Canadian journalism professor and his political activities in

Shyaka Kanuma | Created: Sunday, 12 October 2008 | Views: 55
E-mail messages that Focus has seen indicate that Professor Allan
Thompson of The Rwanda Initiative—a journalism program funded by
Canada's Carleton University—is not operating in this country
strictly to advance the teaching of journalism.

Charles Kabonero (left) and Allan Thompson (right)The stated aims of
Rwanda Initiative—which Thompson founded—are: to help build the
capacity of the news media in Rwanda through a partnership between
Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication and its
counterpart at the National University of Rwanda.

Rwanda Initiative also operates a visiting lecturer program at the
Butare School of Journalism, a media internship program for
journalism students and a media training program for working
journalists in Kigali.

But Focus has come across email exchanges between Thompson and
Charles Kabonero of Umuseso/Newsline that strengthen the impression
that the Canadian professor and his program may be more politically
motivated than fostering good journalism in the country; they look
more like activists for international rights groups which never tire
of painting a negative international image of Rwanda—in almost all
cases with no evidence to support the negativity.

The email exchanges between Thompson and Kabonero copies of which
this newspaper has appear to have been set off when the Canadian
embassy in Nairobi refused to give the Umuseso editor a visa to
enable him to attend a journalism course in Canada later this year.

One of the standard questions on a visa application questionnaire to
Western countries is: have you been previously charged with a
criminal offence?

Charles Kabonero replied "no" to this question. This was a falsehood
and Canadian embassy authorities soon found it out and denied
Kabonero the visa.

Kabonero has been charged with a criminal case in Rwanda and
narrowly escaped going to jail; parliamentarian Denis Polisi sued
him for libel and sowing divisionism in 2004 after the former
published an "analysis" piece in Umuseso claiming it is Denis Polisi
who is "the real power" in this country since "he takes all
decisions in government and in the ruling party."

A Kigali court found Kabonero guilty of libel and attacking the
dignity of Polisi after the deputy speaker of parliament (at the
time) filed his court action against him.

The court sentenced the Umuseso editor to a one year suspended
prison term and charged him a symbolic fine of one Rwandan franc.

Thompson advises Umuseso editor

Prof. Thompson became very anxious when he learnt the Canadian
embassy had denied Kabonero a visa. The Canadian professor
immediately got in touch with the embassy to ask what was wrong—the
better, it seems, to instruct and coach Kabonero how to go about re-

Thompson wrote (to Kabonero): "I talked to them and to be honest,
they seemed pissed off about your response to the question about
criminality. I told them I suspected you didn't consider those
charges to be of a criminal nature."

Thompson continues: "I would suggest you use apologetic language
(not that you need to apologize, but they need to feel as if they
have done nothing wrong) so that we can hopefully get a positive

"You really need to emphasize that this was a misunderstanding and
that you assumed the nature of your dispute with the government was
well known as it has been widely publicized and hence, there was
obviously no attempt on your part to withhold anything."

One is struck not only by Thompson's readiness to help someone
bamboozle his government and bypass its laws (and those of Rwanda)
but also by his willingness to twist the truth by suggesting
Kabonero imply that when Polisi took him to court it was the
government behind that action. A quick perusal through court
documents indicates Polisi sued the Umuseso editor strictly as a
private citizen.

We emailed Thompson a question to do with this and he huffed and
puffed about invasion of his privacy and that of Kabonero and
suggested we do not publish anything to do with their communication.

But we judged the private information we had to be sufficiently of
interest to the public to publish it. "This is the stuff of
investigative journalism Sir," We informed Thompson and we insisted
he provide answers.

Thompson did not answer our question. Instead he said: "To my mind
it is absolutely routine for the Rwanda Initiative, after offering
someone a short-term internship in Canada, to then help them to make
the arrangements necessary to come to Canada. Indeed, we have done
this for several other Rwandans who have come to Canada to study or

In another message to Kabonero, Thompson had written, "they seemed
very annoyed that you said 'no' when asked when asked this question
on the application forms, even though it is public knowledge that
you have been detained and prosecuted in Rwanda.

"I told them that I suspected you didn't think of those matters as
being criminal in nature given the fact that most observers regarded
those charges as spurious and part of a government intimidation

This is language that international rights groups always use to
smear Rwanda. A Canadian embassy finds something wrong with
Kabonero's application and Thompson instructs him to blame it on the
Rwandan government.

Other aspects of the Rwanda Initiative's activities in Rwanda have
been equally as baffling.

Among the people the Rwanda Initiative has sent here allegedly to
help train Rwandan journalists is one Gary Dimmock who last year was
with Umuseso for a couple of months. He used that short period to
launch the most scathing attacks on the Rwandan leadership that, as
is the case with some of these individuals, weren't supported either
with fact or evidence.

"In Rwanda it is unthinkable to criticize the President, Kagame,"
wrote Dimmock even as he launched one of his attacks against Kagame
(saying among other things that he finds the Rwandan President
neither intelligent nor interesting) in a posting on his blog.

Dimmock said it is not possible to criticize Kagame in this country
even Umuseso where he was regularly attacks the president with what
arguably is the most rabid ferocity anywhere in the region.

Thompson barely conceals his animosity against the Rwandan
administration and is frequently hurling charges against it that it
does not respect press and other freedoms—this despite the fact his
friend Kabonero and others like him in Rwanda are very free to
frequently publish whatever fabrications come into their mind
against anyone in this country, from the head of state to any
citizen they feel writing things about.

Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
Procurement Consultant
Gsm:  +250-08470205
Home: +250-55104140
P.O. Box 3867
East Africa
Blog: http://www.cepgl.blogspot.com
Skype ID : Kayisa66

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