By Alex Muhumuza
The Uganda Communications Commission’s act this week to block Rwandan news websites not only flies contrary to the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding – signed between presidents Kagame and Museveni in Angola this Wednesday to improve relations between Kampala and Kigali – it also is justified on incredibly hypocritical grounds, Kigali analysts point out.
“This (blocking of Rwandan websites by UCC) is against the spirit of the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding between the Republic of Uganda and the Republic of Rwanda signed yesterday,” said Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwandan Minister of State in Charge of the East African Community on his Twitter account yesterday, Thursday 22.
“Disturbing signal from Uganda. Sign with one hand, stab with the other?” asked Yolande Makolo, another prominent Rwandan-on-Twitter. “Among initial issues that strained relations was Uganda facilitating Rwandan dissidents/fugitives including giving them platforms on state-run media to spew propaganda against Rwanda,” continued Makolo, getting to the heart of the hypocrisy in the UCC’s highly hostile act against Rwandan media.
The UCC’s Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi said he ordered blocking of the websites because they were “promoters of hate campaigns in Uganda.” He specifically singled out an article that detailed the background of Museveni and that of his mother. First of all, observers point out, if the UCC officials bothered to do some research they would discover the article in question was not even written by the Rwandan media that UCC has blocked.
Some of the websites reproduced the lengthy biographical piece from its original place of publication – a site called Editions Sources du Nil. The websites that reproduced the article made it clear this wasn’t their work. They indicated the source with footnotes at the bottom of the story.
“But these Ugandan state organs like UCC that like to boast about their supposed respect for freedom of the media just turn around and block news sites even for things they only reproduced, what a travesty!” commented a Kigali-based journalist, echoing the feelings of many.
When one examines the record of Ugandan state anti-Rwanda media and the smears, slanders and complete fabrications they publish against Kigali, but then hear someone like Mutabazi claim he is blocking Kigali media for promoting hate, it is difficult to know whether to laugh or cry!, exclaimed renowned Kigali Twitter commentator Mwene Kalinda.
A researcher compiling the Ugandan media’s anti-Rwanda propaganda – which veer from out and out insults against President Kagame, to acting as vehicles for RNC (the terror group of Kayumba Nyamwasa sworn to war against the administration of Kigali) misinformation, to providing free platforms for all sorts of genocide negationists whose goal is to delegitimize President Kagame’s government – would never find space to file all such articles.
Beginning with so-called mainstream publications like The New Vision the state newspaper, and The Daily Monitor, which these days practically is an extension of Kampala’s anti-Rwanda propaganda arm, on to dozens of virulent websites, blogs and Twitter accounts with names like ChimpReports, Commandpost, Spyreports, Softpower, Eyalama.com and others, they run a campaign of hate against Rwanda that is relentless.
Just this year on 4 May The New Vision gave Kayumba Nyamwasa two full pages – page four and five, prime news space in industry lingo – to pour vitriol on the Rwandan head of state while making all kinds of false claims, and urging violent uprising against Rwanda. That only was the most notable example of the Ugandan state newspaper carrying water for Nyamwasa.
There were many others. In the same month New Vision gave RNC chief misinformation specialist David Himbara – a particularly consistent peddler of lies about Rwanda, specializing in falsifying all good news to do with the country’s socio-economic development – to say whatever he pleased. It is the same paper that gave a full page to Leah Karegeya, a big RNC official to incite hate against the person of President Kagame.
The New Vision also never hesitates to quickly jump on an incident like the death of one Camille Nkurunziza in South Africa – in a hail of bullets by the Cape Town police in a car jacking gone awry – in an effort to pin it on Kagame. Kampala’s state newspaper and several other media in the Ugandan capital did not bother to read statements put out by the South African Police Service giving factual on-site accounts of the incident.
SAPS said the Rwandan Nkurunziza died in crossfire between cops and suspected carjackers. There was nothing more to it. But Museveni’s state media and all the online propaganda sites – mainly sponsored by Ugandan Military Intelligence, CMI – were interested only in one thing: to make it seem “Kagame had ordered ‘the assassination’ of Nkurunziza!”
One cannot count the times New Vision, Monitor, Chimpreports and all the CMI-sponsored social media accounts – like the notorious Seruga Titus Facebook page – have written totally fabricated things about the Rwandan leadership. Or about its military and other security institutions. Or about innocent Rwandans whom they indict with articles calling them “spies”, knowing very well these people have been abducted and taken with no legal procedure and will never get a chance to defend themselves in court to have their side heard.
ChimpReports in April this year ran what Kigali commentators characterised as “a particularly reckless piece even by Uganda misinformation standards”, alleging that Rwandan troops had crossed into Kisoro “to look for food and drinks”. The website had absolutely no evidence to support that claim.
Challenged repeatedly to produce even one picture showing those alleged Rwandan soldiers, Giles Muhame the website’s chief editor only kept quiet and hoped everyone would shortly stop talking about the article. Rwandan Twitteratti refused to let go however, shaming Muhame repeatedly.
All he could do was mumble incoherently, while with no shame going ahead to publish other equally virulent anti-Rwanda slanders – such as when a Kisoro lawyer died recently, assassinated by gunmen outside his house but the following morning Chimp was out with a story claiming “it was Rwandan soldiers that did it”.
To listen to Mutabazi claim he blocked Rwandan media “for promoting hate”, while presiding over a media landscape that publishes the things it does against Rwanda is beyond ridiculous!, Mwene Kalinda said. “Kampala, look at the log in your eye before commenting on the speck in your neighbors!”
Just for the enlightenment of anyone curious to know the websites or blogs and most in the business of smearing, slandering and fabricating against Rwanda, below is a list.