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Rwanda October 26, 2005
H.E. Paul Kagami
Republic of Rwanda
Fax: (011.250) 84390
Journalists throughout the world were relieved and very pleased when comparative peace returned to Rwanda after the troubles of recent years. Now, however, we are deeply disturbed by the way your government is allowing personal freedoms to be infringed, particularly freedom of the press.
You have already received strong protests from such organizations as Reporters sans Frontières (RSF, Paris) against recent violations of that basic human right. The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC), representing about 600 journalists with world-wide experiences, joins in those protests against recent attacks on journalists in Rwanda .
The following cases are the reasons for our complaints:
In early September, Rwandan police confiscated issues of the fortnightly, Umuco, and detained its editor, Bonaventure Bizumuremyi. This happened soon after one of the publication’s journalists, Jean Léonard Rugambage, was imprisoned and the magazine’s former editor, Guy Theunis, also was jailed.
In the issue of Umuco that offended the authorities, Bizumuremyi had written an article calling the president of Rwanda a “dictator” and accusing the ruling FPR party of forcing government employees and local cooperatives to contribute funds to the party. His article was also critical of the arrest of journalists, Rugambage and Theunis.
In the case of the journalist, Rugambage, police stated that he was arrested on complaints from judges of the popular tribunals, known as gacacas, because of his article in which he accused certain judges in the Ruyambe district of corruption.
It is also very disturbing to us that Father Guy Theunis, a Belgian missionary and former editor of the Rwandan magazine , Dialogue , was classified by Rwandan police as a “category-one” genocide suspect and has been held in prison, pending a trial that could lead to the death penalty. Father Theunis was arrested when he made a stop-over at Kigali airport on his way back to Belgium after attending a conference on peace and reconciliation in the nearby eastern section of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His arrest is puzzling since he lived in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994, when he was a leading and very outspoken critic of racism and ethnic hatred. It appears to us that, for some reason that we do not understand, he is being accused of being a racist because he quoted in his publication the text of articles from an extremely racist Rwandan newspaper. He has explained that he “ did so with the aim of condemning hate and intolerance.” We are left with several questions regarding his arrest:
It would appear that there must be some other motive for the arrest of Father Theunis – perhaps by someone with a grudge to settle? Why were most of the people appearing as prosecution witnesses against Father Theunis’s members of the ruling party? Why did the government of Rwanda given him a re-entry visa and then immediately arrest him once he stepped on Rwandan soil? Why is Father Theunis the first foreigner to be tried before the gacacas, which were originally set up to try the hundreds of thousands of people still held on suspicion of genocide?
These are very important questions. We respectfully urge you to fully investigate these matters and make a full, public report of your findings. Also, we hope that you will stop the persecution of journalists who may criticize some government actions.
The Free World is watching Rwanda and awaits your answers.
Freedom of the Press Committee
Office of the Prime Minister
Republic of Rwanda
Fax: (011.250) 83714
Ambassador of Rwanda to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda
1714 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington , DC 20009
Fax: (202) 232-4544
Ambassador Stanislas Kamanzi
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Rwanda to the United Nations
124 East 39 th Street
New York , NY 10016
Fax: (212) 679-9133
Charge d’Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission
Embassy of the United States of America
Boulevard de la Revolution
Fax: (011.250) 50-12-07