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Rwandans Charged With Murder of Exiled Critic

South African Prosecution Offers Chance for Justice in Karegeya Killing

South Africa’s National Prosecution Authority has issued arrest warrants for two Rwandans accused of murdering Rwandan critic Colonel Patrick Karegeya, who was found dead in his hotel room in Johannesburg on January 1, 2014.

Patrick Karegeya © 2014 AP

During an inquest into Karegeya’s murder which began five years after the killing, on January 16, in Johannesburg, magistrate Mashiane Mathopa asked why no arrests had been made even though the names and passport numbers of four suspects were known to police. According to media reports, South Africa’s special investigative unit said in written testimony that Karegeya’s murder and attacks on Rwanda’s former army chief of staff General Kayumba Nyamwasa “were directly linked to the involvement of the Rwandan government.”

From 1994 to 2004, Karegeya was the head of Rwanda’s external intelligence services. But he fell out with the government and was imprisoned twice before fleeing to South Africa in 2007. There he was joined by Nyamwasa, and the two founded the exiled opposition party the Rwanda National Congress (RNC). Both were outspoken critics of the Rwandan government and President Paul Kagame. Nyamwasa survived an assassination attempt in South Africa in 2010.

In the days following Karegeya’s murder, Rwandan officials gloated about his death. Then Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo tweeted, “It’s not about how u start, it’s how u finish. This man was a self-declared enemy of my Gov & my country, U expect pity?” Defence Minister James Kabarebe said: “When you choose to be a dog, you die like a dog.” 

Kagame came close to condoning Karegeya’s murder in a public speech: “Any person still alive who may be plotting against Rwanda, whoever they are, will pay the price…Whoever it is, it is a matter of time.”

Rwandan opponents regularly receive threats, and Rwandan authorities routinely fail to investigate or identify those making threats and ordering attacks and bring them to justice. The step by South Africa’s National Prosecution Authority to file charges is an opportunity for the Rwandan government to buck that trend. If the government truly has nothing to hide, it should cooperate with South African judicial authorities and ensure the accused to face justice.

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