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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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South African serial rapist gets four life imprisonment terms

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A South African serial rapist and killer, Philani Justice Nkosi, has been sentenced to four life imprisonment terms by a Mpumalanga High Court for rape and murder.

The court also sentenced the 35-year-old to 15 years imprisonment after he was found guilty of murdering one of his victims who recognised him.

Nkosi was sentenced on Friday after the court found him guilty of one count of murder, three counts of rape and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson, Monica Nyuswa, who expressed satisfaction with the sentence, said Nkosi committed the offences between 2014 and 2018 in Bhuga Trust and Halfway Trust in KaBokweni.

“In one incident which stands out, the accused attacked a 12-year-old victim while she was on the way to the local shop. He dragged her to the nearby bush, raped and strangled her to death,” Nyuswa said.

“He also raped another woman in March 2016, stabbed and robbed her of cash.

“The accused continued with his crime spree until December 2018 when he raped an adult woman who was on her way home from work.

“The matter was reported to the police, and the accused was subsequently arrested and linked to other crimes through DNA,” Nyuswa said.

Nkosi who pleaded not guilty to the crimes, claimed the two rape survivors were prostitutes and that the deceased was his girlfriend.

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Tanzanian court sentences 11 people to death for killing South African conservationist

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A Tanzanian High Court has sentenced 11 people to death after they were found guilty of killing a South African conservationist, Wayne Lotter, who was murdered in Dar es Salaam in 2017.

The convicts include nine Tanzanians and two citizens of neighbouring Burundi.

The victim was a renowned anti-poaching activist who was singled out by the convicts for disrupting their illegal poaching activities, according to prosecutors while testifying in court on Friday.

State prosecutors told Judge Leila Mgonya that the 51-year-old Lotter who was based in Tanzania, was a founder of the PAMS Foundation, an NGO which worked to stop the poaching of elephants and trafficking of ivory in the East African country.

He was shot dead in Dar es Salaam when the taxi he was travelling in was ambushed and though the exact motive for his killing is still unknown, his colleagues believe he was singled out for his work on protecting elephants, local media reports.

While handing down the death sentences, Judge Mgonya said there was compelling evidence that linked the 11 to the two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and murder on which they were charged

“Some of the suspects, in their statements recorded by police officers, confessed to have taken part in the conspiracy meetings and in killing. The evidence provided was strong enough to convict them,” the judge said.

Tanzania is one of the worst hit African countries in terms of elephant poaching, with a data released early this year noting that more than 66,000 elephants have been lost in the last 10 years due to the activities of illegal poachers.

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