Rwandan exiles warned of assassination threat by London police | World news | The Guardian
Rwandan exiles warned of assassination threat by London police
Two dissidents living in London told that Rwandan government poses imminent risk to their lives
Rwandan exiles warned about threats to their lives may have been targeted because of criticisms made of President Paul Kagame
The Metropolitan police have warned two Rwandan exiles living in London that they face an “imminent threat” of assassination at the hands of the Rwandan government.
The dissidents received letters within hours of one another which advised them to take extra steps to increase their safety and raised the possibility of them leaving the country, the Times reported.
“Reliable intelligence states that the Rwandan government poses an imminent threat to your life,” the warning letters read. “The threat could come in any form. You should be aware of other high-profile cases where action such as this has been conducted in the past. Conventional and unconventional means have been used.”
One of the men, Rene Mugenzi, 35, stood as a Liberal Democrat candidate for Greenwich council, in south-east London, and now runs a social enterprise which aims to help disadvantaged communities. He may have been targeted because of comments he made about the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, in March when asked on a BBC programme about the prospect of the Arab spring uprisings spreading to his homeland. He replied that criticisms of Kagame suggested that he was “a despot who doesn’t tolerate any form of opposition; that under his leadership, Rwanda has become a dangerous place for those who publicly disagree with him or his ruling party”.
Mugenzi told the Independent: “How can it be that in Britain, a foreign government can be allowed to threaten the life of a person? Every time I go outside, I am looking over my shoulder, wondering if there is an assassin around the corner.”
The other recipient of the warning letter was Jonathan Musonera, a former officer in the army of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front. He is one of several exiled military officers behind the founding of the Rwanda National Congress, a new political party that earlier this month called on the Rwandan president to stand down “if he cannot stop killing, jailing and exiling innocent citizens”. The group recently held a meeting in London. Musonera told the Independent he was “terribly scared. We know what the Rwandan government can do.”
A Rwandan suspected of being part of the assassination threat was stopped at the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone, Kent, last week, according to the Times. It said the man, a naturalised Belgian aged 43, left after being questioned by police.
Western governments have praised Kagame for his efforts in transforming Rwanda since the 1994 genocide, with Britain committing £83m a year until 2015 to help rebuild the country. But political violence and suppression in Rwanda have shaken faith in Kagame.
Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, another founder member of the Rwanda National Congress and former head of Rwandan intelligence, was the subject of a failed assassination attempt in South Africa in June, last year.
The Independent reported last month that MI5 had warned the Rwandan high commissioner to London, who attended the royal wedding, to halt an alleged campaign of harassment against critics of Kagame living in the UK or face a cut in British aid.
A Rwandan government spokesman said the allegations contained within the warning letters were “without foundation. The government of Rwanda does not threaten the lives of its citizens, wherever they live,” he said. “The Metropolitan police have not approached us with evidence of these allegations but we are ready as always to work with them to ensure that nobody, be they Rwandan or not, is the victim of violence on British soil.”