JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Rwanda's foreign minister says her government has no sympathy for a slain former spy chief who had a falling out with the country's president and who was killed in South Africa, while Rwanda's prime minister warned on Monday that betraying one's country brings consequences.
Members of the Rwandan opposition have accused Rwandan President Paul Kagame of being behind the killing of Patrick Karegeya. Rwandan Prime Minister Pierre Habumuremyi tweeted on Monday: "Betraying citizens and their country that made you a man shall always bear consequences to you."
When asked by The Associated Press if the tweet referred to Karegeya, the prime minister said "Not necessarily, this should be one of the values of #Rwanda leaders," in response. But in separate Twitter messages, Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said Karegeya was a "self-declared" enemy of their African nation. Referring to Karegeya's death, she tweeted: "You expect pity?"
The Rwandan government denies it targets dissidents for assassination, though the death of Karegeya — whose body was found, apparently strangled, on New Year's Day in Johannesburg — fits a pattern of attacks on Rwandan dissidents. Kagame has long been accused of extra-territorial killings, including ones committed when Karegeya was the feared boss of Rwanda's external security agency.
Among the attacks, gunmen twice tried to kill Kagame's former chief of army staff, Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, while he was living in exile in Johannesburg in 2010. Nyamwasa told The Associated Press in 2012 that Kagame has hunted him and other dissidents around the world "using hired killer squads."
Responding to Mushikiwabo's tweets, Karegeya's eldest son Elvis asked her on Twitter: "So it's your government's view that any 'enemy' of the state deserves to be strangled to death?" Mushikiwabo responded: "It's my Gov position: 1. what happens to its enemies shd not make it lose sleep & 2. investigation shd proceed"
She repeated accusations that the slain dissident colonel and his colleagues had been behind grenade attacks in Rwanda in recent years. Karegeya's family, meanwhile, said the Ugandan government has rejected a request for him to be buried in Uganda, the country of his birth and where his mother and siblings still live. James Mugume, the permanent secretary at Uganda's Foreign Ministry, said Monday Karegeya cannot be buried in Uganda because of "sovereignty" issues.
"He was a citizen of Rwanda and was resident in South Africa. We don't want to interfere in other countries' matters," Mugume said. In an interview with the AP on Monday, Karegeya's nephew, David Batenga, said he believes that the last person seen with Karegeya used a fake passport to enter South Africa. Batenga said Monday that the man, Rwandan businessman Apollo Kiririsi Gafaranga, had seemed to be a friend of the former Rwandan external intelligence chief.
"We haven't been able to find any record of him entering the country. So he must have used a fake passport," Batenga said. Three days earlier, Batenga and his uncle had picked Gafaranga up at a light-rail station and driven him to the plush Michelangelo Towers hotel where he had asked to be booked in. According to family members and friends, Gafaranga had spent years earning Karegeya's trust and had travelled to South Africa at least four times, always apparently on fake documents and staying at Karegeya's home.
But this time he had asked to be booked into a hotel, citing growing fears of the Rwandan regime and the security risk to his friend. Karegeya was found dead in the hotel room after failing to respond to phone calls and text messages from his nephew. Gafaranga was gone, taking only his cellphone and wallet with him and leaving his suitcase behind in the room, Batenga said. Batenga believes more than one person was involved in the killing, saying it would likely take a several men to overpower his uncle and there weren't any signs of a massive struggle in the hotel room.
South African police have said they are following several leads but have provided no details. Gafaranga's name was on a list of seven people claimed in a blog run by Rwandan dissidents to belong to a hit squad sent to South Africa to eliminate Karegeya. The blog said its information came from informers. Some of the hit men, it charged, had entered South Africa via Mozambique.
Karegeya had been living in exile in South Africa for more than five years after having a falling out with Kagame.
Muhumuza reported from Kampala, Uganda. Associated Press reporters Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya and Andrew O. Selsky in Johannesburg contributed to this report.