By Jackson Mutabazi
Uganda’s government newspaper, The New Vision in its Sunday version yesterday, 02 June ran a big headline in block letters on its front page that said, “Kagame’s former bodyguard murder details emerge”. The newspaper was referring to the death of Camille Nkurunziza, a member of the terrorist RNC of Kayumba Nyamwasa, in a botched carjacking in Cape Town, South Africa on Saturday.
The New Vision was one of the dozens of Ugandan newspapers, online news organs, TV stations, blogs and twitter accounts that jumped on the news of Nkurunziza’s death to insinuate Rwanda was behind what all of them mischaracterized as “an assassination”. They were reporting the incident as “a murder,” an “assassination”, before South African security or civilian authorities had issued a single statement. And even though a simple check on one or two South African media websites would have revealed Nkurunziza died in a criminal incident.
Each and every Ugandan headline on the incident had the words “Nkurunziza, former Kagame bodyguard”. Yet the fact of Nkurunziza once having been in the Rwandan security forces had precisely nothing to do with the story. ChimpReports and Daily Monitor were hyping up the fact “only a few weeks ago Kagame was in Cape Town for the inauguration of President Ramaphosa”!
All were making insinuations, to mislead their audiences that these facts had anything to do with Nkurunziza’s death.
“From the way they were going overboard, trying to link Rwanda to a crime that merely involved SA Police shooting suspected criminals, one can only conclude the entire Ugandan journalism profession either has been incorporated into the Museveni regime’s propaganda war against Rwanda, or has entirely lost all sense of professional ethics!” said a Kigali media analyst who requested anonymity.
The website of The Times, South Africa’s biggest newspaper, was reporting the shooting incident as what everyone else, including SAPS (South African Police), and eyewitnesses saw it: Cape Town Police had spotted a vehicle they suspected hijackers to be in. When the hijackers saw the cops they drove off in a panic, crashing into three other cars. That was in the Goodwood suburb of the city.
One of the hijackers got out with a knife and tried to stab a member of the police. The cops opened fire, killing the man and shooting eight bullets in the car in which they suspected other hijackers to be. Nkurunziza died in the incident.
Statements from SAPS and Ipid (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) were clear that this was a criminal hijack, gone wrong for the criminals. That is what all credible SA media were reporting.
But even by yesterday, after the facts of the crime had become abundantly clear, The New Vision was not letting up on its misinformation. Even though most other Ugandan news organs had been shamed into silence, after their false reporting was exposed.
Analysis would indicate that with its choice of words, its block letter, three-column header on the front page claiming “new details”, New Vision had only one intention: to leave the uninformed reader with the impression that Rwanda was behind “the murder”.
There were no “new details” in the article at all. Sunday Vision simply lifted a few sentences from the Johannesburg daily, The Sowetan – in a story that, ironically, contradicted the Kampala paper’s own hyperbolic headline – basically confirming Nkurunziza died from police fire. It left observers wondering whether the Museveni government media was now “speculating that Rwanda was using South African police to kill its alleged enemies!”
“What else can one conclude with this stubborn insistence by Uganda of linking Rwanda to action by South African Police protecting its citizens against violent crime?” some in Kigali media circles wondered. “At this stage no one can be surprised by anything New Vision says about Rwanda any longer,” said one editor.
Commenting about the reporting of the Ugandan papers, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to South Africa Vincent Karega said, “Any opportunity for them is a political weapon (against Rwanda).”
The New Vision in the recent past has given whole center spreads, or full pages to a number of Rwanda’s self-avowed enemies, to say anything against Rwanda unchallenged, as if it were gospel truth. Kayumba Nyamwasa, David Himbara, and Leah Karegeya have all gotten ample real estate in the paper to say as they please.
Uganda’s state paper has also published a puff piece on Tribert Rujugiro – also known as RNC’s chief financier – portraying his tobacco processing plant in Arua as if it were some philanthropic venture. Yet it has been exposed to be nothing but a front for RNC activities, money laundering and other crimes.
As if to highlight its anti-Rwanda agenda, the Ugandan paper, in the same issue yesterday, claimed that, “Rwandans top foreign nationals’ crime list”. The newspaper went on to offer a breakdown of the alleged crimes Rwandan nationals allegedly are involved in. Topping the list was the so-called “immigration act” crimes. It alleged Rwandans had committed 1,085 of these.
Rwandan commentators were incredulous. Influential Kigali blogger Alain Mucyo, referring to an ongoing campaign of persecution of Rwandan nationals in Uganda noted, “The New Vision and the Museveni regime are only trying to cover their unprecedented persecution of Rwandans – and therefore their own internal failures – by creating a bogeyman, a scapegoat.”
The chosen scapegoat – it has been obvious for the past couple of years – are innocent Rwandan nationals crossing to Uganda, or those already resident there.
A number have been pulled off buses or transportation vehicles en-route to Uganda, detained at checkpoints, and thrown into police cells. Testimony Rwandan media has gathered from dozens upon dozens of victims of such treatment has been consistent that Ugandan security operatives, even when one shows them a passport, laissez passer or travel pass, will still imprison a Rwandan, claiming “illegal entry”!
Countless details have emerged of Rwandans that have been abducted, thrown into detention, held incommunicado, and tortured. Repeated attempts to resolve matters in the spirit of East African Community cooperation have fallen on deaf ears.
“Ugandan authorities only ever ignore our communications,” diplomats at the Rwanda High Commission in Kampala have publicly said.
Hundreds of Rwandans that have been arrested in extra-legal ways are said to be languishing in Uganda’s prisons. Speaking at a government leader’s retreat earlier this year, President Kagame said: “If those Rwandans imprisoned in Uganda have indeed committed crimes, why not produce them in court and let everyone hear their side? Why not conduct the process in transparency?”
Uganda seemingly is only intent on manufacturing smears, “just to fan flames of hate against Rwandans in Uganda,” remarked blogger Mucyo.