John Williams Ntwali, just one of Rwanda’s very last impartial journalists, dies in mysterious accident

Undated handout image of Rwandan journalist John Williams Ntwali. Ntwali, who started a YouTube channel where by he and other folks on a regular basis posted reports on the arrest or disappearance of journalists and dissidents, and other human-rights abuses, died in Kigali on Jan. 17.Handout

For several years, John Williams Ntwali realized he could die. He usually instructed men and women about loss of life threats he was getting. As just one of Rwanda’s previous unbiased journalists, he endured years of ominous warnings, arrests and imprisonment.

This week, soon just after reporting on the modern disappearances of other Rwandans who experienced operate afoul of the authorities, Mr. Ntwali himself disappeared. Two days afterwards, his household and colleagues acquired that he experienced died beneath mysterious conditions.

Rwandan police say that Mr. Ntwali was killed in a late-evening motorcycle accident in Kigali, the funds, on Tuesday night. Human-legal rights advocates and media-flexibility teams are skeptical of the formal rationalization and are calling for a entire investigation.

“Ntwali has formerly spoken about the grave threats that he faced for his protection of human-rights violations in Rwanda, a nation where by critics of the federal government frequently discover them selves behind bars, pressured into exile, disappeared or lifeless,” said Angela Quintal, Africa system co-ordinator at the Committee to Guard Journalists (CPJ).

“Given this heritage and context, it is very important that Rwandan authorities supply a transparent, thorough and credible accounting of the instances that led to his death,” she mentioned in a assertion on Friday. “Ntwali will be remembered for his independence and fierce journalistic courage.”

A friend of Mr. Ntwali’s family told The Globe and Mail that the journalist was summoned to a Rwandan law enforcement station early this week and was not seen immediately after that. The pal, who is not getting determined by The Globe mainly because of potential pitfalls to his daily life, mentioned the law enforcement explanation lacked believability since it claimed, for illustration, that Mr. Ntwali was not carrying any identification at the time of his loss of life – an implausible condition for a journalist in a tightly managed authoritarian point out.

The transient police statement, printed in point out-controlled newspaper The New Occasions, explained the vehicles in the accident were being rushing and a driver was arrested, but did not demonstrate if there ended up any other accidents or survivors.

Mr. Ntwali was arrested and jailed various moments in his career. In 2021, he launched a YouTube channel wherever he and many others routinely posted reviews on the arrest or disappearance of journalists and dissidents, their trials and prison circumstances, the torture they endured and other human-legal rights abuses these as land evictions. Considering the fact that then, many YouTube broadcasters have been arrested and some sentenced to prison.

According to the CPJ, the selection of jailed journalists in Rwanda is the fourth-optimum in Africa.

Many YouTube broadcasters, which includes Mr. Ntwali, said the Rwandan authorities warned them to expect even worse persecution after the conclude of the Commonwealth Heads of Govt Meeting (CHOGM), which took location in Rwanda very last June. Canadian Primary Minister Justin Trudeau was among the quite a few Commonwealth leaders who attended the summit and shook palms with Rwanda’s prolonged-ruling president, Paul Kagame.

“I’m explained to that immediately after CHOGM, they won’t participate in around with us any additional,” Mr. Ntwali informed Human Legal rights Check out (HRW) past June. Stability officials usually phoned him and visited his household, he claimed, and one formal informed him: “If you really don’t adjust your tone, immediately after CHOGM, you’ll see what takes place to you.”

He later told a buddy that he had survived a quantity of “staged mishaps,” an HRW assertion explained.

“I’m targeted on justice, human rights and advocacy, and I know all individuals a few areas are risky right here in Rwanda, but I’m dedicated,” Mr. Ntwali instructed Al Jazeera previous June.

“Those who consider to discuss out, they are jailed – harassed, intimidated or jailed. 2nd, pressured to flee the country. A few, some of them vanish in slim air – or even they die.”

Rwanda, as the most up-to-date host of the summit, has been the chair of the Commonwealth because past June.

“It is an embarrassment for the Commonwealth, and a problematic information about its values, that the nation that presides in excess of it is a area exactly where the suspicious deaths of journalists and activists can be swept underneath the carpet,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights View.

“John Williams Ntwali was a lifeline for quite a few victims of human-rights violations and normally the only journalist who dared report on problems of political persecution and repression. There are a lot of causes to dilemma the concept of a highway accident, and a prompt, productive investigation, drawing on worldwide abilities, is important to determine no matter whether he was murdered.”

Nicole Lewis

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