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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.

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This is Uganda, not Kenya, Museveni warns planned protesters against ‘playing with fire’

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Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, has warned demonstrators that they will be “playing with fire” if they march to parliament on Tuesday to protest corruption.

In a televised address, Mr Museveni warned the Ugandan organisers that their planned protest would not be tolerated.

“We are busy producing wealth… and you here want to disturb us. You are playing with fire because we cannot allow you to disturb us,” he said.

Kenya’s anti-tax bill has sparked a wave of anti-government protests across Africa, with reports of planned nationwide protests also growing in Nigeria.

Mr Museveni is accused by his critics of ruling Uganda with an iron hand since taking power in 1986, but his supporters praise him for maintaining stability in the East African state.

The president also accused some of the protest organisers of “always working with foreigners” to cause chaos in Uganda. He did not elaborate.

Police had earlier announced that they had refused to permit the march to take place. Meanwhile, One of the main protest leaders told journalists that they would go ahead with it.

“We don’t need police permission to carry out a peaceful demonstration. It is our constitutional right,” Louez Aloikin Opolose was quoted as saying.The United Kingdom and the United States sanctioned Uganda’s parliamentary speaker, Anita Annet Among, for corruption earlier this year. Although she has denied any wrongdoing.

The sanctions prevent her from visiting the UK and the US. The UK also threatened to freeze her assets.

The United Kingdom has also sanctioned two government ministers fired by Mr Museveni for corruption.

The theft of thousands of metal roofing sheets for needy communities in north-eastern Karamoja has led to charges against Mary Goretti Kitutu and Agnes Nandutu. They deny the charges.

Political behaviours are observed to often have contagious effects in African politics, and the protest wave might spread further. For instance, in the post-independence era of the 1960s – 1990s military interregnums swept through the continent, and have recently returned notably amongst French-speaking African countries.

Museveni declared himself president of Uganda on January 26, 1986, after leading the National Resistance Movement (NRM) armed group in guerrilla war against Milton Obote’s regime. He has remained the leader of the East African country since then in an almost four-decade-long reign that put him in the league of longest-serving leaders in the continent with his peers being Paul Biya (Cameroon), Obiang Teodoro (Equatorial Guinea), Denis Sassou Nguese (Congo DR), Isaias Afwerki (Eriteria) Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (Djibouti) amongst others.

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Look beyond Lungu, Hichilema, former minister Siamunene urges Zambians

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Former Defense Minister, Richwell Siamunene, suggests Zambians should see beyond President Hakainde Hichilema and Edgar Lungu if recent reconciliation efforts failed.

Siamunene made the position known while guesting on Saturday’s Prime Television Governance and Leadership Talk. “They needed to reconcile like yesterday. But if they fail to reconcile, Zambians should forget about them and choose other leaders among the 20 million citizens. Life shouldn’t be about the two,” he said.

Siamunene said the appeal for Presidents Lungu and Hichilema to reconcile was long overdue and that Zambians should turn elsewhere if they don’t while also urging the public to refrain from ‘joking when voting’ to enhance governance

“I think Zambian voters joke a lot when voting. We need to be as serious as Zambians; that is why the country is in this situation,” Siamunene said.

He stressed that ethnically motivated leadership was harmful.

Siamunene believed that leaders should be chosen based on their ability to advance development, not their wealth or education.

“Once you become a leader of the country, you cease to be family property and become part of the Zambian family. No friends or family considerations should influence decisions,” he said.

He underlined the necessity for exceptional leadership to fight corruption, saying that waiting for the President to authorize probes makes it academic.

Hichilema at his sixth attempt at winning the presidency in 2021 defeated the incumbent, President Edgar Lungu, by a landslide – more than a million votes. Hichilema capitalized on the failings of Mr. Lungu’s six-year tenure which was criticized for human rights abuses, corruption, a faltering economy, and high unemployment. The two politicians have remained political enemies despite recent talks of reconciliation.

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