Intel tried to save Rwandan spy boss

2014-01-12 14:00

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SA officials knew Patrick Karegeya’s life was in danger

State intelligence officials last year attempted to move murdered former Rwandan spy Colonel Patrick Karegeya from South Africa to the Caribbean in order to save his life.

The State Security Agency knew that Rwandan agents were hunting for both Karegeya and his compatriot, former Rwandan army chief General Kayumba Nyamwasa.

Agents feared an attack in South Africa and told the two Rwandans at the beginning of last year that they were not safe in this country.

Both Karegeya and Nyamwasa rejected the offer of help, saying that they would not be safe from Rwanda President Paul Kagame’s death squads wherever they went.

Karegeya, a former Kagame confidant, was assassinated at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton, northern Joburg, on December 31, allegedly by Rwandan agents.

Rwanda denies it had a hand in Karegeya’s death, but its Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo tweeted this week that her government “has no sympathy for an enemy of the state”.

Nyamwasa and Karegeya were put under state protection after the general was shot and wounded in 2010, allegedly by Rwandan agents who are currently standing trial in Joburg.

The SA National Defence Force’s Defence Intelligence Division is still protecting Nyamwasa, who lives in a safe house. Karegeya left the programme in 2012 because he was a businessman and needed to move around freely to attend meetings.

Karegeya’s nephew, David Batenga, this week confirmed the offer from South African agents to his uncle, but said the colonel dismissed it out of hand. He wanted to stay in South Africa, Batenga said.

State Security Agency spokesperson Brian Dube said this week that the matter was being investigated and that the agency was not in a position to comment.

The department of home affairs did not respond to requests for comment.

Karegeya and Nyamwasa were founding members of the Rwanda National Congress, an outlawed political movement intent on unseating Kagame’s 20-year regime.

The Rwanda National Congress says it wants to do get rid of Kagame through a democratic process, but Kagame claims it is using South Africa as a base to plan the violent overthrow of his government.

Nyamwasa admitted to City Press in 2012 that he was plotting the downfall of Kagame, although through peaceful means.

The international relations department had instructed Nyamwasa to stop political activities against the Rwandan government.

The African secretary-general of the Rwanda National Congress, Pretoria-based lawyer Kennedy Gihana, confirmed that Nyamwasa was also approached by the state with an offer to move him to the Caribbean.

Gihana, who specialises in immigration law, said it was done in a very “informal manner” and was not an official request by the state.

The department of home affairs gave refugee status to both Nyamwasa and Karegeya, and can only officially relocate them through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Gihana said that if the department of home affairs wants to revoke Nyamwasa’s refugee status, it will have to admit that the state cannot protect him, which will be embarrassing for South Africa.

He said he had no doubt that the Rwandan government put pressure on South Africa to get the two men off the continent.

Meanwhile, the Ugandan government has refused to allow Karegeya to be buried in that country.

Karegeya was born in the Ugandan town of Mbarara and much of his family are Ugandan citizens.

He was also a senior intelligence officer in Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s army. He returned to Rwanda after the 1994 genocide.

Uganda initially granted permission for Karegeya’s body to be taken back to Uganda, but later rescinded because of pressure from Kagame, according to some local newspapers.

Batenga said this week that the family was “deeply saddened” by Uganda’s decision.

Karegeya will be buried next Sunday in South Africa.

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