Rwanda Classified Investigation: Uncovering the Unspoken Details of John Williams Ntwali’s Death

John Williams Ntwali

On May 28, 2024, Forbidden Stories, in collaboration with 17 media outlets, began publishing a series of investigations called Rwanda Classified. This remarkable journalistic endeavor involved more than 50 journalists from around the world, aiming to continue the work of Rwandan investigative journalist John Williams Ntwali, who was assassinated in Kigali in January 2023. The Rwandan government’s security agencies had described his death as a traffic accident.

This article does not seek to criticize this invaluable work, but rather to highlight that Rwanda Classified did not delve deeply into the direct causes of our colleague John Williams Ntwali’s assassination. At least, not all the information obtained by those who worked on Rwanda Classified has been published. Is there another investigation into the death of John Williams Ntwali, or will the ongoing investigation continue?

The Hell on Earth: Ntwali’s Life Before His Assassination

John Williams Ntwali was a freelancer for our newspaper for over seven years until his brutal death. We were well aware of his work, especially the investigations he conducted for us and other media or organizations. John Williams Ntwali was a good investigative journalist. He contributed to several of our investigations, including the case of the elderly Appolinaire Hitimana from Muhanga, whose photo was unjustly displayed at the Gisozi memorial as a demonstration of a genocidaire with a machete. Malicious people tried to claim the photo was that of businessman Ramadhan Muhire, who lives in Zimbabwe.

Ntwali had been threatened multiple times by various Rwandan government security agencies. He was constantly followed, marginalized, and harassed by supporters of the Rwandan regime, even on social media, particularly by his journalist colleagues who were members of the ruling party.

Ntwali confided to us that it felt like he was living in hell. Several members of the Rwandan security services had clearly warned him that there would be no prison for him. One day, one of them told him, “We are going to kill you! How many days do you think the world will talk about your death? You saw with Kizito, it took just a month for people to forget him and start talking about something else.”

Another day, a member of the intelligence services told him, “You think you are smart! You think you can continue to talk badly about our country with impunity? You behave like someone who has nothing to lose. You have already crossed the red line; there will be no mercy for you next time. If I were you, I would avoid using moto-taxis; we are going to run you over one day.”

The Fatal Investigation

Towards the end of 2022, Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu, an environmental specialist and owner of a popular bar in Kigali, died in what was initially portrayed as a traffic accident. However, Dr. Twagiramungu’s family contested this version. According to John Williams, who investigated the case thoroughly, the so-called traffic accident was just a cover. In reality, Dr. Fabien had been killed in a plot organized by his close friends.

Even though there was a trial for Yves Kamuronsi, who was accused of involuntary manslaughter and hit-and-run, the case was more complex. Besides Yves Kamuronsi, Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu was killed in a plot organized by his supposed friends: Me Raphael Ngarambe, his former associate in the Bar “2 Shots Club”, Egide Nkuranga, former President of IBUKA and one of the candidates for the ruling RPF-Inkotanyi party in the upcoming July legislative elections, and Sakindi Eugène, also known as Yongwe, a former soldier involved in the massacres of civilians in 1994, brother-in-law of General Fred Ibingira and cousin of General Willy Rwagasana, the head of the presidential guard.

Dr. Twagiramungu’s family did not give up because they were suspicious of the behavior of Dr. Twagiramungu’s aforementioned friends. According to them, Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu had been assassinated because he had joined the opposition. This strategy aimed to dissuade the family from pursuing legal action.

Since Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu was a member of the ruling RPF-Inkotanyi party, the case was brought to the party’s secretariat. Due to the involvement of influential people, the former Secretary General of the RPF, Francois Ngarambe, advised Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu’s family to keep quiet and “wash their dirty laundry in private.”

Despite this, Dr. Twagiramungu’s family continued to pursue legal action, which led to a conviction of Yves Kamuronsi with a minimal sentence, given that the prosecutor in this case was Francoise Mushimiyimana, Egide Nkuranga’s wife, who was involved in Dr. Twagiramungu’s assassination.

The people involved in Dr. Twagiramungu’s assassination did not stop there. As the case began to receive media attention, they did everything to ensure that no Rwandan journalist, at least within the country, dared to talk about the case.

John Williams had begun investigating the case and had obtained incriminating information. According to eyewitnesses, Dr. Twagiramungu was hit by a car driven by Yves Kamuronsi. Sakindi Eugène, who had been hiding near the accident site, emerged to finish off Dr. Twagiramungu with a hammer. There were witnesses and even surveillance camera footage that mysteriously disappeared and were not presented during Kamuronsi’s trial.

The weekend before his death, John Williams Ntwali had contacted us to share his findings. He had been updating us throughout his investigation and had promised to write a detailed article and publish it anonymously for his safety, given the profile of the people involved. He had also reached out to a YouTube channel operating outside the country, believing the story needed to be widely disseminated.

Unfortunately, a few days later, we learned of John Williams Ntwali’s death, which authorities claimed was due to a traffic accident. Curiously, it took the police several hours to identify his body, even though he was a well-known journalist constantly monitored by various security services. Moreover, Ntwali always carried his press card. According to the police, the accident occurred around 3:00 AM. Ntwali’s family reported that he had been unreachable since 8:30 PM. What happened in the meantime?

The trial of the person who allegedly hit Ntwali’s motorcycle took place in near secrecy. It was one of the quickest trials in Rwandan judicial history. The accused received a minimal sentence and was immediately released. The opaque nature of the trial raises questions about whether the seemingly superficial handling of the case was intended to conceal something.

Continued Intimidation

After Ntwali’s death, those involved in Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu’s assassination and likely in Ntwali’s murder continued to intimidate Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu’s family. The latest maneuvers included paying two Rwandan journalists to spread false information to defame Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu’s wife and Me Pierre Célestin Buhuru, the family’s lawyer. Money was given to Théogène Manirakiza, who works for the Ukwezi newspaper, and Jean Paul Kayitare, known for propaganda activities and targeting government critics. After publishing their stories, Me Buhuru and Dr. Twagiramungu’s family attempted to contact the journalists. Théogene Manirakiza admitted to being deceived and apologized, while Jean Paul Kayitare, who claimed to work with the government to defame critics, faced legal action and was given a suspended two-year sentence.

In conclusion, despite John Williams Ntwali working on numerous in-depth stories that caused him problems with Rwandan authorities and security agencies, and being frequently warned that he would be killed, we firmly believe that his investigation into Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu’s death expedited his murder.

Therefore, we do not doubt that if an independent and thorough investigation were conducted, it would reveal without a doubt what led to the death of our colleague, John Williams Ntwali.