At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda a horrified missionary was famously reported as exclaiming there were devils left in hell and they had all gone to Rwanda.
The political legacy of that horror now appears to have moved to greater Johannesburg, as came into focus this week with the apparent assassination of shadowy former Rwandan spymaster ex-Colonel Patrick Karegeya in lurid circumstances in a room in Sandton’s top-end Michelangelo Towers Hotel.
Though the one-time head of Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame’s sinister external intelligence operation was apparently strangled – a bloodied towel and curtain cord were discovered in the hotel room’s safe together with the lifeless body on New Year’s Day – detectives were also investigating the possibility he had been drugged before the actual commission of the murder.
While the South African government has yet to point a finger of blame at Kagame’s government and officially continues to investigate the killing as an ordinary and not political murder, details that have come to light around Karegeya’s last hours strongly suggest a connection with the Rwandan regime.
According to Karegeya’s political associates, at the time of his death Karegeya had been in the company of a Rwandan national, a businessman called Appolo Kiririsi Gafaranga. A figure with a chequered history – a poly-linguist and dealer in grey weapons, and also drug trafficker convicted under UK law – Kiririsi had apparently convinced Karegeya of his bona fides as a fellow conspirator against Kagame’s authoritarian rule.
Though as yet no evidence has come to light of the presence of accomplices in the murder, Karegeya’s close associate and controversial fellow Rwandan dissident and former army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa told media there was evidence that “no less than three or four men” had been present at the killing.
Rwanda has emphatically denied any involvement in the murder.
The country’s high commissioner to South Africa, Vincent Karega, this week told sister paper, The Star, it did not make sense to blame his government for Karegeya’s death.
“Why would we have waited six years?” Karega asked, referring to the years Karegeya had stayed in South Africa.
Adapted from the Sunday Independent, South Africa