Rwanda: activists and journalists call on Rwandan authorities to investigate the death of journalist Ntwali

Rwanda: activists and journalists call on Rwandan authorities to investigate the death of journalist Ntwali

This Thursday evening, activists and journalists gathered at Baraza Media Lab, in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, in a vigil in memory of Rwandan journalist John Williams Ntwali, who died in a road accident, according to a Rwandan police report. They asked the Rwandan authorities to investigate the circumstances of his death and to allow foreign investigators to travel to Rwanda to help with the investigations. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

It is the “International press association of East Africa” ​​which organized the vigil. Friends, journalists and activists who knew Ntwali or collaborated with him or even people who did not know him at all before his death, paid tribute to a brave man, a balanced journalist – a hero, which is the meaning of his name Ntwali. All the speakers talked about the respect for the rights of the profession of journalist, speaking of a profession threatened in the East African region.

“A country like Rwanda which recovered after the genocide against the Tutsis but which violates the rights of journalists would become like a very beautiful house without a door”, described a speaker.

“It is very tragic that Rwanda has lost one of its sons in such mysterious circumstances. This is why at Amnesty we are calling for a prompt and effective investigation into the cause of his death and that there also be a prosecution if it turns out that there are perpetrators,” said Irungu Houghton, executive director at Amnesty International Kenya.

For Mr. Irungu “it is very important at a time like this for the leadership of Rwanda to assure the public and journalists in particular that being a journalist is not worth death, that being an investigative journalist is not a reason to lose one’s life”.

The authorities in Rwanda should make sure that the police and justice services work hard until the world knows what happened to John Williams Ntwali, believes Irungu Houghton.

Muthoki Mumo is the representative of CPJ (Committte to protect journalists) in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. She believes that foreign investigators should be accepted by Rwanda to help local services shed light on the death of our colleague. The Rwandan police informed that he died of a road accident. Muthoki has some doubts.

“Are there images of the accident at the moment? Who has been arrested? Was there an autopsy of his body to perhaps determine the direct cause of his death? The nature of the investigations can be strengthened by inviting foreign investigators for example from the United Nations or the African Union, people who have expertise in unlawful killings, extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.They should be there, accompany and say if the first steps, responses were credible and transparent when we learned what happened to Ntwali,” she said.

For the executive director at Amnesty Kenya, it would be very important for President Paul Kagame to speak out on the death of journalist Ntwali.

“It is time for President Kagame to speak out on this case, for the simple reason that it would restore confidence and remove the mystery around the circumstances of his death. A few weeks after the death of an anti-corruption journalist from Cameroon, Martinez Zogo, President Paul Biay spoke out on this matter and urged that there be a prompt investigation. I think President Kagame could do the same,” he said.

Irungu Houghton speaks of a contradictory situation.

“If we think of Rwanda, one of President Kagame’s greatest legacies will have been the fight against corruption. Why would he muzzle the press and human rights defenders when they are essentially there to protect the public interests when people start flouting common interests for their own gain,” he added.

Muthoki Mumo insists and explains why investigations are necessary in the Ntwali case.

“[….], here we have a journalist who has spoken about threats against him on several occasions, who even said he survived staged accidents, and now he has just died in a way that he had somehow predicted. We must ask questions and those questions must be answered. The doubt that this man who said he was repeatedly threatened for his profession, was killed for his work, must be lifted. We need nothing else except transparency, more information”, she said before concluding that “the Rwandan government has the responsibility to do this”.

John Williams Ntwali died in a road accident on January 18, according to a Rwandan police report. On January 31, 90 human rights organizations and journalists issued a joint statement calling for an independent investigation into the circumstances of his death.

The Rwandan authorities have not yet reacted to this request.

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