately he had arrived but was later released pending trail. He was apparently given a lawyer that has been helping defend him.

"He is free now but under surveillance. If you want more information you can mail him. Am sure he will answer you with more details", the source said.

A verdict is up for mention on August 16 to determine whether he merits to be granted asylum in Britain.

An official with the British embassy in Kigali however said there has been no official information provided from the foreign office in London about the case.

"We have not been informed about such a case by the foreign office. So we have no comment as for the moment", the official said on phone.

Mr. Akanga worked with The New Times but was sacked following a story on the continued abuse of journalists. Source from the daily say he was assigned to do the story but was later blamed when content fell to the wrong side of the establishment.

He joined up with Mr. Sulah Nuwamanya and Julius Mwesigye to launch the now banned Weekly Post closed just a day after its first issue. The trio has since tried to lobby for the reopening of the paper to no success instead the idea is slowly dying away from public concern.

In a report 'Journalists in Exile' released in June, New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said nine Rwandan journalists have been forced out of the country to date, with Zimbabwe being the worst culprit having 48 scribes out of the troubled country.

Since 2001, when the campaign group started tracking exiled scribes, it recorded a total of 243 from 36 countries worldwide. More than half are reported to hail from just five: Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Colombia, and Uzbekistan.

The ten major culprits included; Zimbabwe (48), Ethiopia (34), Eritrea (19), Colombia (17), Uzbekistan (16), Haiti (14), Afghanistan, Liberia - (10), Rwanda (9), The Gambia (6) and Iran (5).

Rwandan journalists that have fled have gone mainly to the United States, The Netherlands, Sweden and Canada.

The common case of account in Rwanda came in 2004, when Didas Gasana - then a reporter with the Rwanda Independent Media Group (RIMEG) fled the country through Tanzania citing "harassment from the authorities".

Reports however have it that the UNHCR received him but declined him asylum after investigations revealed his reasons for fleeing were not founded. It was later discovered that he had actually disappeared with embezzled funds from his employer.

He has since returned and now works with the same company.

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