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This follows a clandestine move in which the Independent Publications Ltd bought 70 percent shares in the The New Times (TNT).
The Independent is owned by Mwenda and shrewd city lawyer Bob Kasango. The pair has been doing business together for at least two decades.
Mwenda now replaces Joseph Bideri who quit the paper on December 4 moments after he was arrested for penning a controversial story exposing corruption in Rukarara dam project.
Bideri resigned less than a month after he was arrested by detectives and detained at Kicuciro police station where he was grilled for hours.
The police chief General Emmanuel Gasana later confessed he detained Bideri for disrespecting police. Gasana said Bideri was insurbordinate and uncooperative when detectives asked him why he was interfering in the Rukarara dam project corruption investigations.
Bideri had earlier published controversial stories, showing money exchanged hands during the construction of the dam. Located in Nyamagabe District, Southern Province, the power project has turned into the Bujagali of sorts.
Costing the Rwandan tax payer a staggering $23m, the Hydro Power Plant was put in place to curb the rampant load shedding in the country. However, like in any other corrupt country, money changed hands and as we write this, Rukarara struggles to produce a meagre 5mw in sharp contrast to the projected 9.5mw.
Much as Rwanda president Paul Kagame later confirmed Bideri was detained for disrespecting police, the government was visibly uncomfortable with Rukarara stories. Kagame defended police’s actions while meeting a group of editors from abroad who visited Kigali recently.
In our story that ran on Deecember 11, we correctly noted that Mwenda would soon take over TNT:
“It’s yet clear whether government of Rwanda forced Bideri to quit. Rumours have been flying high in Kigali that Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda had been tipped to take over as Managing Director of The New Times. Mwenda is a senior advisor and friend to Kagame.”
We added: “Mwenda spends the better part of his time in Rwanda, drinking tea with Kagame at his palace. Their relationship was facilitated in the late 1990s by first son Col. Muhoozi Keinerugaba. Since then, Mwenda has been a semi-official spokesperson for Kagame, who desperately wants favourable publicity in foreign media.”
The take over of the TNT is a test of Mwenda’s ability in encouraging vibrant journalism in a country where government is hugely media-phobic.
Mwenda is a loyal servant of Kagame.