Kangura No. 35

Republic of Rwanda
Office Rwandaise d’Information (Rwanda Information Bureau)
B.P. 83 KIGALI

Kigali, 23 April 1992

… [missing text] …0706/12.01.01.7

His Excellency the Prime Minister
Republic of Rwanda
Kigali

Subject: Radio Rwanda Broadcasts During the Rwanda-Burundi crisis

Your Excellency,

Following the press release from the Prime Minister’s office broadcast on Radio Rwanda yesterday, 22 April 1992, of which I have received a written copy this morning, I have the honor to brief you on Orinfor’s activities with regard to news on the Rwanda-Burundi crisis.

I wish to take this opportunity, especially because of the paragraph stating that… was asked (illegible text) …a sense of trust by broadcasting corroborated information and avoiding sensational broadcasts likely to… [illegible text] …

On reading this paragraph, two questions immediately come to mind:

  • Did the Radio Rwanda, at any time, broadcast uncorroborated and alarming information on Burundi?
  • Did Radio Rwanda ever talk about Burundi, without being forced to do so by accusations against Rwanda, broadcast by Burundi’s official media?

Looking back at what has been happening can enable us to clearly understand the activities of Radio Rwanda during the current Rwanda–Burundi crisis and to ask whether there are any genuine reasons for complaints to the effect that our radio is disturbing the tranquility of the people of Burundi.

  1. Without having to recall the events that led to the closure of the our border with Burundi and the ensuing diplomatic flurry of activity, I would like to start with what Burundi’s Prime Minister said in Jeune Afrique No. 1612 of 26 November 1991:

    … (illegible text) …increasing arrests.

    A.S.: Some clandestine groups are trying to hide behind the idea of multi-part politics to preach hatred and violence… [illegible text] …during the second period, to numerous acts of forgery and production of false identification documents so as to smuggle people into the country. Its headquarters are somewhere inside Rwanda, where it has given military training to men whom it has tried to smuggle into various provinces of the country, with the ultimate aim of committing atrocities when the time is ripe.

    We have been tracking them since July and even made some arrests, before we closed our border with Rwanda.

    J.A.: Do you, therefore, believe that the Palipehutu is supported by Rwanda?

    A.S.: This party was formed outside, and not inside Burundi. That’s a fact, regardless of whether that implicates officials or private citizens of any country. Secondly, the members of this group themselves admit receiving external support. They must even have had a lot of it, judging from the photographic equipment they use to make their fake identity cards, which we seized. They also received… [illegible text] …Kangura newspaper.

    J.A.: … [illegible] Rwanda helps them?

    A.S.: Because our policy could embarrass it… [missing text] …identity, whereas they still have it (I do not know whether it is still the case). We have decided to repatriate all our refugees, whereas they still have problems with theirs, who are attacking them.

    Radio Rwanda and the official press did not react to that, thinking that the Burundian authorities would provide some explanations to Rwanda through diplomatic channels. In addition, since the official press in Burundi did not relay that information, Orinfor chose to keep quiet.

  2. The events of 22 and 23 November 1991 in Bujumbura and other areas of Burundi were reported by Burundi radio and television as having originated in Rwanda, which was accused of supporting the elements that had infiltrated the various regions of Burundi. Rwanda was therefore accused, and Burundi television even went as far as showing envelopes marked “Présidence de la République Rwandaise—S.C.R.” and “Présidence de la République Rwandaise Orinfor” as further proof of Rwanda’s implication in the unrest in Burundi at that time.

    The duty of a national radio station being to support the country’s policy, and knowing that Rwanda does not assist the Palipehutu party … [illegible] …countered Burundi’s accusations.

    It was in this context that in its program entitled “grand débat national” aired on 29 November 1991 at 8:10 p.m., Radio Rwanda attempted to clear the air on this issue by calling in some resource persons, namely Burundi’s Ambassador to Kigali, His Excellency Marc Nteturuye, as well as the Chairman and General Secretary of Palipehutu, who both spoke via telephone.

    Since Burundi did not believe that we could succeed in airing such a program, it reacted by saying that Rwanda indeed supports the Palipehutu party, which was evidenced by its representatives being allowed to speak on the national radio. When the Burundi Ambassador in Kigali complained to me that “twahemukiye u Burundi” by allowing the Chairman and Secretary General of Palipehutu to talk, I told him that correct information could only be obtained from the accused person, and that it was useless to keep on making statements denying assistance accorded to Palipehutu without the people concerned giving their version of the story. That is the way to handle conflicting reports. The Burundi Ambassador did not seem to appreciate my answer or the job done by Radio Rwanda.

    The events of early April 1992 were also reported by Burundi radio and television as originating from Rwanda’s support for Palipehutu. After a meeting held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and attended by officials from that ministry and the Ministry of Defense, the Rwanda Army Chief of Staff, the Secretary General of the Central Intelligence Services and myself, I was able to review the information officially released by the Rwanda government, and Radio Rwanda aired an editorial on the Rwanda–Burundi crisis on 10 April 1992. We later obtained statements from the representatives of the U.N.H.C.R. and Caritas, which totally contradicted the accusations against Rwanda by the official press in Burundi and Burundian correspondents of international news agencies.

    We were even able to make recordings for a broadcast in French and Kinyarwanda, in which the refugees of Nyarushishi gave their own version of the events in Burundi. The broadcast, however, never materialized because the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Boniface Ngulinzira, asked me not to air it, telling me that he was involved in talks with Burundi’s Ambassador to Rwanda and that the program would jeopardize the negotiations.

    The attack on Rwandan military positions in the Bugesera region in the night of 20 to 21 April 1992:

    As soon as I heard of the incident, I dispatched a team of journalists to the Bugesera area, with instructions to collect information that was as diversified and original as possible. This was done, for the Orinfor journalists met with military and civilian leaders working in the area, who confirmed the attack against Rwandan military positions by elements from Burundi. There could be no more corroborated information than that!

    Knowing Burundi’s habit of tarnishing Rwanda’s name and aware of how difficult it is to deny the false reports on Rwanda, Orinfor was under obligation to inform the public of what it had obtained on the Bugesera incident.

    But late in the evening of 21 April 1992, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation insisted that I do not say anything about the incident. As such, I opted to keep quiet since the item was available at 6:30 p.m. on 21 April 1992 and having failed to convince Mr. Ngulinzira, I instructed the controller of programs for Radio Rwanda not to broadcast the news before the approval of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. At the end of the day’s programs at 11:00 p.m., the controller wrote in his control register that “Amakuru yo mu Bugesera arahita habonetse accord ya Minaffet.” The following day, 22 April 1992, the controller, who was not the same one who had been on duty the previous night, read the note and concluded that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation had given his approval for the news on Bugesera to be aired.

    Whatever the case, the item had been sufficiently examined and well prepared on the basis of information collected from the scene by Orinfor journalists. Therefore, although the item was broadcast on Radio Rwanda, nobody can accuse us of having broadcast an uncorroborated report, unless we are told that the attack never took place!

Honorable Prime Minister Sir, it is my hope that those four points will enable you to understand Radio Rwanda did broadcast any uncorroborated and alarming reports about Burundi, which reports are likely to disturb the peace of the people of Rwanda and Burundi. I would like to point out, however, that Rwanda has all along been a victim of Burundi’s official press.

Allow me to conclude by requesting you to kindly instruct the ministries directly concerned by the Rwanda-Burundi crisis to always meet with the Orinfor in order to agree on the methods of gathering, processing and broadcasting “political” news items. This will help dispel suspicion the Orinfor is branded with, in its handling and publication of reports on Rwanda’s policy (both domestic and foreign).

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Ferdinand Nahimana
Director of the Office Rwandaise de l’Information

C.C.:

  • His Excellency the President of the Republic
  • All Cabinet Ministers
  • The Chairman of the Board of Directors, Orinfor Kigali.