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Last updateSun, 20 Apr 2014 5am
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By Jennifer Fierberg, MSW with John Bosco Sanyu
The Rwandan Government reshuffled its key players once again last week, one of the top officials found himself on outside of the inner circle. Dr. Col Emmanuel Ndahiro has been notoriously ruthless toward the freedom of press and all who dare to speak up. In an interview with this reporter, one of Dr. Col Ndahiro’s victims spoke exclusively about his extensive personal terrorism in which he endured persecution, harassment and survival of murderous attempts. John Bosco Sanyu was the former Managing Director and Editor in Chief of The New Times (TNT) and Managing Director of Contact FM radio, now happily living in exile in the US. Mr. Sanyu’s detailed account of his experiences in Rwanda and subsequent escape sheds light on how unbearable life can be when one stands up for the truth under the oppression of a political leader in Rwanda.
JF: What was your first contact with Ndahiro?
JB: I first met him in Paris/France in 2001 while doing my post graduate studies there.
JF: Was this a pre-arranged and organized visit to you or it was rather coincidental, and what were your first impressions of him?
JB: I think he was in Paris for an official visit alongside other government officials. And in most cases, government officials end up meeting citizens in the Diaspora to lure them back home. The post-genocide government made efforts to woe people back home to engage in the country’s reconstruction process. Therefore, I did not organize or initiate our first meeting. He really impressed me, and liked his way of speaking eloquently and confidently.
JF: Did you return home after completing your studies, and did Ndahiro play any role in it?
JB: Yes, I returned home in summer 2002 at the completion of my studies. Ndahiro never influenced me or contributed to my decision to return home. I was determined to return to my country and make a contribution.
JF: What was your next interaction with him?
JB: I met him again in September 2002 at Novotel hotel in Kigali. And he proposed to me a job as Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of The New Times, an English Newspaper.
JF: What did you think of this offer and did you accept it and were you surprised at his generosity?
JB: Well, I thought that this was a great opportunity for me to get a job, and to serve my country. Yes, Definitely, I accepted the job offer. I was not surprised at all, because I looked at it as an opportunity for me to make a contribution.
JF: When did things with Ndahiro start to go badly?
JB: I recall vividly that in the first 3 months in office, I realized that the Ndahiro I had met in Paris was much different than the one that I was working with at this time. In our first board meeting, he explicitly tasked me to make an assessment review of TNT employees. He proposed an overhaul of the entire staff. However, he was later to undermine the retrenchment exercise. First of all, he started protecting some of the employees (who were incompetent and unqualified) because they were related to him or other board members. I looked at it him with disbelief, and this interference and double standards was later to continue throughout my term of office.
JF: Did you encounter other challenges or double standards from him?
JB: Oh certainly yes! He objected to all professional ethics and norms that you can think of. When he was not stabbing me in the back, his close ally Joseph Bideri (by then Director General of Orinfor, and today Managing Director of TNT) was actively undermining my work at TNT. The most challenging moments was mainly Ndahiro’s thirst to censor the paper by preferring to use it to hit at other leaders (mostly for personal reasons), as well as his unwavering corrupt attitude of dipping his hands in TNT coffers.
JF: How did he censor the paper, yet he was a Chairman of the Board of Directors?
JB: Precisely, I was astonished that he wanted to take my place, and wondered why he had recruited me. He made several attempts to influence the stories to be written. However, I resisted his numerous illegitimate attempts, and thus tension between me and him became the order of the day.
JF: Explain more about his thirst to dip his hands in TNT funds?
JB: Here is a guy who pretended to be intolerant to those who are corrupt. Yet, he is the most corrupt creature that I have come across on this planet. I can’t recall how many times he pushed me to sign him checks of money or cash. He looked at TNT as a cash cow for himself. At times, he would intimidate me saying that the money (like the leaders to write about) is an order from above, and that I have no authority to question anything.
JF: How would you respond when he would demand such actions of you?
JB: I openly objected, and refused to succumb to his corrupt desires and manipulative tendencies of using the newspaper to fight his ‘unholy wars’ against innocent leaders. All in all, I resisted his mischievous and uncouth moves at a time I was working at TNT.
JF: When you resisted his demands how would he react?
JB: First of all, I made it clear to him that I was ready to resign instead of allowing him to plunder TNT resources or use the paper as a springboard to his attacks on other leaders. He hurled insults at me, verbally intimidated me, and issued several ultimatums to sack me disgracefully. He simply made threats and several intimidations. But I was not bothered at all.
JF: At what point did the pressure and directives of Ndahiro become too unethical professionally for you to handle?
JB: Well, I endured his illegitimate pressure and directives throughout my time at TNT and even after I had quit TNT. However, it was around January 2005, that I started thinking of quitting my job TNT. At this time, Ndahiro’s thirst to dip his hand in TNT and his unceasing desire to use the paper to hit at his “perceived opponents in government” became unbearable. He had appointed Bideri to always double check the paper’s content in the printer before it hit the streets. Whenever he felt that I had not included his stories he would order the paper not to be released.
JF: When did you fall out with him or leave TNT?
JB: In May 2005, I had heard enough of the above running battles with him, and made the decision to resign. However, I stayed till August 2005 because of an article in my contract that stated that I had to give a notice of 3 months.
JF: What was Ndahiro’s reaction to your intention to resign?
JB: He called a Board meeting, and he was very furious. He asked me why I wanted to resign, and if I had ever heard anybody who resigned in the country. I told him and all members that I did not want to continue working in an unprofessional environment and amidst many intrigues orchestrated exclusively by them. The meeting adapted a minute in acknowledging my intent to resign, and search for a replacement before the end of my notice.
JF: What happened during the notice period?
JB: I stayed in office working as usual. In August 2005, I had a wedding, and invited many guests including Ndahiro and all Board members. To the great surprise of many, none of the board members attended the function. I was not surprised because my working relationship with Ndahiro and the board members were very bad.
JF: Were you beginning to see his true colors at this point or were they already fairly obvious?
JB: No, I would say that I had already seen his true colors, but later he kept on surprising me with his monstrous actions against me. Shockingly, two days after my wedding he called me in his office and asked me why I had invited the Prime Minister to my wedding without seeking his clearance. I answered that I did not need any clearance to invite guests to my wedding. As usual, he was very angry and threatened to deal with me. One day later, he sent me a letter suspending me from my duties (MD/EIC) at TNT. The next day, he sent Bideri, Oscar Kimanuka and Alfred Ndahiro (board members) to kick me out of the office.
JF: What happened after Ndahiro’s decision to kick you out office?
JB: After 3 months in 'forced illegal suspension', I called Ndahiro and asked whether we could meet and talk about my resignation or suspension from office (with an allegation of embezzlement of funds). He arrogantly answered that he did not want me to come close to TNT office or even ever call him again.
JF: Were you able to obtain employment elsewhere?
JB: Yes I was offered a job as MD of Contact FM in Dec 2005. And again, Ndahiro followed me there where he threatened the owner to fire me immediately.
JF: Did the owner of the radio succumb and fire you due to Ndahiro’s threats and intimidation?
JB: At first, the owner of the radio resisted his threats and intimidations, but later Ndahiro threatened to close down his radio and throw me in jail. Subsequently, he ordered for my arrest and detention, and later I resigned from Contact radio FM.
JF: How did this situation get to the point of being arrested, detained and appearing court?
JB: Till his recent down fall, Ndahiro was known as the defacto number two leader in the country. He took my ideological and professional disagreements as a serious offence, and vowed to finish me off. Being a Chairman of the Board of TNT, he ordered for my illegal arrest and detention falsely accusing me of embezzling TNT funds. He ordered for my arrest and detention twice where I stayed in jail for weeks, and was produced to the court, only for the Judges to acquit me.
JF: Why did Ndahiro develop such hate and malice toward you specifically? Why didn’t he just leave you alone after you were forced from the media business?
JB: I think his hate and malice towards me is not an isolated thing. He is known by his childhood friends for being full of hate and cruelty. Even, his colleagues in the RDF attest to the fact that he’s a real thorn in the institution. He never gave up on harassing and persecuting even when I had left the media industry. Whenever, I made attempts to get non media related jobs, he would swing his power and threaten employers (from both the private and public sector).
JF: Why wouldn’t he just leave you alone after leaving the media business? Or is that just his way of making sure you are ruined for life because you would not bow to his demands?
JB: He is such as a sadistic person in nature and substance. Once you disagree with him, he ensures that you are not employed by anybody. And he will issue threats and intimidations to whoever dares to employ you.
JF: Tell me more about Ndahiro’s fabricated embezzlement charges as a form of persecution?
JB: After several attempts to have me sacked from Contact FM radio, he opted to use TNT to punish me and malign my integrity and credibility. I was arrested in September 2006, locked up for a week, produced to the court, only to be acquitted by the Judge. Later, the Prosecutor General dropped these embezzlement charges in November 2007.
Astonishingly, Ndahiro never gave up on persecuting me. In July 2008, he again instructed the prosecutor and the court to have sentence me and look me up; using the same TNT fabricated charges (thrown out by court in 2006, and dropped by the prosecutor in 2007).
At one point, he intimidated my wife and in laws while issuing more threats to my life. He specified that: “As long as I am who I am, I will make sure that your husband is locked up, I will sell off your house, confiscate other property, and make him walk on his knees. As for you and your son, you can always come to me for assistance.”
Soon after this meeting, under the orders of Ndahiro, I was summoned by court to answer for the dropped fabricated charges. First he ordered the court not to give me my charge sheet, and the Judge obliged. However, later I mounted pressure on the judge and she yielded. During my court hearings, I produced evidence, and my attorney questioned the rationale of having dropped charges brought again. Due to Ndahiro’s political power and threats to the judiciary, I accepted to attend the court hearings.
In August 2008, I was arrested, accused of producing false evidence in a court hearing. I spent two weeks in detention under horrible conditions. Ndahiro became furious because he did not expect me to pin him down with evidence of his own embezzlement, and with practical documentation of this evidence. Again, I was produced in the high court, and the judge acquitted once again saying that there's no basis of the case and that my rights had been abused.
JF: What happened upon your release from jail?
JB: As mentioned, my tormentor became furious and reacted as a wounded lion. He started devising a plan to kill me. Fortunately, I learned of it from a friend who works with him, and later fled the country. Fortunately, this very friend also risked his life and retrieved my passport which Ndahiro had confiscated from me since 2006.
JF: How did you escape this tormentor and end up coming to the US to seek asylum?
JB: I can only attribute my escape from Ndahiro to the Power of God and my close friends in Rwanda. Fortunately, I had a valid US visitor’s visa, and went into hiding in a neighboring country. From there I boarded a plane to the US in November 2008.
JF: How were you received when you arrived in the US?
JB: Upon my arrival at Dulles International Airport, I learned that Ndahiro had placed me on the Interpol red line and wanted me deported back to Rwanda. I applied for asylum immediately at the airport, and the matter was no longer an Interpol affair, but a DHS and the US judiciary.
JF: What are your feelings about Ndahiro, now that you are safe in the US?
JB: Well, like many others who have suffered under his reign of terror, I have no ill feelings about him. I hope that during his downfall, he will realize that one reaps what he sow.
JF: Would you be willing to meet him and talk about it?
JB: I would not initiate any meeting with him. However, whenever he feels like wanting to reconcile with me and the many others that he has caused suffering, I think I could consider it.
JF: President Kagame recently discharged him from his position of Intelligence Chief (NSS). What are your thoughts about it?
JB: Well, it is a great relief to many people who have suffered under Ndahiro’s rule of terror. More so, I hope that the appointing authority will prosecute him due to the overwhelming evidence of the crimes he committed (abuse of office, corruption, human rights abuses and atrocities, as well as murder).
JF: Do you think that Ndahiro will learn from his past mistakes and be a changed man if given another opportunity to occupy any public office?
JB: I strongly doubt if he would change after his downfall. He's pathologically an evil man, and someone who feels happy when other people are suffering.
JF: Now that Ndahiro’s rule is no more, will you consider going back to Rwanda?
JB: No I would not consider going back, because I prefer staying here.
JF: Are you still practicing as a journalist here in the US?
JB: No I am not practicing, consider me a retired journalist. I am in academia, teaching and pursuing my PhD studies.
JF: Any last word or message for Ndahiro?
JB: I wish him the best in his downfall!