Rwandan Journalists Jailed for Stirring up Ethnic Tensions

Last week in IS 302, we addressed the issue of how governments should approach the existence of ethnic division in a post-conflict setting. We saw that Rwanda and Burundi have chosen different approaches. Burundi’s leaders have decided to address ethnic grievances via assuring ethnic balance in important institutions such as the military. Rwanda’s government has chosen a different approach, endeavouring to make the society as ethnicity-blind as possible. As such, there has been a zero-tolerance policy with respect to any demonstration or acknowledgement of ethnic particularism. As a recent Amnesty International report states unequivocally:

Rwanda’s laws banning “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism” are vague and sweeping, and have been used to silence legitimate dissent. The laws were designed to encourage unity and restrict speech that could lead to hatred. However, they have had dangerous and chilling effect on Rwandan society.”

The most recent example of this “dangerous and chilling effect on Rwandan society” is news of the conviction of two Rwandan journalists of having “stirred up ethnic divisions.” As this BBC article makes clear, it seems highly likely that President Paul Kagame has been using the role of “hate media” during the Rwandan genocide to silence legitimate opposition:

Editor Agnes Nkusi was sentenced to 17 years, while reporter Saidath Mukakibibi was imprisoned for seven. Among several articles, the judge referred to one saying some Rwandans were unhappy with the country’s rulers. Prosecutors said this was “meant to stir [up] hatred and fury against the government”.

President Paul Kagame came to power in 1994, ending the genocide in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered. He has recently been accused of intolerance and harassing anyone who criticises him. His government defends its tough media laws, pointing to the role of “hate media” ahead of the genocide.

The newspaper was suspended for six months last year, just ahead of elections which saw Mr Kagame re-elected by a landslide. Nkusi was found guilty of disrupting state freedom, propagating ethnic division, genocide revisionism and libel.

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One thought on “Rwandan Journalists Jailed for Stirring up Ethnic Tensions

  1. ‘’We saw that Rwanda and Burundi have chosen different approaches. Burundi’s leaders have decided to address ethnic grievances via assuring ethnic balance in important institutions such as the military. Rwanda’s government has chosen a different approach, endeavouring to make the society as ethnicity-blind as possible’’

    It is not because Burundi has chosen to balance ethnic issues in his institutions that it is the miraculous solution for Rwanda.Rather,this policy is making things more worse and dangerous for Burundians nowadays .Posts are attributed to people only for their ethnicity rather than their competences. Or just because of their contributions to the former rebellion which is the actual government. This policy is destabilizing this country national security because of the impunity of those former rebels now officially integrated in the national army just for the matter of balancing ethnic issues. It is also undermining the economy because those who are getting responsibilities are not qualified and not willing to surround themselves by those capable of doing so to help them with the task. Burundian solution still has to proof its efficacy, the future will tell us.

    Rwanda adopted a policy that Burundi experienced under his second republic but in different circumstances and it almost worked till its overthrow. Rwanda is not Burundi and Burundi is not Rwanda. It is not by holding up ethnicities as a flag that a country can build itself and progress. ‘’..Rwanda’s laws banning “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism” are vague and sweeping, and have been used to silence legitimate dissent. The laws were designed to encourage unity and restrict speech that could lead to hatred. However, they have had dangerous and chilling effect on Rwandan society.”
    If those legitimate dissents are legitimate, why do they have to use ethnicity to replay their game? What was the great miraculous policy that Rwanda should have established after 1994 in order to reconstruct itself? Ethnicity card or appropriate method? Rwandan authorities did the wise thing they had to do after inheriting a country in such conditions, they had tragic moments and any one in their places would have acted like them. Those Medias should be careful about what they are saying and writing because Rwandan authorities are not willing to let the past poisons the present and the future on the name of the ethnicities. All ethnic groups are Rwandans and if some have things to claim or to address, they should do so as Rwandans without trying to disturb the national security and to insult the memory of those 800.000 slaughtered mostly with the medias incitation.

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