KIGALI (Reuters) - A senior official in an opposition political party in Rwanda was stabbed to death, in what the party’s leader described on Tuesday as an attempt to intimidate opponents of the government and prevent her party from winning official recognition.
Sylidio Dusabumuremyi, the national coordinator of the FDU-Inkingi party, was stabbed to death at his workplace, a canteen at a health center in southern Rwanda, on Monday evening, the party’s leader Victoire Ingabire said. The authorities said they were investigating the killing and two people had been arrested.
“It is clear that it is intimidation against opposition members. They want to prevent me from creating an opposition party,” Ingabire told Reuters on Tuesday as she was arriving at a hearing in the case of nine other people from her party who face terrorism-related charges.
“This killing has no other implications other than intimidating Rwandans from participating in politics of their country,” Ingabire said. “It is time to ask security services to do something about those killings and protect the opposition members as all Rwandans.”
Ingabire, who was jailed in 2010 after declaring herself a candidate to challenge President Paul Kagame in an election, is seeking to have her party recognized by the authorities.
Dusabumuremyi was at least the second aide to Ingabire to be killed this year; her spokesman was found dead in March. At least two other aides have gone missing this year in unexplained circumstances.
Rights group Amnesty International said in a statement: “It is essential that the Government of Rwanda protects the rights to freedom of expression and association, including for opposition politicians, and ends the current climate of harassment and intimidation they face.”
Ingabire returned to Rwanda to launch an opposition political movement in 2010 after 16 years exile in the Netherlands. She was jailed before she could contest the election and served six years of a 15-year sentence on terrorism charges, which she says were politically motivated to block any challenge to Kagame.
A spokesman for Rwanda’s investigation bureau declined to comment when asked if Dusabumuremyi’s killing appeared to be politically motivated.
“That one you can ask politicians. For us we do investigations and we are investigating,” spokesman Modeste Mbabazi said.
The bureau said on Twitter: “During preliminary investigations, two people suspected of that murder were arrested. The investigation continues to identify the killers and their motive.”
Kagame, a member of Rwanda’s Tutsi ethnic majority, led rebels who overthrew a majority Hutu-led government responsible for a genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.
He has won praise abroad for presiding over a largely peaceful and rapid economic recovery. But rights groups accuse him of widespread abuses including muzzling of independent media and suppression of political opposition, which he denies.
Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by George Obulutsa and Peter Graff