There are still a lot of uncertainties about the violent death on New Year’s Day in a hotel in Sandton – a satellite city of Johannesburg – of dissident former Rwandan external intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya.
Who killed him?
Initial reports indicate he was strangled, but that it also is possible he was poisoned before strangulation. Did the government of Rwanda have a hand in his demise – as so many have been alleging even before the results of any autopsy are made public?
Or did Karegeya die at the hands of deceased Burundian musician Christopher Matata’s relatives, even associates, looking to revenge the Burundian musician’s death in 2011 by poisoning?
That year the story was all over the Burundian press that Matata died allegedly after ingesting a drug that a girl – who also happened to be regularly going out with Karegeya for pay – slipped into his drink at the instructions of Karegeya.
The girl, whose identity hasn’t been revealed, was, according to the Burundian media, at the center of a sex for pay triangle involving her, Karegeya and Matata.
When Karegeya discovered she had been going out with the famed Burundian musician he was enraged and, according to the girl herself, paid her a large sum of money and gave her the drug with instructions to slip it into Matata’s drink the next time they were together.
The girl’s story is that Karegeya duped her into believing the drug would only plunge Matata into a deep sleep during which Karegeya would ransack the musician’s belongings because, the girl said, he told her he believed Matata had been sent by the Rwandan government to spy on him.
But the singer never recovered from the drug, was checked into a Johannesburg hospital and breathed his last. Did an attack of conscience prompt the girl to take her story to the media? We don’t know.
What we know is that this story, coming from the Burundian media, is difficult to dispute – why would anyone in Burundi be interested in character attacks on Karegeya?
But it’s an angle that the multitudes in foreign media – on Twitter, on Facebook and other social media that already have indicted Kagame as “the killer” – are studiously overlooking.
Just like they overlook the fact there could be any number of other possible causes for the former intelligence chief’s demise.
Back in Kigali, there are at least a few things any objective observer can be fully certain of following the announcement of Patrick Karegeya’s death.
One is that those Rwandans who have lost loved ones, or sustained injury due to grenade blasts – in Nyabugogo, Nyarugenge, Kicukiro, Kimironko and other crowded areas where they have occasionally been going off for the past four or so years – are jubilating, enjoying a vicarious sense of justice due to the death of one of the masterminds of those terror attacks.
For these people, it does not matter at all who killed Karegeya; the fact that he met his demise the way he did is a source of satisfaction, of closure. That’s at least what the two (grenade victims) that we managed to trace down for this piece said.
It has been public knowledge for the past months that Karegeya, and fellow dissident Kayumba Nyamwasa, are the individuals behind the terror attacks in Kigali.
Karegeya himself has been quoted in the international media saying that in Kigali, “there cannot be any change through election, but through violent means.” Even The New York Times put that in direct quotes reporting on his death.
What kind of man was Karegeya?
Karegeya – together with the likes of Kayumba, Theogene Rudasingwa and Gerald Gahima – was the kind of person that would traitorously join forces with individuals who only yesteryear were busy carrying out unspeakable massacres and crimes of humanity against his very own people.
It was totally inconceivable only a few years ago that former senior cadres of the Rwandese Patriotic Front, which stopped the Genocide, could somehow find common cause with the FDLR. But men like Karegeya are apparently totally without scruples. They have no shameful bone in their body.
Their greed for unlimited power, and the attendant unlimited wealth they imagine they would milk from their country, far overrides any little human decency they might possess.
Karegeya for instance is a man whose secret business dealings with fugitive Felicien Kabuga, a mastermind and one of the chief financiers of the Genocide of Tutsis of 1994, were revealed even before he left Rwanda for self-exile in South Africa.
He is one of the reasons Kabuga has evaded arrest – because he was in the pay of the man and regularly tipped him off about moves to have him apprehended, according to intelligence information.
According to an investigation by the website News of Rwanda Patrick Karegeya one time provided all the necessary documentation for two of Kabuga’s children, Donatien Nshimyumuremyi and Seraphine Uwimana who were residents of Belgium to come to Rwanda reclaim their father’s property.
The two, with the help of Karegeya were in Kigali between October and December 2003 and through them Kabuga was able to regain two of his prime properties in the city.
Under Karegeya’s direction, Janvier Mabuye an officer of the External Security Organization accredited to the Rwandan Embassy in Belgium granted powers of attorney to the two Kabuga children to act on their father’s behalf.
News of Rwanda provides further details of the visit, showing that the two women stayed at the Mille Collines Hotel, providing the numbers – invoice no. 105620 – forwarded to ESO and paid by a check signed Patrick Karegeya on 25 February 2004.
He did all that knowing fully well that the property of all masterminds, ringleaders and instigators of the Genocide could no longer belong to them, but to the state.
That is the kind of man Karegeya was. Those are just some of the shady dealings associated with him.
He also was vain – I remember seeing him in 2005 or 06 tooling around town in a luxury American SUV, and not any SUV, but a Ford Lincoln Navigator.
It had a growl like a couple of angry lions were stuck under the hood; it screamed, look at me you miserable Toyota Prados, Land Cruisers, Pajeros, Mercedes Benz sedans and other lesser vehicles of Kigali, and get out of the way!
That was vain: importing a car that no one else in town had; a car that not even the most senior cabinet minister in Kigali would ever dare be seen driving, leave alone a colonel in the military who had not long ago been relieved of his duties.
It was like he was sticking a middle finger at every one of his bosses. Much speculation had been doing the rounds as to the reasons of his sacking, and subsequent house arrests and jailing.
To anyone who knows the self-restraint expected of a member of the Rwandan army, a colonel driving a vehicle like a Lincoln Navigator is like purchasing a ticket to the jail plus subsequent thorough investigations of the sources of your wealth.
But even the most flawed people have some good in them. Karegeya was charming, and he could be hysterically funny. Some time in 2006 or 07, not long before he went to his South African exile, we were at a cocktail at the British Embassy in Kacyiru in honor of The Queen’s birthday.
So here was Karegeya making some two female members of the Embassy’s female diplomatic staff laugh, and I joined their cluster. Karegeya was telling a ribald joke in his Kinyankore accented English.
It was about an old Mukiga from Uganda’s Rukungiri district who went to get himself baptized at the church; to have the priest “wash him of his sins before it was too late”.
This scruffily dressed Mukiga, according to Karegeya, was one of those crude fellows, straight from the sticks who say whatever it is that comes into their mind. “So when the priest raised the water to pour it on his forehead the old Mukiga protested,” Karegeya was telling the two British women.
“Why are you pouring the water on my head? If you want to wash me of my sins pour the water on ‘that thing down there’! It is the one committing all the sins; it is the one standing up at the sight of other people’s wives and daughters; my head has done nothing wrong, don’t pour the water on it!” Writing about it does not begin to do justice to how funny it sounded when Karegeya was telling the joke. I was about to collapse in laughter, as were the two women.
But Karegeya’s charm, coupled with his reputed inveterate womanizing, was another cause of his indiscipline problems in the army.
Having seen his little standup comedy routine at the British Embassy, and how charming he was with the women, I just knew there and then that rumors of his having an affair with a young French woman, a correspondent of the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency, were true.
What kind of an intelligence service chief carries out affairs with journalists from countries that are on decidedly unfriendly terms with his? One that is asking to be sacked and jailed, for sure.
In the media we like to think of ourselves as driven by high ideals, like seeking out the truth and disseminating it without fear or favor.
In reality, some members of the press, like foreign correspondents, can be their countries’ most effective spies. They gather a lot of information and, when asked, pass it on to their embassies.
That’s just a fact of life, and to imagine that a chief of intelligence would ignore that; to think of a Rwandan intelligence chief having any sort of intimate relationship with a French foreign correspondent was simply astonishing.
Patrick Karegeya did many things in Kigali to get himself sacked and jailed, and confined to house arrest. President Kagame, his Commander in Chief, reputedly gave him many chances to change his ways of doing things, to no avail. Sacking the man did not work.
Disciplining him militarily only brought further clashes between him and fellow senior officers, leading to more disciplinary measures. Confining him to his house only made him more obdurate.
Finally, Karegeya left. To go join the “opposition in exile”; to hobnob with top members of the FDLR; to have several shady business dealings; to basically fritter away his life drinking hard spirits every evening, succumbing to the temptations of Johannesburg’s night life, and the splendid comforts of its five star hotels. Until someone(s) snuffed out his life.