Thursday, September 30, a Rwandan court sentenced to fifteen years in prison a YouTuber critic of the power of President Paul Kagame. Yvonne Idamange, 42 years old and mother of four children, was not present at the Kigali court when the verdict was read, declaring her guilty on six counts, in particular “incitement to violence and insurrection”, “denigration of the memorials of genocide ”,“ spreading rumors ”and“ aggression ”.
He was accused of having, on his YouTube channel, accused President Kagame and his government of having set up a dictatorship, of instrumentalizing the 1994 genocide without sufficiently helping the survivors and of having transformed the memorials. of genocide in tourist attractions. She was also accused of hitting and injuring a police officer during her arrest.
Yvonne Idamange, whose YouTube channel has 18,900 subscribers and whose videos are viewed on average 100,000 times, presents herself as a survivor of the genocide which, according to the UN, killed more than 800,000 in 1994 in Rwanda, mainly within the Tutsi minority.
“The fire will burn them”
In addition to a fifteen-year prison sentence, she was fined the equivalent of $ 2,000 (approximately € 1,725). The prosecution required thirty years in prison and the equivalent of a $ 6,000 fine. Yvonne Idamange boycotted the hearings since the court – which she accused of bias – had rejected her request to broadcast her trial online.
Rwanda, ruled with an iron fist by Paul Kagame since the end of the 1994 genocide, is regularly criticized for its attacks on freedom of expression and its repression of the opposition. Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern in March about increasing arrests or prosecutions of those criticizing Rwandan authorities on the internet.
According to the NGO, at least eight people commenting online on public affairs – including the impact of anti-Covid-19 measures on the poorest – were threatened, arrested or prosecuted in 2020. She recalled threats made in 2019 by Paul Kagame against those criticizing him online: “Those you hear talking about on the Internet, they are either in America, South Africa or France. And think they are safe. They are far away, but they are near the fire. The day they get closer, the fire will burn them. “
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