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Missing Rwandan opposition figure found dead-party

KIGALI (Reuters) - The body of a senior member of an unregistered political party has been found near his abandoned car weeks ahead of a presidential election, his party and police said on Wednesday.

The Democratic Green Party’s vice president, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, was reported missing early on Tuesday. His pick-up truck was found in wetlands near the Mukula river close to the southern city of Butare.

“His head was almost completely removed from his body. His brother Antoine Haguma confirms seeing the dead body,” Frank Habineza, founding President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, said in a statement.

Police confirmed the death.

“His body was found this morning 3 km (2 miles) from where his car was found, along with a large knife which may have been used in the killing. It was a kind of machete,” police spokesman Eric Kayiranga said.

“People who saw him that night say he had a lot of money, so it is suspected it may be a robbery case. Investigations have begun.”

Kayiranga said Rwisereka had chest wounds and his body had been taken to hospital.

The Democratic Green Party has been unable to gain registration and take part in presidential elections to be held in August.

Rights groups have accused the government of clamping down on the opposition and critical media ahead of the vote.

Rwanda has rejected the accusations and says the government has pursued dialogue and accepted opposing views since the 1994 genocide.

Habineza said the motive behind Rwisereka’s death was unclear but the party leader said he now lived in fear because he had previously been threatened and trailed by unknown people.

“Personally I’m very scared because ... I’ve received death threats, that I was supposed to be killed before the election. My vice president is now dead, I’m very scared,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Habineza added that he suspected Rwisereka was not carrying money when he went missing.

“As far as money is concerned, he left 600,000 Rwandan francs (656 pounds) with his sister the night before, which she was supposed to bank before he came to Kigali... so he was not carrying money with him,” Habineza said.

Editing by George Obulutsa and Giles Elgood