SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: August 14, 2020

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):University of Rwanda

Region & Country:Eastern Africa | Rwanda

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On August 14, 2020, the University of Rwanda (UR) reportedly dismissed professor Aimable Karasira in apparent retaliation for public expression critical of the government.

For fifteen years, Karasira taught Information and Communications Technology at the College of Science and Technology at UR. In 2009, Karasira started a career in music as a rapper and appeared in interviews where he criticized the government. In 2014, Karasira started a YouTube channel where he interviews controversial figures, including opposition leader Victoire Ingabire.

An August 14 letter, signed by the Vice Chancellor and notifying Karasira of his dismissal, states that on August 12, the Ministry of Public Service and Labor recommended that Karasira be dismissed on several disciplinary bases, including “expression of attitudes and opinions through controversial statements made publicly using various media channels,” “spreading information intended for inciting people to dislike or dishonor your institution and public institutions in general,” “allocation of considerable amount of time in non-constructive activities,” and “carrying out assignments given to you with negligence.” Karasira reportedly denied allegations of poor performance and argued that the dismissal stems from his controversial public criticism of the government.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by the dismissal of a scholar, in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Rwanda is a party. University authorities should refrain from retaliating against expressive activity, so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, suspensions, and dismissals aimed at restricting or retaliating against such activity undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.