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

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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.

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Metro

‘Stop complaining, you’re not the only ones facing poverty,’ Tinubu tells Nigerians

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President Bola Tinubu has told Nigerians to stop complaining as they are not the only ones facing poverty and hardship in the world.

Tinubu, who gave the charge when he received a delegation from the National Assembly led by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, alongside the Deputy Senate President, Jibrin Barau, and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu, who came to felicitate with him on the occasion of Eid-el-Kabir in Lagos, said though there was poverty and suffering in the country, the challenges would not be tackled by complaining.

According to a statement on Tuesday by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Ajuri Ngelale, the President said one of the ways of tackling the myriad of challenges in Nigeria is to eliminate banditry and terrorism so that farmers can return to the farm.

According to the President, it is imperative for Nigerians to have a change of value system for the nation to make progress.

“Yes, there is poverty; there is suffering in the land. We are not the only people facing such, but we must face our challenges,” Tinubu said.

“We must find a way to eliminate banditry and terrorism so that farmers can bring out food from the farmland.

“If you do not have good roads to bring the food to the population, even if you grow the food and you are losing 60-70 per cent to damages, you will pay the price,” the President added.

He also challenged Nigerians to have a change of mindset about the country if the nation is to overcome its current challenges.

“The need for some citizens to change the rent-seeking mindset and become more productive to the economy is a challenge. The need to stop smuggling and all economic sabotage.

“Why should we have people removing rail tracks and all that, stealing electric cables and sabotaging the economy?

“We must embrace the campaign to change our value system. We must tell our people that the challenge we face is for all of us to change our mindset about our country.

“It is daunting, but we cannot run away from the fact that this country must survive the hardship,” Tinubu stressed.

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Zambian Police bar political party leaders from attending church services

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The political crisis in Zambia took a new disturbing dimension on Sunday when heavily armed Police Officers stopped Presidents of political parties under the United Kwacha Alliance (UKA) coalition from attending various church services in the Copperbelt region.

Those affected, according to Zambian Monitor, include ex-president, Edgar Lungu, and New Heritage Party (NHP) president, Chishala Kateka, who were blocked from attending a designated church service where they had been initially invited but later managed to sneak into a Catholic Church.

Others affected by the police action were Presidents of Christian Democratic Party, Dan Pule, and National Congress Party leader, Peter Chanda, who were scheduled to worship at Christ the King Church in Kitwe but were turned away by police officers who escorted them out of Kitwe.

However, the UKA Chairperson, Sakwiba Sikota, and Zambia Republican Party leader, Wright Musoma, managed to escape the police dragnet and worshiped at Disciples Fellowship Ministries International (DFMI) in Ndola.

Citizens First President, Harry Kalaba, was in Chingola at St Peters and Paul’s Parish when alleged armed UPND cadres surrounded the parish.

Kalaba was later seen in a social media video being whisked away through the backdoor of the church, leaving behind his vehicles, and went to BIGOCA in Lulamba where the UPND cadres followed him again.

Speaking on the situation, Kalaba told journalists:

“In President Hakainde Hichilema’s regime, the Police have been summoning and arresting clergy critical of his government including disrupting meetings between priests and opposition political figures.”

UKA Chairperson for Communications, Jackson Silavwe, said it was worth noting that President Hichilema had never attended and officiated at the National Day of Prayer and Fasting with his UPND senior officials and members calling it a “useless” day when in the opposition.

“It is therefore, not surprising that the Zambia Police under President Hichilema’s government are showing the same gross contempt towards the clergy and churches who associate with critical voices,” he said.

Silavwe alleged that the heavy handedness by the Zambia Police of this magnitude towards clergy and the church had never been seen before in the history of Zambia, claiming Hichilema had once again scored another ‘first’ under his administration.

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