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Rwanda YouTuber, Dieudonné Niyonsenga, loses appeal for breaching COVID-19 protocol, risks 7-year jail term



Popular Rwandan YouTuber, Dieudonné Niyonsenga has had his appeal turned down, a seven-year jail sentence slammed on him by a High Court in November 2021 on charges of assault, obstructing police officers, and practicing journalism without a press card.

Niyonsenga’s problems date back to 15 April 2020, when he was arrested while on his way to cover the impact of the government’s coronavirus lockdown, and was charged with contravening the lockdown and showing false press cards to the police.

Niyonsenga is the proprietor and a reporter for Ishema TV, a YouTube channel that gives reportage on a wide variety of issues like local politics, culture, and human rights.

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau, in charge of criminal investigations, on April 15, 2020, took to Twitter to announce the arrest of the popular YouTuber and a driver of Ishema TV, Fidele Komezusenge, for allegedly breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules.

The bureau claimed the YouTuber resisted orders from officials to go home, arguing that he was a journalist and is permitted movement during the lockdown. He was also accused of forging press cards.

Prosecutors alleged that Niyonsenga had forged press cards for himself and Komezusenge, saying that only the Rwanda Media Commission could issue such cards, according to the court documents and the person who spoke with CPJ. The crime of forgery carries a prison term of up to seven years under Rwanda’s 2018 criminal code.

Prosecutors also alleged that because he did not have an accreditation from the RMC, Niyonsenga was impersonating a journalist, according to the person who spoke to CPJ and the court documents. Prosecutors also accused Komezusenge of impersonation, saying he did not have journalistic qualifications or RMC accreditation, according to the court documents.

Niyonsenga and Komezusenge pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their defence argued that Rwandan law permitted citizens to establish websites to disseminate information; that Ishema TV was properly registered; that Niyonsenga had a right to issue company ID cards; and that accreditation by the RMC did not have journalistic status to anyone.

Both were remanded for the duration of their trial, according to media reports. On March 12, 2021, the Gasabo Intermediate Court in Kigali acquitted them both, and they were released on March 13, according to Niyonsenga’s lawyer.

However, prosecutors appealed Niyonsenga’s acquittal, and on November 11, 2021, the High Court in Kigali convicted him of forgery, impersonation and humiliating state officials, according to media reports.

Niyonsenga was fined 5 million Rwandan Francs (US$4,900) by the court and was sentenced to seven years in prison, the maximum prison term for forgery, according to media reports. Shortly after the court’s ruling, police detained Niyonsenga from his home in Kigali, according to the journalist’s Twitter posts and media reports.

The journalist had posted videos that indicted soldiers of severe abuses against poor persons during the coronavirus lockdown.

The YouTuber and his lawyer were absent in court. His father was present in court as the ruling that upheld the sentence was made, even though no new evidence was made.

Human Rights Watch has accused Rwanda earlier in the week of censoring freedom of speech and demanded the immediate release of Niyonsenga and other bloggers, activists, and journalists.

However, the government has issued a statement dismissing the concerns raised by the rights group, saying everyone was equal before the law.


Zambia signs creditor agreement deal with China, India to resolve debt crisis



President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia has announced the signing of an official creditor agreement with China and India that will help resolve the country’s debt crisis.

Hichilema, who made the announcement on Saturday, said the agreement would also help pave the way for the country to negotiate with private creditors.

Before signing the agreement, Zambia had struggled to revive its debt restructuring process after a deal to rework $3 billion Eurobonds was rejected by its official creditors, with international media reporting that China and other creditors did not believe that it offered comparable debt relief to that of bondholders.

Earlier on Friday, Minister of Finance, Situmbeko Musokotwane, had assured that the government was trying to clarify the meaning of a “comparable treatment” with bondholders.

However, while addressing a gathering during the Nc’wala ceremony of the Ngoni speaking people of Eastern Province, President Hichilema confirmed the signing of the agreement with the two Asian nations.

“On the official creditors’ side, the last two countries that had not signed, China and India, have now signed,” Hichilema said.

The President added that Zambia was now turning to the private creditors in a bid to address the debt issue because the had defaulted on its foreign debts in November 2020 and that its restructuring had been beset by delays.

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Four of 10 Nigerians indebted to loan sharks— Report



A report from a research carried out by Nigerian fintech platform, Piggy Vest, has revealed that four out of 10 Nigerians are indebted to online loan sharks and are finding it difficult to come out of such debts.

The report noted that 26 per cent of average Nigerians were indebted to different loan apps spread across the country which is as a result of the harsh economic challenges brought about by different unfavourable government policies.

The report which was discussed at a Finance Roundtable in Lagos on Saturday by co-founder and COO of PiggyVest, Odun Eweniyi, lamented the widening wealth divide among Nigerians, saying it was inimical to economic growth as a vast majority of Nigerians live below the poverty line.

According to Eweniyi, the report ‘captures the attitude of different demographics in the country viz- a-viz their savings and spending habits, debt management, and future financial plans.’

As a panacea to solving the problems of indebtedness, Eweniyi advocated ‘savings before spending in order to avoid running into debt,’ adding that the option of savings was still elusive to Nigerians who live below the poverty line of $2 per day dollars per day.

“We must also know that while innovation is key, it cannot go far without social interventions for the people.”

She urged the government to focus on Nigerians at the bottom of the pyramid in its conversation as well as simplify access to public credit facilities to improve income status of average Nigerians.

“This is why government must as much as possible explore collaboration with private sector to improve the living conditions of Nigerians and also drive financial literacy and inclusion,” Eweniyi emphasized.

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