July 16, 2010 / 2:31 PM / 9 years ago

Rwanda arrest suspect over beheaded politician

* Police arrest associate of murdered politician

* Green Party seeks international probe

* Murder mirrors death of former rebel: police



By Hereward Holland

KIGALI, July 16 (Reuters) - A business associate of an aspiring opposition politician who was murdered this week has been arrested, police said on Friday, as his party called for an international investigation.

Thomas Ntivuguruza was brought in for questioning late on Wednesday and was the last person to see Democratic Green Party vice president Andre Kagwa Rwisereka alive, said police spokesman Eric Kayiranga.

Rwisereka was found with his neck severed and several chest wounds near the southern town of Butare on Wednesday, a day after he was reported missing.

"(Ntivuguruza) was arrested as a potential witness, because he is the man who saw him last. They were drinking together in Sombreros bar before he disappeared," Kayiranga told Reuters.

Kayiranga denied claims by the Democratic Green Party, a group largely comprised of former members of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), that Rwisereka’s body showed signs of torture and said the post mortem results would come out on July 19.

Democratic Green Party leader Frank Habineza, who has been unable to register his party for forthcoming presidential elections, has called for a thorough international investigation into the killing.

"We, the ones who are still living, are worried and scared for our lives because if the true cause of death is not made clear, our lives remain in the balance," Habineza told Reuters.

Rwisereka joined the RPF before it swept to power during the 1994 genocide but became a founding member of the Democratic Green Party last year.

Police said investigations were intensifying but they suggested that his death may have been a robbery or a related to a business dispute.

Analysts say the case is suspicious, as violent crime is rare in Rwanda, 16 years after the genocide in which 800,000 people were killed.

Rwisereka’s death follows the shooting of a dissident Rwandan general in South Africa, the murder of a critical journalist and the arrest of two presidential aspirants in recent months. The government denies being linked to the attacks.

Rights groups say the events indicate a growing intolerance of dissent in Kigali.

Rwisereka’s death mirrored the murder of Denis Semadwinga, who was killed in the western lakeside town of Gisenyi last month, Kayiranga said.

Semadwinga was a former aide to Congolese rebel Laurent Nkunda, who led a brutal five-year insurgency in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo until his capture by Rwanda in January 2009.

"The mode of killing was the same. There wasn’t any kind of shooting — they used knives," Kayiranga said, adding police had not established a direct link between the killings. (Editing by George Obulutsa and Giles Elgood)





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