Johannesburg - The alleged killer of Rwanda’s exiled former spy chief was a man the Rwandan spy boss had been duped into trusting and who flew into Joburg three days before his body was found.
Colonel Patrick Karegeya, 53, was found dead on a bed at the Michelangelo Towers hotel in Sandton on Wednesday.
His killer, according to a member of the Rwandan expatriate community in Joburg, is a Rwandan businessman who goes by the name “Apollo”, who he had himself collected from the Gautrain Sandton station on Sunday.
He said the Rwandan community believed that Apollo was also working for Rwandan intelligence and had gradually won Karegeya’s trust so that he could kill him.
Apollo had met Karegeya on two previous visits to Joburg and had a meeting with Karegeya at the Michelangelo on Tuesday afternoon, a day before his body was discovered at the upmarket hotel.
Police said on Thursday preliminary investigations suggested that Karegeya had been strangled, as his neck was swollen. A bloodied towel and a rope were found in the hotel room safe, according to police spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale.
She said Karegeya had booked into the hotel on Sunday.
Former Rwandan army chief General Kayumba Nyamwasa has no doubt that his friend Karegeya was murdered on New Year’s Eve by agents of the Rwandan government.
“(I am) 100 percent certain it was the government,” Nyamwasa said.
two apparent assassination attempts in Joburg in 2010.
Karegeya’s body was discovered after his nephew alerted the police.
On New Year’s Day, his nephew went to Karegeya’s home in Roodepoort and found he wasn’t there.
He then went to the Michelangelo, where he discovered that the hotel room where Karegeya had gone for a meeting was locked.
The manager wouldn’t open the door as there was a “Do not disturb” sign on it. The police were called and opened the door.
Nyamwasa said it is believed that three or four men were involved in the crime.
He added that Karegeya’s wife Leah was in the US, where she had moved three years ago with their children because she did not feel safe in South Africa.
Rwanda’s high commissioner to South Africa, Vincent Karega, denied his government had been involved in Karegeya’s death.
Karega said it did not make sense to blame his government. “Why would we have waited six years?” he added, referring to the length of time Karegeya had been in South Africa.
If the Rwandan opposition in South Africa had evidence that the Rwandan government was involved in Karegeya’s death, they should hand it to the police, he added.
“And let’s wait for the results of the forensic investigation. It could have been from natural causes, such as a heart attack.”
The Rwandan opposition speculates that the Rwandan government might have been prompted to get rid of Karegeya now to prevent him testifying about the death of then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana in April 1994.
Karegeya told Radio France International (RFI) in July that he and Nyamwasa had evidence that Rwandan President Paul Kagame had been behind the shooting down of Habyarimana’s aircraft as it was about to land at Kigali airport.
Habyarimana’s death sparked a genocide by majority ethnic Hutus against minority ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Karegeya and Nyamwasa told RFI they were prepared to hand over their evidence to French judge Marc Trevidic, who is investigating the aircraft crash because the pilot and co-pilot were French.
Nyamwasa said Trevidic had not asked them for the evidence.