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Another Rwandan opposition party leader ‘disappears’. Why it matters

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The jailed vice president of Rwanda’s opposition FDU-Inkingi party escaped from prison on Sunday, according to the country’s correctional service.

Boniface Twagirimana was missing from a routine headcount at the prison Monday, local media reported, quoting a Rwanda Correctional Service spokesperson. The spokesperson said that Twagirimana and another prisoner had managed to escape by jumping over the complex’s fence and said that an investigation had been launched.

But members of the FDU — an unregistered political party — are calling “foul play” and fear that Twagirimana’s life could be in danger.

In a statement released Monday, the FDU party questioned how Twagirimana could have escaped out of a high security prison he had been transferred to only five days prior and called on the Rwandan government for answers.
“This information…leaves us to believe that there could be foul play by Rwandan security services,” the statement said.

“We call on the Rwandan government to inform the family, the party FDU-Inkingi and the general prison about the circumstances of the disappearance of Twagirimana. Mr Twagirimana was in the custody of the state which is accountable for his safety,” it added.

In September 2017, Twagirimana and eight other FDU party members were arrested on charges of forming an armed group and seeking to overthrow the government, charges Twagirimana denies.

The FDU members were placed in a Kigali jail where their party leader, Victoire Ingabire, was serving out a sentence for charges related to comments she made about the country’s 1994 genocide and collaborating with a “terrorist organization.”

Ingabire has long said her sentence was a result of her work as a prominent government critic and that the charges effectively criminalized her freedom of expression. International organizations such as Amnesty International and a 2017 African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights ruling have supported those views.

Read also: Rwanda frees jailed opposition leader Ingabire

Last month, Ingabire was granted a presidential pardon by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and was released from jail after serving eight years of her 15-year sentence.

Immediately after she was freed, she called on the Rwandan government to open the country’s political landscape to the opposition and asked them to free all other political prisoners, including Twagirimana and other members of her political party.

On October 3, Twagirimana was moved from Kigali’s Mageragere prison to Mpanga prison, in the country’s southern Nyanza District. The authorities did not inform Twagirimana’s family that he was being transferred or give any explanation for the move, according to Twagirimana’s wife.

Rwanda’s National Police and Rwanda’s Correctional Service have not immediately responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Twagirimana is not the first FDU member to go missing.

In May 2017, party member Jean Damascene Habarugira disappeared after he was called to meet an official responsible for the security of his locality. A few days later, Habarugira’s family were called to collect his body from a local hospital.

Twagirimana denounced Habarugira’s murder as an assassination. In a statement, the FDU said that Habarugira was “assassinated in cold blood” because of his opposition to the local authority’s agricultural policies and concerns over police brutality.

Politics

French journalist Galindo covering AU meeting detained in Ethiopia

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Ethiopia claims that a French journalist who came to cover the last African Union (AU) Assembly conference is being held in detention for violating his rules of accreditation.

Prior to the AU Summit, Antoine Galindo, a journalist with the French investigative news site Africa Intelligence, is said to have arrived in Addis Ababa. However, on February 21, he was arrested, charged, and then placed under detention again.

On Monday, a number of international press organisations called for his release, despite Addis Ababa’s contention that the reporter had broken rules.

The Nation was informed by an Ethiopian government spokesman that Galindo was only able to cover the summit and its associated activities due to his credentials.

“The Ethiopian Media Authority (EMA) has not issued any other permit to cover other local issues,” the spokesperson told the Nation on Monday.

“Police have therefore accused him of operating outside the accreditation he was given to cover the AU Summit plus accused him of engaging with members of militant forces that the country has outlawed for their attempts to destabilise a nation.”

The producer of intelligence reports on Africa, Indigo Publications Group, denounced the “unjustified arrest on February 22 and subsequent detection of one of its journalists in Addis Ababa.”

According to the employer, it informed the EMA in writing in January that Galindo will in fact also be covering certain local “Ethiopian affairs” and that it would like to speak with some officials.

While on a reporting assignment in Ethiopia, Galindo was reportedly arrested at approximately 3:55 p.m. and placed under arrest by the cops. Since then, he has been held at the Bole District’s Addis Ababa Police Commission.

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Politics

ECOWAS folds, lifts economic, travel sanctions on junta-led Niger, others

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Economic sanctions on Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso were lifted with immediate effect by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Saturday.

This came after the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government held an unprecedented meeting at the State House in Abuja, where they deliberated for hours on the political, peace, and security situation in the region.

Mali and its bordering junta-run nations, Niger and Burkina Faso, abruptly announced last month that they were abandoning ECOWAS, the largest political and economic union in West Africa, reversing decades of regional integration.

The ECOWAS Commission President, Dr. Omar Touray, announced the Authority’s resolutions and stated that it has halted the closing of the air and land border with Niger, creating a no-fly zone for any commercial aircraft.

Additionally, it has halted the unfreezing of all of Niger’s assets at EBID and the freezing of any financial transactions involving the central bank of the ECOWAS states and Niger.

Additionally, it removed the restriction on military junta members’ and their families’ travel. “Based on humanitarian considerations due to lent and the approaching month of Ramadan,” according to Touray, the decision was made.

Sanctions against Mali citizens being elected to ECOWAS positions were also lifted by the authority. Along with the lifting of sanctions against Guinea, all four nations were extended an invitation to future ECOWAS technical consultative meetings.

Additionally, ECOWAS requested that the member states that were withdrawing reevaluate their choice in light of the advantages their citizens had received.

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