Syldio Dusabumuremyi.

© Private 2019

Rwanda’s international partners and the UN secretary-general should demand transparent and credible investigations into recent deaths and disappearances of opposition members when they meet with President Paul Kagame, Human Rights Watch said today. Kagame is scheduled to speak at the 74th United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2019.  

The latest victim in Rwanda was stabbed to death on September 23. At around 9 p.m., two unidentified men killed Syldio Dusabumuremyi, the national coordinator for the unregistered Forces démocratiques unifiées (FDU)-Inkingi party, as he worked in the shop of the Shyogwe health center, in Muhanga District, Southern Province, his party said.

“On the international stage, Rwanda is a model of law and order, yet we are seeing a spate of violent and brazen attacks against opposition members go unpunished,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The contrast is jarring.”

At least three other members of the FDU-Inkingi have died or disappeared across Rwanda in the past year. The authorities have failed to conduct transparent and credible investigations into the cases or to hold those responsible to account.

The Rwanda Investigation Bureau tweeted confirmation of the killing by two unidentified people on September 24 and said they had arrested two suspects. On September 14, Kagame gave a speech at the party congress for his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). Speaking in Kinyarwanda, he said: “These people I graced who were in prison, now they shout out... Leave them, they can go die elsewhere … They shouldn’t slow down our development…”

Kagame was most likely referring to the leader of the FDU-Inkingi, Victoire Ingabire, who was released from prison in September 2018 after Kagame pardoned 2,000 prisoners, including her. She had served 8 years of a 15-year sentence for conspiracy to undermine the government and genocide denial after she tried to run for president in the 2010 elections.

Since then, there has been an increase in suspicious deaths and disappearances of her colleagues. In July, Eugène Ndereyimana, an FDU-Inkingi member, was reported missing by his colleagues after he failed to arrive for a meeting in Nyagatare, in Rwanda’s Eastern Province. In March, Anselme Mutuyimana, Ingabire’s assistant, was found dead in a forest in northwestern Rwanda showing signs of strangulation. Although the Investigation Bureau announced they were examining both cases, no results have been shared or made public.

In October 2018, the deputy leader of the FDU-Inkingi, Boniface Twagirimana, “disappeared” from his prison cell in Mpanga, southern Rwanda. He had been charged alongside several other party members with state security offenses and was last seen in custody.

The authorities have rarely tried to hide their support for incidents targeting the opposition. At times, they have even gloated about the brutal killings. This month, South Africa’s Prosecution Authority issued arrest warrants for two Rwandans found to be linked to the government for the murder of Col. Patrick Karegeya, a prominent critic who was found dead in his hotel room in Johannesburg on January 1, 2014. At the time, Kagame came close to condoning Karegeya’s murder in a public speech: “Any person still alive who may be plotting against Rwanda, whoever they are, will pay the price…Whoever it is, it is a matter of time.”

“Rwanda’s partners and donors should be raising questions about the fate of those who try to criticize the government or its policies,” Mudge said. “Otherwise, opponents or state critics will likely continue to end up dead or missing.”