The killing of a Rwandan opposition leader in South Africa, the latest in a series of violent attacks on exiled dissidents, has sparked new concerns about alleged abuses by the Rwandan government as it prepares to host a Commonwealth summit this year.
Abdallah Seif Bamporiki, chairman of the South African branch of the Rwanda National Congress, was shot and killed in a Cape Town township on Sunday. Nobody has been arrested, but his RNC colleagues believe it was a political assassination with strong similarities to previous attacks on Rwandan opposition activists.
Just last week, Mr. Bamporiki had led a memorial service for Rwandan opposition activists who have been killed worldwide, including another RNC leader, former Rwandan intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, who was strangled to death in a Johannesburg hotel room in 2013.
South African authorities have issued arrest warrants for two Rwandan citizens for the Karageya murder. They have alleged that the suspects are closely linked to the Rwandan government.
Another RNC leader, former Rwandan military chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa, narrowly escaped death in 2010 when he was shot in Johannesburg.
In the latest attack, Mr. Bamporiki was the target of a well-planned operation by professionals, according to RNC official Kennedy Gihana.
He said a man had repeatedly visited a Cape Town shop, owned by Mr. Bamporiki, where he posed as a customer and offered to buy furniture if it was delivered personally by the owner. The furniture was to be delivered to a house in Nyanga, a suburb notorious for crime.
When Mr. Bamporiki and a colleague drove the furniture to the house, the customer told him to wait for the money, Mr. Gihana said. A few minutes later, he said, two men emerged from the same direction and shot Mr. Bamporiki dead, ignoring the other man.
“We are all in shock,” Mr. Gihana told The Globe and Mail in an interview.
“The operation is the same as other attacks: They lure you out to another spot and make it look like something else. They plan this.”
According to a police statement, the two suspects fled with the vehicle and the police are investigating.
A number of human-rights activists and Rwandan opposition leaders have questioned the Commonwealth’s decision to hold its annual summit in Rwanda in June.
“The cornerstone of the Commonwealth is human rights and rule of law, which do not exist in Rwanda,” Mr. Gihana said.
Freedom House, a U.S.-based research and advocacy group, reported this month that the Rwandan government has an “exceptionally broad” pattern of targeted attacks on Rwandan dissidents in foreign countries.
“Rwandans abroad experience digital threats, spyware attacks, family intimidation and harassment, mobility controls, physical intimidation, assault, detention, rendition and assassination,” the Freedom House report said.
“The government has physically targeted Rwandans in at least seven countries since 2014, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya, as well as farther afield in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and Germany. Rwandans as far-flung as the United States, Canada and Australia report intense fears of surveillance and retribution.”
The latest killing of an exiled dissident came as Rwanda began the criminal trial of another opposition activist: Paul Rusesabagina, who was praised as a hero in Hollywood’s Hotel Rwanda movie for his role in saving the lives of more than 1,200 people during the 1994 genocide.
Mr. Rusesabagina was reportedly lured onto a privately chartered airplane in Dubai and secretly flown to Rwanda after he thought he was travelling to Burundi for a church event. Human Rights Watch said the operation “amounted to an enforced disappearance, a serious violation of international law.”
Mr. Rusesabagina is on trial on terrorism and other charges for allegedly supporting a Rwandan opposition militia in Congo.
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