Reporters Without Borders has learned with great relief that Tatiana Mukakibibi, a former presenter and producer with state-owned Radio Rwanda, was finally acquitted of genocide charges by a “gacaca” popular tribunal in the southern district of Ruhango on 6 November after 11 years in pretrial detention. Aged 42, Mukakibibi was reunited with her family on 10 November.
“After 11 years in detention for nothing, we hope this journalist will finally be able resume a normal life with her daughter, who is now a teenager,” the press freedom organisation said. “This tragic case must be regarded as closed, now that Mukakibibi has been cleared of the charges brought against her.”
At the end of a three-hour hearing, a gacaca in the Kimegeri sector of Ruhango (in South province) acquitted Mukakibibi on charges of genocide, planning and participating in genocide and distributing weapons in Kimegeri between April and July 1994.
A series of defence witnesses testified that she was not in Kimegeri when the presidential guard distributed weapons for use in the genocide and did not participate in any killings, including the murder of Eugène Bwanamudogo, a Tutsi journalist who was producing broadcasts for the agriculture ministry.
After the 1994 genocide, Mukakibibi went to work for André Sibomana, a Catholic priest, human rights activist and former editor of the newspaper Kinyamateka, who won the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France prize in 1994 and who died in March 1998.
Arrested on 2 October 1996, Mukakibibi was held in appalling conditions in a communal cell until December 2006, when she was transferred to a prison. The most specific accusation brought against her was Bwanamudogo’s murder. She said denied the charge and said it was trumped up as part of an attempt to smear Sibomana.
Reporters Without Borders established a system of sponsorship 16 years ago in which international media are encouraged to adopt imprisoned journalists. More than 200 news organisations, journalists’ associations, press clubs and other entities throughout the world are currently supporting journalists by regularly calling on the authorities to release them and by publicising their cases.
Mukakibibi was adopted by Amina, Les Clés de l’Actualité, Fun Radio (Belgium), Flair, Claire Gibault (Member of the European Parliament), L’Itinéraire, Elle Québec and Chérie FM.
Tatiana Mukakibibi in detention in 2007 (Photo Reporters Without Borders)