Rwandan exiles in South Africa blamed President Paul Kagame after the east African country’s ex-spy chief was last week found strangled to death in a Johannesburg hotel room.
Patrick Karegeya, 53, was found dead on a bed in the Michelangelo Towers hotel in the city’s affluent Sandton area on New Year’s Day, according to police. He had been at the hotel to meet a Rwandan businessman and his body was discovered after his nephew initially sought him at his house west of Johannesburg and found it empty.
The former Rwandan intelligence offer fled the country in 2006 after falling out with Kagame and later authored documents accusing the Rwandan president of repression. Kayumba Nyamwasa, a founding member of the Rwanda National Congress, an opposition party, was shot and wounded in Johannesburg in 2010.
“Rwanda is at war inside South Africa,” Andre Munonoka, a 59-year-old pastor who fled to South Africa from Rwanda 11 years ago, said yesterday at a wreath laying ceremony at Room 905 in the hotel to commemorate Karegeya. “I have no doubt about the decider of these hits. It is President Paul Kagame.
Rwanda’s government has not commented officially on Karegeya’s death.
‘‘It’s not about how you start. It’s how you finish. This man was a self-declared enemy of my government and my country. You expect pity?” Louise Mushikawabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister, said in a posting on Twitter yesterday. “Self-declared enemies of Rwanda are not on the government of Rwanda’s sympathy list. Investigation end.”
Kagame has been Rwandan President since April 2000. His ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party won 41 out of 53 seats in 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.
Kagame led a rebel army that ended the genocide of about 800,000 Rwandans, most of whom were members of his Tutsi ethnic group, in 1993.
There are about 3,500 Rwandan political refugees in South Africa, Michael Rwarinda, vice chairman of the Rwanda National Congress branch in South Africa’s Gauteng province, said in an interview last week.
Yesterday’s ceremony was attended by about 60 Rwandans carrying white and purple flowers and carrying purple cloths. A short religious ceremony was carried out in front of the hotel and in the room a white candle burned and a wreath in the shape of cross lay on the bed with a photograph of Karegeya propped up between the pillows.
“Somebody cannot run from prosecution and be killed here,” Michael Gahera, who fled to South Africa 17 years ago, said. “The South African government should step in. Today it is one man, tomorrow 10 and then it moves to another country as well.”