University sacks outspoken lecturer

The University of Rwanda last week dismissed an outspoken lecturer over what it termed a “concurrence of disciplinary faults” that are against the values of a public servant and are in violation of professional values, ethics and obligations of an educator.

Aimable Karasira taught ICT courses at the University of Rwanda’s college of Science and technology for more than 15 years.

He first became popular in 2009 when he started a music career as a rapper. He later appeared in interviews with various media outlets, especially those operating from outside the country. During such interviews, he was often critical of the government.

He later created his own YouTube channel named “Ukuri Mbona”, loosely translated as “The Truth as I see it” where he often gives space to controversial individuals and leaders of yet to be registered political parties.

One of his interviews featured Victoire Ingabire, a Sakharov Prize nominee and former president of the Unified Democratic Forces, a coalition of Rwandan exile opposition groups. Ingabire was convicted and sentenced for 15 years in prison on charges of "conspiracy against the country through terrorism and war" and "genocide denial", according to the BBC. She received a presidential pardon in 2018, after serving eight years of her sentence, but remains critical of the government.

In a letter dated 14 August seen by University World News and signed by the University of Rwanda’s vice-chancellor, Professor Philip Cotton, Karasira was dismissed following a letter from the Ministry of Public Service and Labour early on 12 August 2020, and after the issuing of a report from the internal disciplinary committee. Both the letter and the report, Cotton said, recommended Karasira’s dismissal from university as “the highest administrative sanction because of concurrence of several disciplinary faults”.

Controversial statements

Such “faults” included the “expression of attitudes and opinions through controversial statements made publicly using various media channels and particularly statements that are counter to professional values, ethics and obligations as an educator,” said Cotton in the letter.

In addition, Karasira was accused of “spreading information intended for inciting people to dislike or dishonor [your] institution and public institutions in general”, an action which violates article 4 of presidential order no 45/01 of 30/06/2015 establishing the code of professional ethics for public which obliges the public servant to “always respect public institutions, policies and programs of the government”.

The university also accused Karasira of spending a considerable amount of time in non-constructive paid and non-paid activities outside of the university that were are in violation of the code of professional ethics for public servants.

According to Cotton, Karasira also carried out work-related assignments given to him with negligence, notably delaying the uploading of teaching materials on the university eLearning platform and failure to submit his PhD research proposal.

“Considering that there is no circumstance in your favour to mitigate the above listed faults, considering that there are aggravating circumstances notably recidivism and concurrence of several disciplinary faults, I regret to inform you that you are dismissed from your employment at the University of Rwanda with immediate effect,” the letter concluded.

Allegations denied

Karasira has denied all the allegations of poor performance and says his records show that he received a score of well over 70%, which is the required mark for public employees.

“There is proof that I never performed poorly ever since I started working for the university. My performance has always been above 80% and all this is recorded,” he told University World News in a phone interview.

Karasira said his dismissal emanates from his controversial views he has been expressing over a period of time on a range of issues such as government failure to fight poverty and inequality, and its resistance to freedom of expression.

He said that he knew in advance that a plan to fire him was being forged and was ready to start a new chapter.

He said that what happened to him is injustice and that he was going to seek legal redress.

“I intend to seek justice, I will take the case to courts, all the accusations are baseless and I hope that will be proven in courts,” he said

He plans to use his current YouTube channel as a source of earnings and seek employment later though a group of people are raising funds through the Go Fund Me platform. As at 20 August, the platform had raised over £5,900 for the dismissed lecturer.