Joseph Kabuye Sebarenzi was a Tutsi who had grown up in Rwanda. Although originally a member of the RPF, he was identified more with Tutsi survivors of genocide than with those who had come from outside the country. This identification was strengthened when Sebarenzi moved from the RPF to the Liberal Party, the political group most associated with survivors of the genocide. Elected speaker of the National Assembly, Sebarenzi fought to establish some autonomy for that institution and particularly to hold government ministers accountable for alleged corruption, including powerful members of the RPF. It was apparently this commitment to good government which won Sebarenzi approval among ordinary people, Hutu as well as Tutsi.
On December 19, 1999 the Liberal Party was scheduled to elect a new president. In the face of indications that Sebarenzi would be chosen, the current president Pio Mugabo postponed the vote, supposedly at the direction of General Kagame. Had Sebarenzi been chosen, his standing would have been further heightened, thus improving his chances in the contest for the national presidency which is supposed to take place in severalyears.14
In early January, the majority of the members of the National Assembly forced Sebarenzi's resignation. Fellow politicians initially charged him with misconduct specific to his responsibilities within the Assembly, but they later accused him of broader and graver offenses, including organizing the survivors of genocide against the government, supporting the king, disseminating music cassettes by a singer named Sankara that talked of the return of the king, and encouraging soldiers to leave Rwanda purportedly to join the "army of the king". Several weeks after Sebarenzi's forced resignation, General Kagame reportedly said on Radio Rwanda that there was "credible evidence" of his association with "royalists" and his distribution of tape cassettes that were contrary to government policy. After his resignation, Sebarenzi feared assassination and fled to Uganda and then to Europe and the United States.15
Sebarenzi's departure, widely discussed out on the hills as well as in the circles of the urban elite, underlined both the increasingly important split between the RPF and survivors of genocide and the dissatisfaction of Rwandans of all ethnic groups with the current government.
SILENCING THE PRESS
Among the numerous comments about Sebarenzi's departure on the radio and in the press was a special issue of the journal Imboni, issued by its editor Deo Mushaidi, who was then also president of the Rwandan Journalists Association. To explain why he had written with such remarkable candor on this sensitive matter, Mushaidi referred to a recent statement by General Kagame calling on journalists to be daring when they worked for the interest of the country. He expressed the hope that the accusation leveled at Sebarenzi, that of belonging to the "army of the king", would not become the present-day equivalent of the label ibyitso or accomplice of the RPF, once used by the former government to attack all dissidents. He went on to discuss the flight of Rwandans from the country and Sebarenzi's supposed role in encouraging their departure. He wrote:
Everyone knows that some of the Rwandans who are afraid are taking the path of
exile. Before, it was Hutu leaders who fled and it was said that they were fleeing the
Tutsi government. And today why do the Tutsi flee their fellows? They say that
Sebarenzi helped some soldiers to flee. Who then is facilitating the flight of the
civilians? After Sebarenzi's own departure, has the number of those fleeing
diminished? And, what are they fleeing? That is the problem and it concerns us all.16
As soon as the contents of the special issue of Imboni became known, it disappeared from the market.17 Mushaidi's daring in the name of national interest, like that of fellow journalist Jason Muhayimana, aroused considerable hostility among members of an RPF task force that met to talk about it in mid-March. Following the meeting, well-informed friends advised them too to take the path of exile. Mushaidi's removal as president of the journalists association soon after reinforced the message. Mushaidi, a Tutsi who had returned from exile in Burundi, and Muhayimana, a Tutsi who had grown up inside the country, left Rwanda the first weekend inApril. Soon after Rwandan authorities reportedly issued warrants for their arrest on charges of "embezzlement."18
In early April, another journalist of Imboni, Jean-Claude Nkubito, was said to fear returning to Kigali and to have decided to stay in Nairobi where he had gone to attend a conference. Segahutu Murashi, the first owner and editor of Imboni and more recently the Rwandan ambassador to Uganda, was prevented from taking his place as a newly named member of the National Assembly while authorities looked into his role in the publication of the special issue on Sebarenzi's departure. In explaining this decision, the forum for political parties talked of the "slanderous and obscene statements that appeared in `Imboni' news magazine, smearing government and condoning the practice of defilement and rape. . . ."19
As part of their efforts to ensure favorable treatment in the press, authorities also called in two journalists who write for Rwanda Newsline. They questioned the two, Shyaka Kanuma and Ibra Asuman Bisiika, about their writings critical of General Kagame.20
A French journalist working for Agence France Presse wrote an article about divisions among the Tutsi in which he quoted Sebarenzi. He and another French journalist were then denied entry to a ceremony on April 7, 2000 commemorating the sixth anniversary of the genocide. They were told that their accreditation had been revoked and that they might have to leave the country. After protests by diplomats and other international journalists, the authorities agreed to permit the journalists to remain but warned them that their future reports on Rwanda would be closely scrutinized.21
On several other occasions, authorities have expressed disapproval of Rwandans who are thought to have delivered information critical of the government to foreigners. In some cases, they have delivered warnings privately. In another, an official criticized the Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Liberties (ADL) for having published a report on villagisation that might lead to foreign criticism of the program. In another case, the authorities briefly detained a Rwandan in February, 2000 for having sent an electronic mail message outside the country which contained information critical of the authorities.2214 Human Rights Watch interviews, Kigali, February 11, 2000; by telephone, March 27, 2000. 15 Human Rights Watch interviews, by telephone, March 27 and April 16, 2000; IRIN Central Africa News, March 6, 2000. 16 Deo Mushaidi, "Ou Nous Conduisent-ils le renversement et l'Exil de Sebarenzi?" Imboni, Special number, February 2000, pp. 2-3. 17 Human Rights Watch interview, February 29, 2000. 18 Human Rights Watch interview, by telephone, April 3, 2000. 19 British Broadcasting Corporation, quoting the April 3 report of the Rwandan news agency, RNA, April 5, 2000. 20 Ibid. 21 Human Rights Watch interviews, by telephone, April 10, 2000. 22 Human Rights Watch interviews, by telephone, March 10 and April 12, 2000.