Rwanda’s former head of intelligence, Patrick Karegeya, 53, was found dead on a bed in a hotel room in Johannesburg’s affluent Sandton area yesterday, the South African Police Service said.
“Preliminary investigations revealed that his neck was swollen,” the police said in an e-mailed statement today. “A towel with blood and a rope were found in the hotel room safe.”
Karegeya, living in exile in South Africa, was meeting a friend from Rwanda. After searching his home in Roodeport, west of Johannesburg, his nephew came back to the hotel and he was found in one of the rooms, Kayumba Nyamwasa, a founding member of the Rwanda National Congress, an opposition party, said in a mobile phone interview from Pretoria, the capital.
The former director of external intelligence booked into the hotel on Dec. 29, the police said. The investigation has now been handed over to the Hawks, a special investigative unit, the state-owned South African Broadcasting Corp. reported on its website.
Opponents to Rwandan President Paul Kagame “aren’t safe in South Africa and any other place in the world,” said Nyamwasa, a former chief of staff in the Rwandan army. Nyamwasa said he was shot at in June 2010 in a failed assassination attempt, also in Johannesburg.
Three calls to the mobile phone of Rwandan government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo today went unanswered.
Kagame has been the Rwandan President since April 2000. His ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party won 41 out of 53 seats at the 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.
“Rwanda is essentially a hard-line, one-party, secretive police state with a facade of democracy,” according to a 2010 briefing note co-authored by Karegeya, Nyamwasa and two other senior former Rwandan officials. “President Kagame and the ruling party that he leads depend on repression to stay in power.”
Karegeya was found in the Michelangelo Towers hotel, close to the city’s stock exchange, said Michael Rwarinda, vice chairman of the Rwanda National Congress branch in South Africa’s Gauteng province, in an interview. Calls to the hotel weren’t answered.
There are about 3,500 Rwandan political refugees in South Africa, Rwarinda said.
Rwandan ambassador to South Africa, Vincent Karega, said he wasn’t aware of the death other than news reports in an interview with Johannesburg-based state radio station SAfm. The embassy doesn’t have the capacity to investigate, he said.
In 2010 the deputy leader of Rwanda’s opposition Democratic Green Party, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, was found dead with his head almost severed from his body near the Rwandan city of Butare.
Last month Rwanda’s Supreme Court extended a jail sentence for former presidential candidate, Victoire Ingabire, to 15 years from eight years, the Nairobi-based East African newspaper reported, citing a ruling. She had been charged with threatening state security and conspiring against the government.