‘Forbidden Stories’: Why is Rwanda being targeted again?

On 31 May 2024 at 08:45

A group of more than 50 journalists, mostly European and from 17 media outlets, has started publishing a series of stories titled "Rwanda Classified,” aiming to tarnish Rwanda’s image just weeks before the general elections.

This initiative is orchestrated by "Forbidden Stories," a platform and website run by the Freedom Voices Network, a journalists’ association created in November 2017 by Laurent Richard and supported by Reporters Without Borders.

Often accused of being a tool used by certain entities in Western countries to destabilize various countries or individuals, Forbidden Stories might suggest exclusive revelations about Rwanda. However, the content is merely a repetition of accusations and rumours perpetuated by those harbouring malicious intentions towards the country during crucial periods.

A rehashed pamphlet of accusations

For over twenty years, Rwanda has faced unfounded accusations from some actors in the West, often for obscure reasons. These articles attempt to portray Rwanda in a way that anyone who actually lives and interacts with this country would find misleading. Rwanda has been unjustly blamed for the disorder in the DRC, criticized for its investments in tourism and its partnerships with European sports teams, accused of "sports-washing," "gender-washing," and using peacekeeping as a pressure lever, among other things.

Interestingly, the people making these accusations have not changed much over the past two decades. It is still the same group of individuals.

Key players in this campaign:

Michaela Wrong

Michaela Wrong, a British journalist who has worked for various international media outlets, is famous for her writings denigrating Rwanda since 2013, the year of Patrick Karegeya’s assassination in South Africa. Wrong has since dedicated her career to tarnishing Rwanda’s image.

Théogène Rudasingwa

A former Rwandan ambassador to the United States, Théogène Rudasingwa often appears in reports criticizing Rwanda. Having fled the country in 2004 after accusations of misconduct, including corruption, he is among the founders of the terrorist group Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and continues to disparage Rwanda. In Rwanda, he was convicted for threats against state security and faces a 24-year prison sentence.

Judi Rever

Canadian journalist Judi Rever is a regular in campaigns defaming Rwanda. In her book "In Praise of Blood," she accuses the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of participating in the Genocide against the Tutsi, whereas the international community recognizes that the RPF ended this genocide.

Byansi Samuel Baker

A young journalist, Byansi Samuel Baker had a promising start before veering into conspiracy theories permanently targeting the Rwandan government, falsely accusing it of numerous unfounded wrongs before leaving Rwanda. Since his departure, he has aligned himself with the government’s opponents.

Lewis Mudge

Africa director for Human Rights Watch, Lewis Mudge is known for his harsh and often unfounded criticisms against Rwanda. He has frequently downplayed the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and claims Rwanda is a repressive state, making it unsurprising to see him associated with this campaign.

A coordinated plan to denigrate Rwanda

What we observe in the articles and videos of Forbidden Stories is the coordination of four main groups:

Former members of genocidal governments:
Figures like Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana, widow of former President Juvénal Habyarimana and an influential member of the Akazu, a close circle of the Rwandan political elite accused of orchestrating the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. She is also suspected of playing a role in her husband’s death. Charles Ndereyehe, former director of ISAR (Rwanda Agricultural Sciences Institute) and accused of active participation in the genocide, are part of those who have long been critical voices against Rwanda.

 Disgruntled former members of the RPF: Individuals like Théogène Rudasingwa, who fled the country after accusations of corruption and other crimes.

 Descendants of genocidaires: Mainly based in Belgium, individuals like Natacha Abingeneye and Placide Kayumba continue to spread the genocide ideology. Natacha Abingeneye is affiliated with Jambo ASBL, an organization known for its genocide denial propaganda. Placide Kayumba, also an active member of Jambo ASBL, uses this platform to perpetuate genocidal ideologies. These individuals continue to propagate revisionist narratives and minimize the severity of the crimes committed during the genocide.

 Hostile NGOs: Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, often critical of Rwanda.

A litany of accusations

These repeated attacks against Rwanda have never achieved their goal. This is not the first time Rwanda has faced such attacks during pivotal periods for its future.

Attacks during the 2010 elections

In 2010, the year the country held its second presidential elections since its liberation, grenades were thrown in Kigali in February and on August 11, just two days after the elections, injuring seven people. These attacks aimed to sow chaos.

The Mapping Report

Before the 2010 elections, international media circulated negative information based on the UN report titled "Mapping Report," accusing Rwanda of probable acts of genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This report, full of inaccuracies, was largely discredited and shelved.

The 2015 referendum

During the 2015 referendum, attempts to destabilize involved local personalities and artists like Kizito Mihigo, who conspired with armed groups. In 2014, Kizito Mihigo admitted they planned to kill leaders, including the president.

The documentary "Rwanda: Untold Story"

In 2014, the documentary "Rwanda: Untold Story" claimed that the RPF was responsible for the genocide against the Tutsi, assertions that led to the banning of the BBC Kinyarwanda branch from broadcasting in Rwanda. This documentary aimed to minimize the genocide and discredit the Rwandan authorities.

The arrest of Lt Gen Karenzi Karake

In June 2015, General Emmanuel Karenzi Karake was arrested in London on unfounded accusations from a biased investigation. He was released after strong mobilization by Rwandans, showing that these destabilization attempts never succeed.

These attacks have never achieved their goal of disrupting Rwanda. The country has continued to progress, with poverty reduced from nearly 80% in 1994 to 38% today. Life expectancy has increased from 51 years to over 69 years. Kigali has become a prime destination for international conferences, and the Rwandan economy has experienced sustained growth of over 7% per year.

It is evident that these attacks have no effect on Rwanda’s determination to move forward.

All these people share a tenacious will to tarnish the image of Rwanda.