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Rwanda: Resolve Disappearances, Assassination

(New York) - The Rwandan government should step up efforts to resolve recent cases of disappearances and an assassination, Human Rights Watch said today. Such cases, relatively common between 1995 and 1997, seem to be becoming more frequent in a context of growing tension between Rwanda and its neighbors. Human Rights Watch urged action on the disappearances last month of a former Interior Minister and a demobilized army officer, as well as the brazen assassination of Rwandan diplomat in February.

"Rwanda has just won a vote of approval at the recent meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights," said Alison Des Forges, Senior Advisor to the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. "Rwandan authorities now have the chance to show their commitment to the rule of law by locating the missing and by bringing an assassin to justice."

On April 27, former Minister of the Interior Theobald Rwaka Gakwaya was last seen leaving his home, supposedly en route to a meeting of political parties in the northwestern town of Gisenyi. Rwaka, who was also the Vice-President of the Centrist Democratic Party (Parti Démocrate centriste, or PDC), was frequently at odds with the Rwandan government and lost his ministerial post in March. At the time, the semi-official press accused him of plotting against the government and of hindering recruitment by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the party which dominates Rwandan political life. Rwaka was a founder of the Rwandan League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights ( LIPRODHOR), one of the most effective human rights organizations in Rwanda.

On April 7, a recently demobilized Rwandan army officer, Major Alexis Ruzindana, also disappeared en route to a destination outside the capital. He left Kigali for the southwestern town of Cyangugu in the company of another army officer, Captain Vianney Butera, who subsequently returned alone to the city. Ruzindana had come back to Rwanda with the Rwandan Patriotic Army after years of exile in Uganda. According to some military sources, Ruzindana may have fled the country to join other recently-departed RPA officers who had also spent their younger years as refugees in Uganda, including Majors Mupende and Furuma. Major Furuma has announced the formation of a political movement in opposition to the current Rwandan government.

A Burundian diplomat, Dieudonné Haburugira, was expelled from Rwanda in late April reportedly for helping Rwandan army officers leave the country to join groups opposed to the Rwandan government. He had supposedly given a Burundian visa to Ruzindana.

In February, a young soldier in uniform assassinated Alphonse Mbayire, also a RPA officer and former chargé d'affairs at the Rwandan embassy in Nairobi. The crime took place in a Kigali neighborhood inhabited by a number of military officers, who have armed guards at their residences. The supposed killer, himself a guard for a military officer, was identified by name and rank by witnesses but he has apparently not yet been apprehended. He fired more than twenty bullets at close range into Mbayire's head, reportedly because he took offense at a comment Mbayire made about his dog.

Also in February a man named Jean de Dieu Dufatanye disappeared after having gone into Kigali, reportedly to meet with a former employer who is an influential member of the RPF.

In all of these cases, families of the victims have sought official assistance in finding the missing and in obtaining justice for the murder, thus far without result.

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