There are reports of a rise in enforced disappearances in the Rwandan capital Kigali during the month of May 2017 just two months before presidential elections scheduled for August 4, 2017, by people believed to be security agents. What is happening calls to mind the clampdown on opposition leaders, journalists, and anyone critical of the ruling party before 2010 presidential elections.
On the 6th of June 2017, Voice of America (VOA) interviewed families in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, whose relatives, have been picked by people who introduced themselves as police officers, only to be told at Police stations that they do not have them in custody or find their bodies dumped in the area.
The people who could talk to VOA live in one small locality of Kigali city called Cyahafi. They include:
1. Mrs Domina Mukankusi over 60 years of age. Her husband Sylvestre Ndamyubuhake, was picked on the 26th May 2017 by people who introduced themselves as police officers.
2. Marie Madeleine Bahati. Her husband Francois Bavugirije was picked on the 25th of May 2017. He was picked while he was doing a BBQ and lived on selling BBQ meat. Those who picked him introduced themselves as police officers and showed identity cards.
3. Mrs Bahati, completely distraught and sobbing, told the VOA journalist that she feared for the safety of her husband following her experience of knowing two people in the same area who were picked earlier and their bodies were found dumped. She mentioned the body of someone she knew in the neighbourhood who disappeared and his body was later found dumped behind their fence and one youngman who was arrested two weeks earlier by security agents and his dead body was found in a drainage nearby on June 2, 2017. A neighbour who shared a compound with the youngman told a local newspaper “Igihe” that the youngman, was picked and taken to Gikondo transit centre, a dumping place for petty street vendors, street children and vagabonds, to keep them away from the eyes of foreign visitors. On the 2nd of June 2017, two weeks after his arrest his body was found.
Another horrific incident that has alarmed the public relates to the horrific killing of an FDU-Inkingi member, the late Habarugira Jean Damascene, whose body was found on the 8th with his eyes gouged out and throat cut.
Mr Habarugira had been called to meet an intelligence agent on the 5th of May 2017. It was a reminder of the case of André Kagwa Rwisereka, deputy president of the Democratic Green Party, whose body was found partially decapitated and his body dumped next to a river on July 14, 2010, a few weeks before 2010 presidential elections.
The VOA journalist visited one area of Kigali and it is possible that this could be happening in other parts of the city and the country. People fear to report especially if they are not relatives for fear of severe repercutions.
We may recall the clampdown on politicians , journalists and other people critical of the government before the 2010 presidential elections.
– Jan-April 2010 Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza President of FDU repeatedly detained and interrogated over alleged links to anti-government armed group and accusations that she promoted genocide ideology and divisionism.
– 10 March 2010 Human Rights Watch researcher’s work visa cancelled.
– 24 May 2010 Editor of Umuseso newspaper fled into exile due to threats.
– 19 June 2010 Kayumba Nyamwasa, Rwanda’s former army chief of staff – a critic of President Kagame – was shot at in South Africa in assassination attempt.
-24 June 2010 Bernard Ntaganda, opposition politician from PS-Imberakuri was arrested; in the months that followed, many party members were arrested.
-24 June 2010 Jean-Léonard Rugambage, deputy editor of Umuvugizi newspaper was shot dead in Kigali. He had written an article alleging that the Rwandan government was involved in the assassination attempt of General Kayumba Nyamwasa.
-14 July 2010 André Kagwa Rwisereka, deputy president of the Democratic Green Party, is found partially decapitated; his body dumped next to a river.
The FDU-Inkingi would like to remind the Rwandan government that the systematic enforced disappearances constitute a crime against humanity according to the” International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance”. It states under article 5 that:
“The widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity as defined in applicable international law and shall attract the consequences provided for under such applicable international law”.
We call upon the Rwandan government to inform the families the whereabouts of their loved ones and to produce before courts of law if they have committed any crime. Mrs Domina Mukankusi was so desperate that he was even happy to at least to get the body of her husband, if he is dead, to give him a decent burial.
We ask the international community to end its silence over these crimes, particularly donors who condition their aid to respect of human rights to put pressure on the government to honour its commitments.
Done at London, June 8, 2017
For the FDU INKINGI
Commissioner for External Relations and Spokesperson