KIGALI, Rwanda — It’s a matter of time before those who’ve betrayed Rwanda face consequences, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Sunday, nearly two weeks after the killing of a former Rwandan spymaster turned dissident.
The body of the former head of Rwanda’s external intelligence service, Col. Patrick Karegeya, was discovered in a Johannesburg hotel on New Year’s Day. South African authorities believe he was strangled. Kagame’s critics have accused him of ordering the killing. Government representatives have not denied or accepted responsibility.
Kagame said Sunday: “You cannot betray Rwanda and get away with it. There are consequences for betraying your country.”
Karegeya, a wartime ally from Kagame’s days as a rebel leader, fled to South Africa in 2007.
“It’s a matter of time, whoever betrayed the nation cannot escape the consequences,” Kagame said in Kinyarwanda during a national prayer breakfast meeting.
He warned that you cannot walk away from the country that made you who you are and expect to get away with it.
“I cannot be apologetic about that if you know the grenades that have been thrown on our streets killing Rwandan children,” he said, in an apparent reference to the accusations by the government that Karegeya and other dissidents were behind a spell of grenade attacks in the Rwandan capital.
South African police are looking for a man who was last seen with Karegeya before his death.
A former Rwandan Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, who has survived two assassination attempts in South Africa, said the man who was last seen with Karegeya was Rwandan businessman Apollo Kiririsi Gafaranga who befriended the victim in jail and who Karegeya trusted.
Nyamwasa and others accuse Rwanda’s president of ordering Karegeya’s killing and two 2010 attempts on Nyamwasa’s life in Johannesburg.
Theogene Rudasingwa, another Rwandan dissident and formerly secretary general of Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front party, told The Associated Press that Karegeya’s body was found in a room rented by a man called “Apollo.” Police said Karegeya, who had a home in the town of Roodepoort just outside of Johannesburg, had checked into the hotel.
Karegeya, Nyamwasa, Rudasingwa and some others were once allies of Kagame, and became critics. Karegeya headed the feared external intelligence agency from 1994, when Kagame’s rebel movement took power and ended the Rwandan genocide, until 2004. Several Kagame opponents were killed in that time, including former Interior Minister Seth Sendashonga, who was gunned down in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998.
The most recent killing that critics blamed on Kagame is the October 2012 death of Theogene Turatsinze, the former managing director of the Rwandan Development Bank who was found tied up and floating in the sea in Mozambique.
Karegeya’s killing comes five months after he claimed to have incriminating evidence that would prove Kagame, who is lauded by Western leaders for ending Rwanda’s genocide, actually provided the catalyst for the mass killings.
In a July interview with Radio France International, Karegeya charged that Kagame ordered the downing of a jet that killed the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and neighboring Burundi, the event that triggered the genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and some moderate Hutus were killed over three months.
Karegeya said on RFI that he was willing to hand his evidence to a court in France that is investigating because the plane’s pilots were French.