5 December 2011

Rwanda: Respect Ingabire's Death - Do Not Exploit It for Nefarious Gain

Photo: Echwalu Photography
File photo: Journalists on World Press Freedom day in Uganda.


The death by gunshot of one Charles Ingabire has been in some foreign media for a few days.

Charles Ingabire, according to some news reports, was a journalist highly critical of President Kagame.

When we learnt of this man's death and tried to recall whether there has ever been a journalist in Rwanda called Charles Ingabire, we drew a blank. Apparently other local journalists had no idea who Ingabire was. The local staffer of Reuters, Themistocle Hakizimana for instance, called The Rwanda Focus a couple of days after Ingabire's death last Wednesday, asking whether we knew who the man was.

We know of any number of Rwandan journalists that we can describe as virulently critical of Kagame - Nelson Gatsimbazi, Fidel Gakire, Bosco Gasasira, Bonaventure Bizumuremyi, Charles Kabonero, and others. Some of these journalists live in Kigali and go about their business of manufacturing fictitious stories that will turn them into heroes. Others have achieved their objective of becoming darlings of international human and media rights groups, and left the country to get political asylum in much wealthier countries than Rwanda. Others, most notably Charles Kabonero, are and have been living in Kampala and making a lot of money from NGOs supposedly championing human and media rights. But, until recently, no one had ever heard of Charles Ingabire, never mind that media in some neighbouring countries are running amok describing how this alleged scribe was a thorn in the side of Kigali.

But of course there is a cottage industry out there of individuals and groups whose mission is to demonize the Kigali administration at each and every opportunity, and they wouldn't let the death of someone like Ingabire go without exploiting it to the maximum, to drive their narrative of a Rwanda that few of us who live in it know. It is a Rwanda of supposed repression, and gross abuse of human rights and alleged lack of media freedoms and every horrible situation you can think of. Any honest person that has ever visited Rwanda longer than a week would tell you this is an entirely fictitious Rwanda. Not that anyone claims we live in some Valhalla, but which society lacks its own problems?

The death of any person in the circumstances the poor man Ingabire, whoever he was, met his end is always cause for suspicion. Who shot this person, and why? If it were the Rwandan government responsible, what interest would it have in the death of a totally obscure person - an alleged journalist that not a single person in a Rwandan media house knew?

The decent thing for the yammering jackals raising their cacophony about how Kigali supposedly is behind the deceased's death would be to just shut up and not cause further distress to his family. Let the Ugandan authorities investigate the killing, and after they have come up with their reports, at least talk from a little bit of informed perspective.

But jackals cannot be decent, so they will go on yammering even when they have not the flimsiest evidence to back what they yammer about.

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