Jean-Léonard Rugambage

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

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
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.