Rwandan YouTuber Jailed For 15 Years After Anti-Kagame Posts

Yvonne Idamange/YouTube

 

A Rwandan court on Thursday sentenced a prominent YouTube commentator and genocide survivor to 15 years in prison for “inciting violence” after she hit out at President Paul Kagame on her channel.

Yvonne Idamange is one of a number of people who have fallen foul of the authorities after turning to the video-sharing platform to publish content critical of the Kagame government, raising concern among international rights groups.

The 42-year-old mother of four, who was not in court for the verdict, was convicted of six charges, sentenced to 15 years behind bars and fined the equivalent of $2,000 — less than the 30 years and $6,000 sought by the prosecution.

Idamange, who survived the 1994 genocide, was arrested in February for “exhibiting behaviour that mixes politics, criminality, and madness”, police said at the time.

The Kigali High Court found her guilty of inciting violence and public uprising, denigrating genocide artefacts, spreading rumours and violent assault, among other charges.

The accusations were based on comments on her popular YouTube channel “Idamange” in which she accused Kagame and his government of dictatorship, and of exploiting the genocide without giving enough welfare to the survivors.

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Her YouTube channel boasts 18,900 subscribers and an average of 100,000 views per video.

Idamange had accused the court of bias and boycotted proceedings in June after her request for the trial to be broadcast online was rejected by the court.

Rwanda, ruled by Kagame since the end of a genocide which left some 800,000 mainly ethnic Tutsi dead, has often come under fire for rights abuses and a crackdown on freedom of speech, critics and the opposition.

In March, Human Rights Watch voiced alarm over Kigali’s crackdown on people using YouTube or blogs to speak out about sometimes controversial issues in Rwanda.

HRW said then that at least eight people reporting or commenting on current affairs — notably the impact of strict anti-Covid measures which have hit the poor hard — have been threatened, arrested, or prosecuted in the past year.

It pointed to a 2019 statement by Kagame to highlight the dangers faced by those using online platforms: “Those that you hear speak on the internet, whether they are in America, in South Africa, or in France, they think they are far.

“They are far, but they are close to the fire. The day they get closer, the fire will burn them.”

AFP

Osinbajo Attends President Kagame’s Inauguration In Rwanda

The Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has left Abuja for Kigali, the capital of Rwanda where is attending the Presidential inauguration of President Paul Kagame.

The inauguration is expected to be witnessed by several African Heads of State and Government, following President Kagame’s victory in the country’s Presidential election on August 4.

Prof. Osinbajo is accompanied on the trip by the Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama and is expected back in Abuja later today.

Rwanda Opposition Candidate Confident Of Defeating Kagame

Rwandan President, Paul Kagame

In Rwanda’s northern Rulindo district, residents look over a hill on to three tents pitched ahead of an opposition rally.

Campaigns are gaining momentum ahead of elections on August 4.

Frank Habineza, the presidential candidate for the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda (DPGR) the only registered opposition party will stand against President Paul Kagame who is running for a third term.

Kagame is widely admired by many for restoring stability to the East African nation after its 1994 genocide, presiding over rapid economic growth and creating a relatively corruption-free government.

But rights activists say those achievements have come at the expense of civil liberties.

Constitutional changes, which technically allow Kagame to stay until 2034, were approved in a 2015 referendum by a 98 percent majority that the opposition and Western diplomats said was suspiciously high.

“That is one of the reasons why we are standing it is to make sure that we bring liberty and total democracy to Rwanda because people in Rwanda, they still feel that no other leader can lead them and they were saying in 2015 that only one person would lead them again because they do not know what will happen tomorrow, but we are telling them that, No! That is not true. We should move forward. We can be better,” said Habineza. We can work without fear so we are trying to make sure that everybody can be free, can be happy to not fear to join any political party, should be free to say what they want but also should respect the law,” said Habineza.

“We can work without fear so we are trying to make sure that everybody can be free, can be happy to not fear to join any political party, should be free to say what they want but also should respect the law.”

Habineza was elected to oppose Kagame at a party congress of about 400 members. His platform includes investing in agriculture, increasing salaries for the security forces and ending political detentions.

He says his tiny party faces sabotage and intimidation from the ruling party and accuses the ruling party of putting pressure on his supporters, but is confident that he can unseat Kagame at the ballot.

“We do have much hope because we know that the people of Rwanda want change. People of Rwanda have seen the same government for the last 23 years. They want to see a new government and we have good policies, better policies than the current government and also we promised Rwanda, Rwandans, a better hope so we know that Rwandans will vote for us and we shall win this election,” he said.

According to the final list, Kagame will run against Habineza and independent candidate, Philippe Mpayimana after Diane Shima Rwigara, a 35-year-old accountant and the only female presidential candidate was disqualified by authorities saying she failed to meet requirements.

Rwandans Vote On Allowing 3rd Kagame Presidential Term

KagameRwanda has begun the process that analysts say will grant President Paul Kagame a third term in office.

The citizens are voting in a referendum on a constitutional amendment to allow President Kagame to seek re-election.

Some 6.4 million citizens are eligible to vote on Friday, and around 37,000 Rwandans living overseas were able to have their say Thursday, December 17.

Rwandans are expected to vote overwhelmingly in favour of changing the constitution. The change will allow Mr Kagame to potentially remain in power until 2024.

He is seen by many as the man who stopped the genocide that caused the death of at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

The referendum was scheduled earlier in 2015 after the parliament backed a proposal to amend article 101 and allow Kagame to run in the 2017 election.

He has been President of Rwanda since 2001 and, at present, is bound by the constitution to step down after serving two consecutive seven-year terms.

Kagame has said that he will make a decision on the future of his political career after the referendum.

Rwanda Sets Date For Referendum To Extend Presidential Term Limit

rwandaRwandans will vote in a referendum on December 18 on whether to amend the constitution and allow President Paul Kagame to remain in office until as late as 2034, officials said on Tuesday.

Under the proposed amendment, Kagame, in power since 2000, would be able to run for office again after his second mandate ends in 2017, first for a seven-year term and then for two further stints of five years each, stretching to 2034.

Kagame is the latest veteran ruler in Africa to attempt to extend his hold on power. Similar moves have already sparked violence and instability in Burundi, Burkina Faso and Congo Republic. So far there has been no political unrest in Rwanda.

“President Paul Kagame has accepted that a referendum be made on the current constitution,” the government said in a statement late on Tuesday after it had discussed the issue.

He had said that the outcome of the referendum would determine if he would seek a third term in office in the next election or not.

The current constitution limits any head of state to two terms.

The United States earlier this month said Kagame should resist the lure of power and step down after his second term to allow a new generation of leaders to come through.

Kagame won widespread praise for rebuilding the Central African country after a 1994 genocide killed about 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

While praising Rwanda’s economic and social development since then, human rights groups say the government severely restricts freedom of expression and brooks no dissent, charges the government denies.