Jean-Léonard Rugambage

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:
Jeanne Umwana'

A gunman shot Rugambage, acting editor of the independent tabloid Umuvugizi, twice in the neck as he drove through the gate of his home in the Nyamirambo district of the capital, Kigali, around 10 p.m., Rwanda National Police spokesman Eric Kayiranga told CPJ. Rugambage died at Kakiru Hospital, he said.

Local journalists told CPJ that Rugambage had been preparing to join Umuvugizi Editor Jean-Bosco Gasasira in exile after reporting to friends and colleagues that he was being followed and had received phone threats. Rugambage was the last Umuvugizi journalist remaining in Rwanda after the state-run Media High Council suspended the paper from publication during the run-up to the August 2010 presidential election. Gasasira told the U.S. government-funded Voice of America that he believed the killing was reprisal for a recent Umuvugizi story alleging government involvement in the shooting of a former Rwandan army commander in South Africa.

Days after the killing, security forces rounded up two suspects and lodged murder charges. Speaking at a press conference, Internal Security Minister Moussa Fazil Harelimana said one of the suspects "admitted guilt. ... He told the police he committed the act to take revenge against this journalist, who killed his brother in the 1994 Tutsi genocide," Agence France-Presse reported. The suspects were convicted on homicide charges in November, but journalists expressed deep skepticism about the government's case.

In 2007, a traditional "gacaca" court had cleared Rugambage of any involvement in the genocide, according to local journalists. Rugambage had been the target of official persecution over several years because of his critical coverage of the government, CPJ research showed. While working as a reporter for the now-defunct independent tabloid Umuco, Rugambage was imprisoned for 11 months in 2005-06 over a story alleging mismanagement and witness tampering in Rwanda's traditional courts.

Rugambage, 34, was survived by a wife and a 2-year-old daughter, according to local journalists.

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