Rwanda: How Col Karegeya has proved a dead man can indeed tell a tale
By Henry D Gombya
Dead Men Tell No Tales is a saying that has existed for a long time, and which American actor Clint Eastwood often used in many of his spaghetti westerns. But it wasn’t extremely popular until it became famous through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, in which a pirate-ish skull and crossed bones on the wall utters this very phrase, among other things. Basically, what it means is that to keep something quiet, kill anyone who knows about it and, since that person is dead, it would be pretty much impossible for them to tell your secret.
But former Rwandan intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya seems to have once and for all buried this myth and may now have relegated it to history by proving that, you know what, dead men after all, do actually tell tales these days. Having been mercilessly silenced allegedly by a group of assassins from Rwanda who enticed him to meet them at a Johannesburg upmarket Hotel on Christmas Eve and left after strangling him, the former Director General of Rwanda’s military intelligence seems to be speaking from the dead as his thoughts shortly before he died exposes one of the West’s most admired African leader as a cruel, murderous and calculating killer who has used the West’s failure to stop the Rwanda genocide in 1994 to his own advantage.
In a letter that he wrote to a friend in the United States, a copy of which The London Evening Post has obtained, Col Karegeya, a Makerere University law graduate who, together with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, joined a band of fighters that helped Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni come to power in 1986, is today laying bare the inner working of the Kagame regime in Rwanda and how the ‘darling of the West’ has used repression to stay in power.
Writing clearly with passion for his country which is tinged with Christian values, and verging on the need for reconciliation by all, and also showing a great command of the English language, Col Karegeya says: “The RPF (Rwanda Patriotic Front) government relies on a wide range of laws, administrative practises and terror to restrict citizens’ enjoyment of political freedoms.” He adds: “Institutions of the State continue to subject real and imagined critics of government to a wide range of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, detentions and involuntary disappearances and extrajudicial killings.”
Mad with power? Rwandan President Kagame who the late Col Karegeya accused of having become a terrifying killer
No Rwandan today can stand up to President Kagame and utter these words, Karegeya’s widow Leah yesterday told The London Evening Post that Rwandans are so scared of their leader that it took a while for those who knew before her that her husband had been killed, to have the courage to pass on the message to her for fear someone might hear them say what had happened. Turning on the very department he led for ten years from 1994, Col |Karegeya accuses the country’s security services, “all exclusively controlled by Tutsi military officers” of enjoying “absolute impunity for grave human rights abuses” and being responsible for keeping President Kagame in power. “Many members of opposition parties, civil society groups, independent media outlets and individuals suspected of being opponents of the regime, have been hunted down, arrested, tortured, imprisoned or killed by agents of the State,” he wrote.
The dead man then tells the tale of those he said had become “victims of state-sponsored terror” in the recent past. These included Andre Kagwa Rwisereka – Vice President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda who was found murdered and his body dumped in Butare on 13 July 2010; Jean Leonard Rugambagye – deputy Editor of Umuvugizi newspaper who was shot dead in front of his home in Kigali on 24 June, 2010 after writing an article criticizing President Kagame in his online newspaper and John Rutayisire, a relative of Col Karegeya. Another journalist that Col Karegeya doesn’t mention in his letter is Charles Ingabire who edited the Kinyarwanda newspaper Inyenyeri News as well as the Kigali-based newspaper Umuco. He fled Kigali in 2007 and was given asylum in neighbouring Uganda. An outspoken critic of the Kagame regime, on 30 November 2011 he was shot dead while having a drink at a pub in the Ugandan capital Kampala. No one has ever been arrested for his killing.
Others that have been allegedly killed for opposing President Kagame that Col Karegeya did not mention include Theogene Turatsinza, a Rwandan businessman who during his time as Managing Director of the Rwanda Development Bank (RDP) refused “orders from above” in Rwanda to declare RDP bankrupt. There had been rumours that senior members of the RPF had been helping themselves to the bank’s funds. He went missing on the 12th of October 2012 and three days later, his body was later found tied and floating in a river in Maputo, capital of Mozambique. Not knowing that within two days of writing the letter he would himself become yet another victim of the Rwanda terror group, Col Karegeya adds: “The Rwanda Government has deployed a very large number of intelligence operatives in countries across Africa, Europe and North America, to hunt down and kill opponents of the regime.” He couldn’t have been more prophetic.
What Col Karegeya says about the Rwandan leader resonates well with what others have said and written about President Kagame. Writing in the London Daily Telegraph of 22 July 2010, the newspaper’s Richard Grant wrote thus about President Kagame: “…the president of Rwanda is widely considered to be the most dynamic and effective leader in Africa today, and also ruthless, repressive and intolerant of criticism.” In his letter, Col Karegeya explains that what the outside world has seen about President Kagame is not what Rwandans living under his leadership have experienced.
He writes further: “President Kagame’s absolute control of the entire machinery of the state affords him protection from being held accountable for his many serious crimes, some of which have led to horrendous consequences for innocent civilians both inside and outside Rwanda.” The assassinated Rwandan dissident continues to tell his tale of a dead man by disclosing the source of President Kagame’s wealth. He revealed: “The business conglomerate – Crystal Ventures formerly Tri-Star Investments, and the military-led Horizon Group – owned by his political party, which for all practical purposes is his personal property, has extensive corrupt business relations with the state. RPF business entities have priority when government is issuing licenses for the most lucrative sectors of the country’s resources. Business entities owned by the RPF and close family and friends of the President receive the bulk of the government’s procurement contracts. Domestic and foreign investors seeking business opportunities in Rwanda are often compelled to go into partnership with the RPF as a condition for being allowed to do business in Rwanda.”
He accuses President Kagame and the RPF of promoting “social inequality” and undermining “national stability” by controlling businesses that benefit only a small group of people. He says: “The involvement of the RPF compromises the integrity of very many of its members, including President Kagame, because of the conflict of interest that they are involved in day to day in making official decisions affecting the party’s business interests.” Having died as the longest serving Rwandan director of intelligence, Col Karegeya surely knew quite well the inner workings of Kagame and the RPF.
As a lawyer, Col Karegeya does not mince his words when he accuses Kagame of bearing the responsibility for some “extremely serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, that have been committed against innocent civilians in both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo”. He says: “President Kagame will not shrink from committing any crime in order to stay in power. He does not have respect for the sanctity of human life and that is why he is always prepared to resort to murder of political opponents (and Heads of State) [Col Karegeya’s brackets] to deal with peaceful challenges to his rule. President Kagame bears responsibility for Rwanda’s failed transition to democracy and the political impasse that his attempts to cling to unaccountable power has given rise to.”
While Rwanda remains 22nd in the 30 poorest countries of the world (only two countries on the list are non-African), its leader, according to the man who knew him so well, yes; Col Karegeya, its leader travels in style. While most leaders in the West travel by public transport with the exception of the President of the United States, a country that is far richer and bigger than Rwanda which perhaps justifies its insistence, among other security details, that the leader of the so-called developed world must always travel exclusively on aircraft or cars made and provided by the USA, like many other African dictators whose countries are among the 30 poorest nations on earth, Col Karegeya tells us that President Kagame has the exclusive use of two private jets that transport him anywhere in the world or for any of his private businesses or official duties. “One example that demonstrates the depravity of Kagame’s corruption is the case of luxury jets that [he] uses for his personal and official trips. The planes, Global Expresses made by Canadian Aircraft manufacturer Bombardier, cost more than US 60 million dollars each.” He also stays only at the most exclusive hotels of the world. According to a Washington DC insider, last year Kagame spent over $10,000 a night on hotel accommodation for himself alone when he attended the UN General Assembly.
While Rwanda is perceived by many as being peaceful, Col Karegeya warns that the human rights situation in the country remains of grave concern and that one cannot rule out the recurrence of yet another very violent conflict like the one the world witnessed in 1994. “Can Rwanda continue to be peaceful while the government continues to be repressive and the majority of the people consider the government illegitimate? How do we balance individual freedoms and the requirement for a stable community?” he asks.
The world has gone out of its way to try and apologise for failing to stop the 1994 genocide. The assassinated Rwanda dissident was of the view just a week ago that this failure by the West has been exploited by the Rwandan ruler who has used it “to silence critics of his opposition to democratic change and the human rights practices of his security services”. This intolerance, Karegeya charges, “continues to fuel impunity and is an obstacle to lasting peace and sustainable development in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo”. “Western indifference to President Kagame’s human rights record and stand on popular political participation, is incomprehensible to the majority of Rwandans and it alienates them,” he said.