By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
A website called Spy Reports has run a headline entitled US Congress warns Kagame against jailing Diane Rwigara, on a statement about a Rwandan woman who is already out of jail on bail, facing a court trial while out of detention.
Spy Reports’ sweeping “US congress warns Kagame” headline and story builds on a brief statement through a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission that said: “Peaceful political expression is not a crime. Running for office is not a crime”.
An examination of news reports to do with relations between Rwanda and the United States found no more evidence of “a warning” than that.
Diane Rwigara is facing court charges relating to attempts to incite insurrection, and additional charges of forgery. According to reports in both public and private media, the charges against Diane Rwigara are fully in accordance with the country’s laws. Last year a court sentenced her and her mother, who also faces trial as an accomplice and co-defendant on some of the charges, to preventive detention.
This year, a higher court, the Rwanda High Court, granted bail to noth women.
In what many Rwandans on social media perceived to be an unacceptable politically-motivated interference in a Rwandan judicial process, Dick Durbin an American senator said he was “troubled by what appears to be highly questionable charges against Diane Rwigara”.
This he did in his personal capacity, since, as a number of observers note, he does not speak for the US government. According to international relations experts, some of these politicians in the West have a tendency of falling prey to misinformation fed to them by disgruntled groups and individuals from the other side of the globe and their supporters, and then, with little real knowledgeable of issues in those far off countries, these politicians issue all manner of statements or, even more likely, have statements issued in their names by staffers equally ignorant about the issues they are propounding on.
A Twitter user of the account Karangwa Sewase replied to Durbin: “Hon Senator, in Rwanda there is no law against people who want to run for office. You may gather all the required information about the case inasmuch as it is an ongoing case. But if you want to dictate our judicial organs on how they’d handle the case, you are in the wrong turn”.
Another respondent, Kajangwe Joseph said in part, “justice is done in the name of the people and in the interest of public order!”
There were many responses like that to which the senator offered no response.
Information available to this reporter, however, is that “Spyreports” is one among many misinformation websites of Uganda’s plethora of security agencies, like the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) or the Internal Security Organi (ISO). According to individuals that know them well, these are bent on deflecting as much as they came from the acute problems Uganda faces.
“They will therefore jump on even the most inconsequential statement by a US senator to show that the US is ‘warning this or that country’”, remarked one of our sources. “It all has to do with attempts to divert attention from Uganda’s dire internal political and security situation.”
On the other hand, “people the world over have now recognised that there is a very real human rights problem in Uganda,” said a private researcher that preferred not to be named for this article.
“In just recent times the world has seen how the Museveni regime has meted terrible brutality to MPs, even shooting the driver of one who Museveni’s presidential guard, the Special Forces Command (SFC), mistook for his employer, or torturing their supporters. That is where members of the US congress should focus attention, not a country like Rwanda where laws are abided by religiously,” said the Kampala-based researcher.
Over recent months, other human rights abuses by the Museveni government that have shocked people and drawn widespread condemnation include the terrible beating of a Reuters journalist, Jimmy Akena, and the shockingly violent daylight machinegun butt assault of Yusuf Kawooya by a group of men in civilian clothes in front of Christ the King church in Kampala city centre, who then proceeded to force him into a fake matatu taxi with false numberplates. This kind of abduction of civilians by Museveni’s security operatives has become an all too common modus operandi.
“We haven’t seen any breaking of laws like that in Rwanda,” said the researcher, adding, “This is why we would prefer the American politicians or rights groups to focus on real issues, like what we have here in Uganda.”
Ugandans in the media, as well as on all social media have expressed outrage over very many unresolved crimes, and would appeal to the Tom Lantos group as well as the US Congress “to come to our rescue from this president Museveni, who is torturing and murdering people without trial or any pretence of due process!”
A few of his more recent victims were well-known public figures, including Muhammad Kirumira, AIGP Andrew Kaweesi, Susan Magara among others. Others like Yassin Kawuuma, the driver of MP Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobi Wine, were less so. They are only the tip of a large iceberg of Museveni victims.