The High Court for International and Cross-Border Crimes in Rwanda on Thursday convicted a missing opposition politician Boniface Twagirimana, and sentenced him to 10 years in prison for threatening state security and forming an illegal armed group.
The deputy leader of the FDU-Inkingi, an unregistered opposition party in Rwanda was arrested alongside 8 other FDU-Inkingi members on September 6, 2017.
Of those he was arrested with, three were yesterday acquitted after being found innocent while the other five were handed sentences ranging from 7 to 10years imprisonment.
The State say Twagirimana escaped from prison on October 8th 2018, but his family members have refuted this narrative saying he was picked from prison by state agents citing sources within security agencies and prison warders.
His wife, who visited him three days prior to his disappearance told local media at the time that there was no way he could have escaped from the prison under tight watch.
“Boniface was hoping that he would win his case in court, and he had been waiting for his release. Why would he then escape? Something terrible must have happened to him.”
According Victoire Ingabire, Rwanda’s leading opposition politician whose party at the time FDU-IKINGI Twagirimana belonged to they are still looking for him.
Victoire Ingabire has since left FDU-Inkingi to form her new political party Development and Liberty for All (DALFA-Umurinzi).
“I’m in constant contact with Rwanda investigation Bureau to see if we can find any useful information about his disappearance.” She said.
On October 3, 2018, Twagirimana was transferred alone from Mageragere prison in the capital Kigali, to Mpanga prison, in southern Rwanda. That was 5 days to his disappearance.
Twagirimana’s friends and colleagues have also challenged the government’s explanation, alleging that, according to other detainees; he was abducted and driven away in a state prison vehicle.
The FDU-Inkingi party leadership says since Twagirimana was last seen in custody and the Rwandan authorities are responsible for his fate and his presumed enforced disappearance.
The opposition members in Rwanda have in the past been killed or disappeared in what has been described as politically motivated.
Human Rights Watch has also documented the government’s persistent efforts to silence critics and perceived political opponents in recent years through arbitrary arrests, threats, and enforced disappearances.