Unexpected turmoil rocked a planned congress of the newly founded Green Party, prompting police to halt the meeting citing insecurity – as a senior Justice Ministry official looked on puzzled,
The party did not have its delegates’ signatures verified.An unidentified police Superintendent backed by dozens of other officers told hundreds of delegates to the congress and anxious onlookers that the meeting would not be allowed to continue because the “situation could get out of hand.”
“Due to security reasons, we are asking the organizers of this meeting to postpone it,” he said through the installed public address system, as people inside the hall and outside shouted back in apparent protest.
The chaos started just before the meeting had gotten underway at around 10:00am local time, when unidentified men forcefully entered the meeting area – penetrating through the packed-to-capacity hall. Like inside, on the outside, hundreds of people were gathered waiting to present their nomination signatures.
The man threw a chair at the seated crowd hitting a woman as he shouted repeatedly “FPR oyee” – in support of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front.
In the confusion, as people fled and others tried to fight-off the assailant, about six police officers came in dispersing those who were trying to restrain the attacker. The man and others were taken away, but it is not clear whether they are in police custody. The injured women kept weeping uncontrollably.
People could be seen falling as they ran out and away from the St. Paul hall premises – owned by the Kigali catholic diocese. Deafening shouting could be heard as people scattered to different directions. Party leaders could be seen running up and down seeming to have lost control of events.
Several injured people could be seen, and a woman is said to have been admitted in the intensive care unit at the high-end King Faisal Hospital. Other injured people are said to have been receiving treatment at the Kigali Central hospital.
In about 10minutes of the start of the chaos, reinforcements of several dozen police appeared – taking position, with some wielding guns and buttons. It is at this point that the police Superintendent entered the hall and briefly spoke on the microphone – saying only that the meeting could not go on.
Some people could be heard bitterly complaining that they had lost property including phones, handbags wallets and money. Others chanted “Kagame protect us please” – supposedly asking the President to come to their rescue, but not in an organised way.
Party officials tell RNA that one of their committee members spent the night at the Remera police station. When contacted, Police said the individual in question was found doing illegal activities. But party officials say he was carrying papers which he was using to sign-up new members.
This is the latest in as many times that the Green Party has failed to conduct this conference. The Party leaders however are not falling short of whom to blame - claiming that security operatives were behind the chaos.
Meanwhile, the four men who caused the stampede were taken away by police. It is not clear if they have been detained. RNA was told by police officials that there was no comment on what transpired as investigations continue.
Frank Habineza, leader of the Rwandan Green Party, comments:
Its indeed been a terrible day. We have established that the man who started the shouting and threw chairs, is an Ex-Soldier and a former employee of Military Intelligence, the other three people who joined him, one of them had something like a pistol, it was also seen by the US Envoy and Netherlands Envoy and many others.
This was a well planned sabotage done by security operatives. Another guy was also from the Local Defense Forces. The police was not helpful at all. It looked like they were compromising us.
What is surprising though is that the police has released the guys who caused trouble and rather arrested our members one of them a mother. Thankfully our members have been released but made statements at the police. They were asked why they decided to be members of our party.
Several people are injured, one lady is in intensive care. She has a back problem. I am still finding out how many are injured.
Keep us in your prayers
Here's a BBC audio link of the incident.