By Erasme Rugemintwaza
John Williams Ntwali was chief Editor of the newspaper “The Chronicles”. His death announcement has raised concerns from every corner of the world such as his fellow journalist associations, human right organizations and public as they are requesting Rwandan police for further investigations on his death. Meanwhile, Rwandan Police reported that his death was caused by a road accident.
Who was John Williams Ntwali?
Late John Williams Ntwali was an internationally renowned Rwandan investigative journalist. At 43, he was a celebrated journalist, an undeniable career as a journalist and editor-in-chief of three newspapers that were very critical of the Kigali regime.
At the time of his death, he had just spent two years as New Editor-in-Chief of the online newspaper “The Chronicles” replacing Doctor Kayumba Christopher, incarcerated for political reasons but officially he was incarcerated on sexual abuse related charges.
Additionally, John Williams Ntwali had the two other media which he was Editor-in-Chief.
John William became very famous as result of his YouTube channel called Pax TV: the Voice of the Voiceless. His produced various reports demonstrating various cases of abuse of power by various level of Paul Kagame’s regime. His reporting included critical articles, relating to the very precarious conditions of detention in Rwandan prisons, especially for journalists including Hassan Cyuma Niyonsenga Dieudonné.
John Williams Ntwali also worked for several local newspapers including City Radio and Igihe.com, which he left to begin his vocation as an investigative journalist which unfortunately led to his death.
Notably, he worked tirelessly on the controversial expropriation of the shanty town of the capital Kigali called Bannyahe or Kangondo, an excessively muscular action by the security organs accompanied by several abuses and violations of human rights including various raping of women.
Recently John Williams Ntwali raised awareness about the issues of students who spent whole night in bus stations due to poor transport coordination on day they supposed to go back-to-school .It is a situation that exposed young adolescent girls to the risk of various sexual abuses. This same transport problem has, another facet, worse than the latter: the theft of colossal sums of money collected in the auctions of vehicles, particularly motorcycles from people who were unable to pay fines for violations. On his twitter account, Ntwali John Williams addressed his excellent President Paul Kagame on 11/01/2023 asking the accountability of the money that remains from these auctions since it was not given to the faulty owners.
Always critical, Ntwali John Williams raised crucial issues of the socio-political management of the country such as the state interference in religious denominations and even the resignations of authorities. In his editorial line of being the voice of the voiceless, Ntwali John Williams, whether on his channel Pax TV-Ireme News and on his written version on Ireme News was not silent in the face of high risk situations.
The report on the violence of the bosses of the security organs made to Mrs. Yvonne Gisèle Umugwaneza shocked the public. According to the report, Yvonne Gisèle Umugwaneza was beaten to death, and she is currently nearly deaf and wears in-the-ear hearing aids.
In one of his last reports, John Williams always pointed the finger at the security organs, including the National Police, the RIB (Rwanda Investigation Bureau), as well as the NISS (National Intelligence Security Service), on the kidnapping of two teachers from the Muramba School Group in Gakenke District in the North Province, Dusabimana Eugène and Nkorerimana Fabrice.
These two teachers have been missing since 01/03/2022 until the day of the report, 06/01/2023 and even now on 22/01/2023 the day of the burial.
This case is pheasant retaliation to the circulation on the web of the speech of one of the member of parliament of the Rwandan Patriotic Front called Ms.Murebwayire Christine who condemned the Journalist Hassan Cyuma to die in prison. The short video of this insane speech made by the same MP Murebwayire Christine went viral on social media and the upstart Deputy would have been frowned upon in the upper echelons hence this kidnapping.
Ntwali, as a good investigative journalist, was fearless in tackling subjects that had become taboo for the Rwandan press. Thus, by his intervention, this can be described as reckless. He went ahead and rendered in a way justice to Apollinaire Hitimana of the District of Muhanga, Southern Province, whose photo is in the Kigali Genocide Memorial as a genocidaire. With the help of several national and international journalists, including Théoneste Nsengimana and others from the BBC and AFP, Mr. Apollinaire Hitimana was able to speak without frustration; the truth was revealed to prove his innocence. It was the same case for Muhire Ramadhan who lives in Zimbabwe and who, through the pleading of John Williams Ntwali, was acquitted of the crimes of Genocide. Furthermore, he reported on Rwigara Assinapol’s case, those of journalists kidnapped by security organs, the trials and interviews with opposition politicians such as Ingabire Victoire, Frank Habineza, Bernard Ntaganda, and Dr Christopher Kayumba. John Williams Ntwali was clearly dedicated to “Justice, Human Rights, and Advocacy” of the voiceless.
For critical subjects, John Williams Ntwali was the only journalist who spoke with major international newspapers. We will remember his collaboration with Al Jazeera Television in the Bannyahe / Kangondo saga that we mentioned above. John Williams Ntwali did not mince his words to demonstrate that in Rwanda the press is muzzled.
The last days of Ntwali
Even though all the cases handled by John Williams Ntwali were very crucial and required strong commitment, the case of the death of Doctor Fabien Twagiramungu which he was still investigating on, could be the one that costed him his life as their death were similar (road accident).
First, the judgmental analysis of the murderer of Doctor Fabien Twagiramungu, a driver named Kamuronsi Yves, intrigues the public. From the crime scene, which ranges from homicide to the non-assistance of the person in danger to the judgment of a two-year suspended prison sentence. Everything has fueled suspicions of a conspiracy. Not only Yves Kamuronsi killed Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu, but also he committed another serious offense of absconding after the so-called accident, because he wanted the crime to be perfect. Fortunately, there were bikers who saw him and chased him as he fled and alerted the police. However, Yves Kamuronsi and Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu knew each other well. The facts also show that Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu did not die on the spot, instead of being saved; he was rather finished off by a certain Eugène Sakindi a.k.a Yongwe who was part of the plot.
The misfortune of John Williams Ntwali, of course a straw that broke the camel’s back, is to have made an analysis that anyone who loves justice can make and publish it. Wondering how someone kills a person to be somehow exonerated is quite normal. The lively questions focused mainly on the attitude of the prosecution which, instead of charging Yves Kamuronsi, became like a witness for the defense. John Williams Ntwali wondered like any citizen what is behind this iniquitous judgment for him. It was then that he threw himself at his own risk into the intricacies of the intrigue behind the death of Dr. Fabien Twagiramungu. Ntwali John Williams was afraid of what he discovered and the realities that was behind the death of Dr Fabien Twagiramungu. Afterwards, he decided to tell some of his friends that he had just discovered the real assassins of Dr Fabien Twagiramungu. Ntwali trembled with fear and was looking for a person abroad to whom he could entrust the publication of the testimony of the horrible and despicable assassination of Dr Fabien Twagiramungu.
Rwandan media landscape
Since the conquest of power in Rwanda by the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), Rwanda has been ruled with an iron fist by Paul Kagame. It is often criticized by human rights groups for its crackdown on free speech. The country is ranked 136th out of 180 countries for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “Since 1996, eight journalists have been killed or were missing, and 35 have been forced into exile,” writes RSF in particular on its website.
Over the past ten years, independent media have become rare, blocked by the government. Anjan Sundaram, who has lived in Rwanda and written about the Great Lakes country’s shrinking space for freedom in the media, said ‘Ntwali’ was a target. “He was on a blacklist of Rwandan journalists critical of the government,” Anjan Sundaram said on Twitter.
Precisely a blacklist of Rwandan journalists critical of the RPF regime exists. And apparently, after the warning of the journalist Agnès Nkusi Uwimana, John Williams Ntwali remained alone on a ground which abounds with pro-government newspapers which openly took him for the enemy of the Country. These pro-government, propaganda newspapers did not hold back when they speak of John Williams Ntwali by treating him with all the names of birds.
On the blacklist, certainly drawn up by one of these executives of the Kigali regime who are responsible for sowing terror, Ntwali John William was the last on the list Except precisely Agnes Nkusi Uwimana, the others are put out of harm’s way, they are:
1. Yvonne Idamange (in prison);
2. Amiable Karasira (in prison);
3. Nsengimana Théoneste (in prison);
4. Abdoul Rachid Hakizimana (in Prison)
5. Cyuma Hassan Dieudonné (in prison)
6. Nkusi Agnes (cautioned)
7. Ntwali John Williams (murdered).
Furthermore, Rwanda is increasingly cited in reports highlighting various human rights violations. In Geneva, the Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights was recently held (OHCHR | Universal Periodic Review) Rwanda was once again criticised Often cited as an example for its economic development, Rwanda is nevertheless forced to respond to enforced disappearances, the muzzling of the media or freedom of expression.
With the death of John Williams Ntwali, the camp of committed journalists becomes almost empty. But what gives much more thought is the attitude of other journalists, many of whom are silent on the fate of their colleague, or some take pleasure in condemning him like some who justify the death of their colleague. At his funeral, despite the presence of journalists from Rwanda Media Council (RMC), nothing has yet been said in the media. Only the President of RMC, Cléophas BARORE indirectly said, at the microphone of Bagiruwubusa Eric of the VOA, that “we should have done the post-mortem to put an end to the verbiage and clarify everything. But it was too late, because the body that should undergo this test had just been swallowed up in the bowels of the earth”. Cléophas BARORE hesitantly, seems to be asking journalists to be quiet.
However, a journalist, Elysée BYIRINGIRO of Journal INDATWA dared to speak. He praised the genius of John Williams Ntwali who he said was a model article editor. The fear that hovered in the burial ceremonies showed that there was something terrible in Ntwali’s death. Among the politicians who attended his funeral, we noticed Ingabire Victoire, Ntaganda Bernard who said, trembling, that tomorrow or the day after tomorrow it will be his turn, while asking the Rwandan police to carry out an investigation and publish it as soon as possible. There was also a member of Parliament Frank Habineza, President of the Democratic Green Party.
According to a police spokesperson, quoted in local media, John Williams Ntwali died on the night of January 17 to 18, 2023 after an accident of a motorcycle and a car, in the capital of Kigali. As the passenger on the motorbike, the journalist is believed to have died instantly, and the driver of the vehicle was arrested immediately and taken into custody. But there are many reasons to be questioned on that traffic accident.
“Why wait two days to announce the death of someone who died in an accident in the city of Kigali? Why wait two days before announcing to the family that he is dead? And also, I must say that this is not the first time that someone very critical has died in a road accident in Rwanda,” said Lewis Mudge of Human Rights Watch. Thus, in a press release, Lewis Mudge, affirms that there are “many reasons to question the theory of a car accident”. It calls for a “rapid and effective investigation based on international expertise”. The car crash theory could be questioned for many reasons, and it is essential that a quick and effective investigation, drawing on international expertise, is carried out to determine whether or not he was murdered.
In an interview with France 24, Sadobou Marong, director of the West Africa office of Reporters without Borders (RSF), he called the Rwandan authorities to carry out an investigation and publish it as soon as possible
In Rwanda, as elsewhere in Africa, it is not uncommon to see or hear journalists disappear or die in mysterious circumstances like those of Ntwali John Williams. In Rwanda, there are reserved taboo subjects, and a red line that should not be crossed if you do not want to be put on the blacklist of black beasts that must be slaughtered.
Paul Kagame’s regime has muzzled the media but worse still, it physically eliminates those who dare to speak out. Jail or death for journalists and other critics is a widely recognized reality under Paul Kagame’s regime. You can find yourself in prison for reporting on seemingly innocent (but yet very important) subjects such as growing poverty and the eviction of vulnerable populations from poor neighborhoods in the capital, Kigali. But John William Ntwali, had chosen commitment. And for him, death was nothing, to look at injustice, the violation of human rights and to be silent was to die forever.
If we deeply analyze the murder of Dr Fabien Twagiramungu and that of John Williams Ntwali, we would wonder if the murderers of these two people would not be the same, especially since not only is the modus operandi the same (the accidents of road) but especially that Ntwali had discovered the assassin of Dr Fabien Twagiramungu? So, killing Ntwali would be the way to hide the evidence and cover up he had discovered.
May Ntwali John Williams rest in peace!