In February, Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) summoned a one Fred Sekikubo Barafinda, for questioning on some utterances he made which could tantamount to criminal offences but few minutes into interrogating him, it emerged that the self-proclaimed politician was not in the right state of mind.
Rather than investigating him and pressing charges, RIB opted to take him to CARAES Psychiatric Hospital, Ndera, for treatment. Upon being checked in, Doctors confirmed that indeed he had a chronic mental condition that needed special attention.
Fast forward 7 months later, Barafinda was released from hospital and sent home to continue treatment there, which doctors said it is long term. As soon as he set foot in his Kanombe home, the wannabe presidential contender picked from where he had stopped and resumed his interviews with Youtube bloggers.
The 49-year old has since become a much sought-after source of comical interviews by Youtubers who reportedly use him to earn views on the video streaming platform.
Since his release from the hospital, Barafinda has conducted at least 10 interviews, making incoherent utterances and allegations.
The Secretary General of RIB Col. Jeannot Ruhunga says that what the bloggers are doing with Barafinda can tantamount to committing offences because they mislead him into making certain comments for their own benefit yet they are well aware that he is not in the right mental state.
“Barafinda would have been charged because some of his utterances bordered towards committing crimes but when we arrested and started questioning him, we realised that he was not in the right state of mind,”
“We realised that there were inconsistencies in what he was saying. We approached a psychiatric hospital to check him and they confirmed that he had a mental condition. He was admitted and later Doctors informed us that his condition is chronic,”
Col. Ruhunga said that the treatment he received was aimed at easing his condition but he would continue with care even after being discharged.
Upon being released, Ruhunga said he was surprised by the fact that video bloggers were still interested in interviewing him even when they were well aware that he had a serious mental condition.
“They know this very well. They are aware of his condition. In fact, it appears they are more interested in those comments that actually confirm that he has a mental condition,” Ruhunga said during a press conference on Tuesday.
“We request you to be reasonable and humane enough to afford him time to heal. You cannot capitalize on one’s condition and take advantage of that person. This can get to a level where criminal offences are committed,”
“This can tantamount to mocking someone. If you know some one is not in the right state of mind, why would you take advantage of their condition for your own benefit?” Ruhunga wondered.
The RIB boss said that it is not all journalists but mainly bloggers who take advantage of him to gain views, asking responsible journalists to condemn these actions.
RMC speaks out
Rwanda Media Commission (RMC), the media self-regulatory body, has also spoken out on the Barafinda saga, saying that what the Youtubers are doing is in violation of Article 3 of the Code of Ethics which emphasises social responsibility.
The Vice Chairman of the RMC Board of Commissioners Pr. Jean Pierre Uwimana says that by interviewing Barafinda, journalists and bloggers go against the social responsibility norm which requires them distribute or publish only information for which they have established the origin, veracity and accuracy.
“In line with the code of ethics, it is important for journalists to protect people, including elders or people with mental conditions who are not coherent, children and other vulnerable people who they might be aware that are not in the right state to make socially responsible comments,”
“This is also against Article 6 on respect for private life and human dignity. Journalists and media professionals are required to respect human dignity and privacy. By interviewing Barafinda, they also violate Article 9 on using unfair methods to obtain information, photos or pictures,” Uwimana, who is also a Journalism lecturer at University of Rwanda, says.
Uwimana says Journalists need to pay attention to the concerns expressed by RIB and refrain from taking advantage of Barafinda’s health condition to trick him into giving interviews while he is in a state that does not allow him to make credible and sound comments.
Barafinda was summoned by RIB in a letter dated 5 February 2020, informing him that he was required at the investigative body’s Kimihurura offices.
He would later appear in a video that circulated on social media, saying that he would not answer the summon, unless it came from the President of the Supreme Court. He was picked up on February 11 for questioning.
RIB spokesperson Marie Michelle Umuhoza confirmed to the media that RIB had instead opted to take him for treatment given his condition.
Barafinda rose to fame in July 2017 when he went to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) with an intention of submitting his candidature for the August 2017 presidential election, but he was not allowed to because he did not have the necessary requirements.
On June 13, 2017, Barafinda told the media that he had spent some time in Ndera where he was being monitored for mental illness, but did not explain when he went there or how he left.