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Ex-Rwandan Minister Killed in Kenya

May 17, 1998 GMT

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ A former Rwandan minister, fired because he demanded punishment for rogue soldiers carrying out revenge attacks against suspects in the 1994 genocide, was fatally shot Saturday, a family friend said.

Seth Sendashonga, who survived a previous assassination attempt, was killed on Nairobi’s Forest Road with his Rwandan driver, the friend said, requesting anonymity. The driver’s name was not immediately available.

Three AK-47 shells were found in the U.N. vehicle they were driving, the Kenya Television Network reported.

Police refused to comment on the killing or whether any suspects were in custody.

Rwandans in exile mourned the death of Sendashonga, their most outspoken leader.

``Rwanda lost its most valuable democrat today,″ said Jean Gahururu, leader of the German-based exile party, Rwandan’s Rally for the Return of Refugees.

In an interview with The Associated Press in March, Sendashonga said he worried about his safety.

``I would like to go back to Kigali, but nobody can guarantee I will be safe there,″ he said. ``Even here, I have to be careful.″

Sendashonga, a Hutu, was slightly wounded during an assassination attempt in February 1996 in Nairobi, where he had lived in exile and run an opposition group after he was dismissed as Rwanda’s interior minister in late 1995.

The attack caused a rift between Kenya and Rwanda.

Rwanda refused to waive diplomatic immunity for embassy staff member Francis Mugabo, who was held by police in connection with the attack.

As punishment, Kenya closed the Rwandan embassy on June 20, 1996. Diplomatic ties were not, however, severed, and the embassy has since reopened.

The Rwandan government had no immediate comment on Sendashonga’s death.

Sendashonga was one of five ministers fired in August 1995 in a Cabinet dispute over whether to punish soldiers allegedly carrying out retaliatory attacks against those extremist Hutus responsible for the 1994 genocide of at least 500,000 Rwandans, mostly minority Tutsis.

The firings virtually emptied the government’s top levels of moderate Hutus, leaving Tutsis in charge of both the government and military.

``There’s an increasing number (of suspects) killed,″ Sendashonga said in an interview with The Associated Press immediately after his dismissal. ``I know it’s not the deliberate policy of the army to commit these crimes, but the perpetrators must be punished in an exemplary way that everybody can see.″

In March, Sendashonga said the Tutsi-led government was not doing enough to stop the killings of Hutu civilians in Rwanda.

``I told (Vice President Paul) Kagame several times, these are the names of the officers who are responsible for the killings. None of those guys were ever prosecuted, they were only shuffled to other positions or other places.″

Despite concerns for his safety, Sendashonga longed to return home.

``I miss Rwanda a lot. And I hope I will go back one day. But the time is not right yet.″

Sendashonga’s brother is imprisoned in Rwanda on charges of genocide.

Details on his other survivors and funeral arrangements were not immediately available.