‘Suspicious death’ of Rwandan journalist prompts calls for investigation

1 month ago 36

Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists, an autarkic NGO based successful New York, are among media and rights organisations calling for an autarkic probe into the decease of the Rwandan writer John Williams Ntwali.

Ntwali, a regular professional of the Rwandan authorities, was recovered dormant connected 18 January. According to reported constabulary accounts, helium was killed successful a motorcycle mishap successful the capital, Kigali.

However, activists person raised doubts astir the origin of death.

“Two weeks aft the alleged accident, Rwandan authorities person failed to supply a constabulary report, the nonstop determination of the alleged accident, immoderate photograph oregon video evidence, oregon elaborate accusation connected the others progressive successful it,” a web of property associations and civilian nine organisations said successful a associated connection connected Tuesday.

Signed by much than 60 organisations, the connection said Ntwali, exertion of the Chronicles newspaper, was “regularly threatened and attacked successful pro-government media for his investigative reporting” and called connected Rwanda’s planetary partners, including the Commonwealth, “to basal by their stated committedness to media state and to telephone connected Rwanda to let an effective, autarkic and punctual investigation” into his death.

On Monday, Unesco’s manager general, Audrey Azoulay urged the Rwandan authorities to “initiate a afloat and transparent probe into this lawsuit to afloat relationship for the circumstances of his death”.

USAid head Samantha Power called for enactment in a tweet connected Saturday.

Last week, the US Senate overseas relations committee tweeted: “Yet different professional of the Rwandan authorities has been silenced … His suspicious decease indispensable beryllium investigated. The US cannot enactment regimes that people their ain people.”

The United States, on with the UK, has antecedently called for Rwanda to amended the country’s quality rights record.

Tuesday’s connection said Ntwali was 1 of lone a fewer journalists successful Rwanda covering high-profile, politicised trials of journalists, commentators and absorption members, and posting videos astir their conditions successful prison.

Days earlier helium died, Ntwali posted a YouTube video astir the unexplained disappearance of a genocide subsister who had reportedly spoken retired astir constabulary brutality.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Ntwali told friends past twelvemonth helium had been threatened and intimidated by authorities officers and feared for his life.

Police authorities declined to remark connected Ntwali’s death, saying the lawsuit had been taken implicit by the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor’s bureau did not respond to requests for comment.

“This is simply a authorities which has a way grounds of extrajudicial killings, governmental assassination, disappearances, unexplained deaths involving quality rights activists, journalists, absorption leaders and politicians,” said British writer Michela Wrong, whose publication Do Not Disturb alleges the engagement of President Paul Kagame successful galore quality rights abuses against salient Rwandans – allegations helium denies. “It’s against that discourse that [Ntwali’s] decease has to beryllium judged.”

Lewis Mudge, cardinal Africa manager astatine HRW, said: “Rwanda is an incredibly closed state with respect to people’s quality to bash escaped and just reporting. Journalists cognize the reddish lines, and don’t spell adjacent them for their ain safety. Ntwali was 1 of the lone journalists successful Rwanda who would talk astir what was happening.”

Rights groups accidental Ntwali’s decease fits wrong a signifier of governmental absorption figures, salient authorities critics and journalists who person disappeared oregon been recovered dormant nether suspicious circumstances successful caller years.

In 2021, the poet Innocent Bahati, whose enactment was regarded arsenic a “critical look connected issues affecting Rwandan society”, went missing.

The aforesaid year, vigor writer Cassien Ntamuhanga was sentenced to 25 years for conspiracy against the government and complicity successful terrorism. After what HRW calls his “highly politicised trial” helium escaped to Mozambique but was arrested there. Mozambican authorities denied having detained him and his whereabouts person been chartless since.

Rwandan vocalist  Kizito Mihigo talks to reporters aft  his merchandise  from prison, successful  Kigali, Rwanda September 15, 2018
Rwandan vocalist Kizito Mihigo talks to reporters aft his merchandise from prison, successful Kigali, Rwanda, 15 September 2018. His decease successful 2020 raised suspicions. Photograph: Jean Bizimana/Reuters

In 2020, the decease of Rwandan gospel vocalist and genocide subsister Kizito Mihigo raised suspicions. The vocalist was convicted of conspiracy against the authorities after penning a song that called for empathy towards Hutu arsenic good arsenic Tutsi victims of the genocide, to which helium aboriginal claimed helium was forced to confess. He was reported to person killed himself successful constabulary custody – conscionable days aft an attempted flight to neighbouring Burundi. Requests for an autarkic enquiry into his decease were unsuccessful.

“There’s conscionable excessively galore cases of radical who are considered to beryllium captious of the government who vanish successful these mysterious ways,” said Mudge.

“Ntwali’s decease is going to nonstop yet different chilling connection to anyone who tries to bash autarkic reporting successful Rwanda,” helium said. “That if you situation to bash investigations and transverse the enactment – you could wage with your life.”