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Inconsistencies Found in Rwandan Murder InvestigationAlysha Atma Salem-News.com African Affairs Correspondent
Inconsistencies called "glaring."
(BUTARE TOWN, Rwanda / PORTLAND, Ore.) - Human Rights Watch is calling for the Rwandan Government to allow independent foreign experts to carry out an autopsy on the body of André Kagwa Rwisereka, vice president of the opposition Democratic Green Party.
Rwisereka was last seen late in the evening of July 12, 2010. His body was found near the southern town of Butare on July 14. His head had been severed, and witnesses described unusual marks on several parts of his body.
"This is the second killing of an outspoken critic of the Rwandan government in less than a month, an independent autopsy and inquiry are necessary to determine what happened to Rwisereka.” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
Events leading up to Rwisereka’s death indicate that the murder may have been politically motivated. Those close to him have disclosed that in recent weeks, Rwisereka had become increasingly concerned about his safety, he feared being killed as a result of his opposition to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the country’s ruling party.
In late June, the former Green Party secretary general, Charles Kabanda, visited Rwisereka at the Sombrero Club, the bar run by Rwisereka in Butare, and tried to convince him to leave the Green Party. Rwisereka had told people close to him that Kabanda, who left the Green Party earlier in the year, had told him that the RPF would never allow Rwisereka to leave the “family” – referring to the RPF – and questioned what would happen to members of the Green Party. Rwisereka told people close to him that he interpreted this as a threat. Other members of the Green Party had come under pressure to abandon their party activities by individuals believed to be close to the RPF or the government.
The circumstances and inconsistencies surrounding Rwisereka’s death are glaring.
In a release issued by Human Rights Watch, it has been established that on July 12, Rwisereka arrived at the Sombrero Club at around 10 p.m. and shared drinks and food with Ntivuguruzwa, a regular customer there. At around 1 a.m., Rwisereka left the bar and drove off in the direction of his house. Ntivuguruzwa retired to the hotel room he had reserved at the Sombrero Club and was not seen to leave the hotel until the following morning at around 9:00 a.m.
Police spokesman Eric Kayiranga told Human Rights Watch that Rwisereka never arrived home. The following morning, an individual living in the area saw Rwisereka’s car, which was approximately three kilometers from the Sombrero Club, and called the police. The police told Human Rights Watch that the windshield was broken but that they did not believe that it was the result of a traffic accident. Rwisereka’s identity papers and keys were inside the car. Kayiranga said that the police conducted a cursory search of the area but did not expect to find Rwisereka near the site. Family and friends also searched the area for several hours, over a distance of nearly two kilometers, without finding any sign of Rwisereka.
On July 14, police were alerted to a body that had been found by local farmers and confirmed that it was Rwisekera. His head had been severed almost entirely and his face showed signs of beatings. The police said his left arm was injured and his left leg broken. Others who saw the body reported to Human Rights Watch that it was covered with dozens of marks. In statements to the media, the police spokesman rejected claims by the Green Party that Rwisereka’s body showed signs of torture. A large butcher’s knife was found at the scene, according to police.
Human Rights Watch’s investigation revealed that Rwisereka’s body was actually found only one kilometer away from his car, not three kilometers as the police spokesman had said. The police told Human Rights Watch that there was a lot of blood at the scene. However, when Human Rights Watch visited the scene the day after the body was found, there was little blood there. The blood was located in a single spot which roughly matched the size of Rwisereka’s head, and the body was on a steep slope, suggesting that Rwisereka may have been killed elsewhere.
The police also told Human Rights Watch that Ntivuguruzwa had given a false identity and had not revealed his name on the hotel register. However, Human Rights Watch has seen the hotel register and confirmed that Ntivuguruzwa provided his full name and identity card number.
The police initially stated to the media that Rwisereka had been the victim of a robbery, and that people who had seen him on the night he disappeared claimed that he was carrying a large sum of money. However, further investigations by Human Rights Watch and others revealed that he had left some money with a relative on the evening of July 14, but had been carrying little money and no valuables at the time of his death.
The police subsequently changed their explanation, alleging a financial dispute between Rwisereka and Thomas Ntivuguruzwa, the last person to see Rwisereka before his disappearance. Ntivuguruzwa, whom the police are treating as the prime suspect, has been arrested and remains in custody.
“The conflicting police statements and discrepancies between the police version and those provided by sources close to the victim are creating doubt and confusion about the circumstances of Rwisereka’s death,” Roth said. “A thorough independent investigation would confirm or dispel these different explanations.”
In an interview with the BBC in October 2009, Rwisereka had said: “It is time for people to act to bring about changes, as the RPF is incapable of having an internal revolution. So it has to accept that others come to its aid. A party that does not renew itself, from the point of view of its ideas, ends up falling. All the parties you have known which have worked with dictatorship, where are they now?”
Sources: Human Rights Watch
Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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