A senior official of a Rwandan opposition party has been stabbed to death by unidentified attackers on a motorcycle, the latest in a wave of killings and disappearances of opposition supporters in a country where an authoritarian government has a tight grip on power.
Rwandan authorities have confirmed that Syldio Dusabumuremyi, national co-ordinator of the FDU-Inkingi party, was stabbed to death on Monday night in a town in central Rwanda. Two suspects were arrested and the motive for the killing was unknown, an official investigations agency said.
Leaders of FDU-Inkingi said the killing was part of a deliberate pattern of targeting its members for assassination and intimidation, to terrify its supporters and prevent it from becoming a political force. The government is complicit in the attacks, they said.
Over the past three years, at least six of the party’s supporters have been found dead or have disappeared without a trace, and nine others have been jailed on terrorism accusations.
The government has not permitted the party to register or participate in elections. Its leader, Victoire Ingabire, was imprisoned from 2010 to 2018 for “provoking divisionism” and “inciting the masses to revolt” after she returned from exile and declared her candidacy for president.
The government of President Paul Kagame has often been criticized for human-rights abuses, rigged elections, tight control of the media and the assassination of political opponents both inside and outside Rwanda. But it has maintained substantial support from Western governments, including Canada.
Amnesty International said the latest killing is “extremely alarming.” In a statement on Tuesday, Amnesty said: “It’s all the more troubling that it follows numerous suspicious attacks, including the disappearance of an FDU-Inkingi party member barely two months ago and the death of yet another in March.”
The party’s vice-president, Boniface Twagirimana, disappeared last year after he allegedly escaped from a maximum-security prison. There are grounds to believe that “he may have been subjected to an enforced disappearance,” Amnesty said.
The international human-rights organization called for an “effective and independent investigation” into the latest deaths and disappearances. It urged Rwanda to end the “climate of harassment and intimidation” that the opposition parties face.
In a tweet on Tuesday, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau – a government agency – said its investigators had arrested two suspects at the scene of the stabbing at a canteen owned by Mr. Dusabumuremyi in a health centre. It said its investigations are continuing.
Leaders of the Commonwealth and the Rwandan government confirmed on Tuesday that Rwanda will host the next summit of the Commonwealth heads of government in June next year. It will be the first Commonwealth summit since 2018.
The summit could pose a dilemma for Canada. In 2013, former prime minister Stephen Harper boycotted the Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka because of his concerns over human-rights abuses by the host government.
According to the official website of the 2020 Commonwealth summit, one of the themes of the summit in Rwanda will be “the values of democracy.”
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the Rwandan government and the Commonwealth Secretariat said they expect leaders from all 53 of the Commonwealth countries to attend the summit.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has held several meetings with Mr. Kagame in recent years, including a meeting in August on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in France.
At their August meeting, according to a statement from Mr. Trudeau’s office, the two leaders “affirmed the importance of strong and growing bilateral relations” and discussed their “mutual priorities” for the Commonwealth summit in Rwanda next year.