Rwanda Opposition Party Urges South Africa to Protect Dissidents

A Rwandan opposition party called on South Africa to double efforts to protect dissidents from the central African country after its former spy chief Patrick Karegeya was found dead in a Johannesburg hotel room.

“By killing its opponents, the criminal regime in Kigali seeks to intimidate and silence the Rwandan people into submission,” the Rwanda National Congress said today in an e-mailed statement. Rwandan government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo didn’t immediately return a message left with her personal assistant seeking comment.

Karegeya, 53, was found on a bed in a hotel room in Johannesburg’s affluent Sandton area, near the nation’s stock exchange, the South African Police Service said yesterday. He had played a key role in setting up the Rwanda National Congress, the party said, and was living in exile in the country, which has the continent’s largest economy.

Paul Kagame has been Rwandan President since April 2000, with his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party winning 41 out of 53 seats following Sept. 16 parliamentary elections. While he has been praised for rebuilding the economy, human rights activists have criticized him for cracking down on civil rights and silencing dissent.

“There is a a lot of information at our disposal at the moment,” said Captain Paul Ramaloko, a spokesman for Hawks, South Africa’s special investigations unit. “We want evidence before reaching out to any individual.”

Opponents to Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front party have been targeted around the world, the Rwanda National Congress said. General Kayumba Nyamwasa, a founding member of the party, survived two assassination attempts in Johannesburg in June 2010, it said. The party named at least 11 other dissidents who have been killed in countries including Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon and Brussels.

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