By Chris Nzabandora
Kigali, January 29, 2010
Ever since Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza set foot in Rwanda on January 16th, 2010, the Rwandan daily newspaper, the New Times, spared no efforts in tarnishing her image.
Indeed, after a crude distortion of her statement at the Gisozi Genocide Memorial, and calls for her arrests and subsequent hate editorials, the newspaper has come out without a new charge of family criminal records, in its issue of January 28th, 2010.
The content of this article betrays the true agenda of the paper and denotes a total disregard of the respect of individual privacy.
The loose narration of the so-called Gacaca trial of Mrs. Ingabire’s mother in Butamwa is an eye opener on the professional standard of to paper. For the sake of the truth, to the best of my knowledge, Mrs. Ingabire’s mother is not a fugitive and has nothing to do with the wild allegations levelled against her by the paper. Mrs. Ingabire’s mother has never been summoned to any hearing of the Gacaca courts and is ready to clean her name.
The newspaper tries, out of cheap propaganda, to imply that genocide ideology is a family rooted crime to which every member has to answer. In a nutshell, the newspaper tries to bring the people into believing that Mrs. Ingabire is guilty, because her mother was tried and sentenced by a Gacaca court. By extension, Mrs. Ingabire would not be clean of any wrong doing in the genocide and is thereby not fit for presidential race. This is the sinister agenda of the paper, for a newspaper whose stated mission is “becoming an exemplary and constructive media house”. The statement of Mrs. Ingabire on Gacaca courts reflects UDF-Inkingi party’s position, not her own feelings. As for the so-called “clean bill of health given to the Gacaca by renown scholars”, I refer to the latest United Nations Human Rights commission, Human Rights Watch, Lawyrers Without Borders and even the Commonwealth Human Rights Committee’s statements, but to mention a few.
In a healthy democracy, discussion should be focussed on issues, not individuals. Mrs. Ingabire is in Rwanda to defend a program, not to promote her own interests. But once for all, let’s address the recurrent issues that the paper surfs on.
The so-called substantial evidence gathered by the United Nations Group of Experts about the collaboration between FDLR and Mrs. Ingabire is nothing but hearsays. Even neighbouring Tanzania and Burundi government issued strong worded statements describing that report as lacking in many areas. The party extensively dwelt with that report in a press release. The “experts” based their allegations on a meeting that took place in Barcelona and to which FDLR was invited. The meeting indeed took place. It was organised in the framework of Inter-Rwandan dialogue which brings together Rwandans of different shades and ethnic groups for that matter. The paper omits deliberately to mention that the meeting was attended also by a delegation from Rwanda , including well known ruling party RPF’ members whose names can be availed if necessary. Is that the “substantial evidence” that the paper holds?
The report states that Mrs. Ingabire is a sister to the military leader of FDLR . This is absolutely rubbish. Mrs. Ingabire has no family relationship at all with him.
The paper also talks about RDR roots of Mrs. Ingabire. Mrs. Ingabire is the president of UDF/FDU-Inkingi, to which RDR is a party. RDR is not a criminal organisation as insinuated by the paper. RDR is an opposition party. Holding divergent opinions in a democratic society is not criminal. RDR has its own leadership. Should the paper have a case with the RDR, it should address itself to its leadership, not to Mrs. Ingabire as a person, as she is in Rwanda in her capacity as Chairperson of UDF-Inkingi, not RDR.
Last but not least, the paper may not agree with Mrs. Ingabire on different issues. But Mrs. Ingabire is far from being “controversial” . She is a flag bearer of a party’s program which may hurt newspapers bent on courting the establishment.
The New times newspaper is doing a disservice to democracy and reconciliation, by attempting to silence a dissenting at a very time when the country wants to show to the world in general, and the Commonwealth and East Africa in particular, that it is fit to be a full member of these honourable bodies and their cherished values.
Chris Nzabandora is UDF-Inkingi party member.
By Chris Nzabandora