Friday, November 20, 2009

Rwanda Green Party activists claim illegal detention

Rwanda Green Party members waited outside a meeting hall in Kigali, on 10.30.2009, to join the party's founding convention.  Saboteurs disrupted the gathering, which was then shut down by police.  Today's Rwandan News Agency reports that eight Rwanda Greens charge that they were illegally arrested and detained during the next week.

The Rwandan News Agency (RNA) published this report, "Green Party activists claim illegal detention, petition President," on the RNA website, on 11.20.2009.  To read it there, one must register on the RNA website.  

Some RNA reporters and editors are clearly determined to cover the story of the Rwanda Green Party's struggle to emerge, though some of their reports have become unavailable after publication.  This story appeared on the RNA site's "most popular" list, on its publication date, 11.20.2009:

Green Party activists claim illegal detention, petition President        
By RNA Reporters      
Friday, 20 November 2009
Kigali: The scheduled founding conference of the troubled Green Party did not take place Friday as the group wait for a Police certificate from the new Commissioner-General, Brig. Emmanuel Gasana. But not without new allegations, RNA reports.

A man by the names Gaston Bihibindi is claiming that he was detained for three days without food at the magnificent multi-million dollar Ministry of Defense building known locally as “Pentagon”. Mr. Bihibindi is not the only one accusing unknown individuals driving tinted double cabin Toyota pickup trucks of snatching them from their homes or as they walked.

The local weekly UMUSESO details ordeals of eight people identifying themselves as Green Party activists, who were apparently arrested on October 30 after the failed conference which police halted citing insecurity. The men were apparently detained at an infamous but not gazetted facility in Kimironko, an outskirt of Kigali.

The seemingly traumatized Mr. Bihibindi claims that on Sunday November 15 at around 18hours, he was lured into a blue and tinted double-cabin track by two men who asked him to direct them to a place where somebody was selling a house and land. The two men found him walking in Kanombe, an area where the International airport is situated, and where he lives.

“I told them that I have no idea about whoever is selling land or house but they insisted I should just get into the car to help them get around the place since I knew it very well,” narrates Bihibindi.

“But when I got into the back seat of the double-cabin, I started feeling insecure and scared after I saw a pistol (gun) placed in front of the other passenger.”

The car drove without stopping to the building which housed the former Rwanda Export and Investment Promotion Agency (RIEPA) in Kimihurura. “Along the way, I asked where we were going, but they told me there is no problem as they needed me to help them with something,” narrates Bihibindi. There was no more conversation.

At this building known here as ‘Kabindi’, the men handed him to another man who invited Bihibindi inside and told to sit in a room. Several men came into the room asking him questions. “One of the men kicked me as he talked to me like he knew very who I was,” claims Bihibindi.

All the people who interrogated him were apparently accusing the seemingly youthful former soldier of mobilizing demobilized soldiers to join the Green Party, which he admits to have done in the interview. “The one who kicked me accused me of joining the party for money because of my stomach,” he said.

During the October 30 failed conference, Bihibindi says he was in charge of protocol and is said to be one of the few strong activists of the controversial group. Green Party Frank Habineza is now in the spotlight for allegedly aiding a former minister to flee the country – which he denies.

After several hours at the Kabindi building, the same car with the same occupants returned and moved Bihibindi to the Pentagon building which is just in sight of Kabindi. He was taken to the basement of the Pentagon building where he spent the night with other detained people, who he describes as “looking like soldiers”.

On the Morning of Monday November 16, all the detainees were given bread and milk. This would be the end of the meals until Wednesday afternoon on November 19. “We never had anything else to eat for all that time,” he affirms.

However, what he also affirmed to RNA is that he was not tortured. “All my interrogators treated me well even when they were asking me questions,” he says. “The only problem I have with the whole situation is how could I be kept for all this time without being taken to court or even informed of what I was held for?”

On Wednesday, in the afternoon, a man Bihibindi indentifies as a “Major” came in to speak to him about his ordeal. “He ordered that I be released immediately but also ordered me not to tell anybody about what had happened,” he tells RNA in a soft tone, as he sat back.

Bihibindi says he walked out of the Pentagon building and headed straight home. The next stop was informing Green Party leaders of what happened to him because they had also been looking for him without any trace.

“I don’t know what will happen next. If I can be picked and taken away without anyone noticing, how sure can I be for my security anymore? I am defying the order to keep quiet because I am scared anything could happen,” he says.

“All I am requesting is protection from President Kagame as the leader of this country because people might be doing this without his knowledge.”

Meanwhile, the conference planned for November 20, a date which was communicated to Gasabo district and not Nyarugenge this time for permission, is not taking place today.  

The embattled former Mayor of Gasabo district Ms. Nyinawagaga Claudine requested that the party provides a police certificate that they will not cause more trouble in her locality like it had been earlier in Nyarugenge.

However, the new police Commissioner-General, Brig. Emmanuel Gasana has not responded to a letter wrote last week for the requested certificate. And the Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama also wrote to the party that they should solicit for a district Notaire because the Ministry’s Notaire would not be available today.

This will be the fifth time the group has not been able to hold the conference, at which they hoped to have nomination signatures of hundreds of their members verified – as part of the dossier the party plans to submit to the Ministry of Local Government for registration.

Party officials say they had deliberately planned to hold the conference today, a few days to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit due at the end of next week, where Rwanda’s application to join the block will be assessed.

President Kagame is expected to head a strong delegation to Trinidad and Tobago for the summit, at which, from all available indications, will unanimously accept Rwanda as the 54th member.

I reported on the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative group's objections to admitting Rwanda to the Commonwealth, here, on the Netherlands-based blog Colored Opinions, and, on the U.S.-based website, the OpEdNews.

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