Plea to protect Rwandan exiles

Johannesburg - International watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on governments to increase the protection of Rwandan refugees and asylum-seekers, a month after the country’s former spy chief, Patrick Karegeya, was found dead in a room at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton.

The killing is just one in a string of incidents listed by HRW in a report released this week raising concerns about the attacks and threats against Rwandan opponents and critics living in exile abroad.

An undated photo taken in Kigale, Rwanda, of Patrick Karegeya, Rwanda's former spy chief. Picture: AP Photo. Credit: AP

Rwanda’s high commissioner in South Africa, Vincent Karega, has dismissed the report as biased.

HRW said the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government didn’t tolerate criticism.

“In the 19 years since the RPF took power, HRW has documented numerous cases of arbitrary arrests, detentions, prosecutions, killings, torture, enforced disappearances, threats, harassment and intimidation against government opponents and critics.”

Incidents include:

“The fact that within Rwanda itself many government opponents have also faced threats and attacks, and the context of the broader persecution of government critics, provide credibility to the allegation that these attacks were politically motivated,” the report states.

But Karega said: “Whoever has evidence of Rwanda’s involvement is free to give facts to concerned institutions, but not conclude by extrapolation or speculation to suit the narrative of anti-Rwanda campaigners in search of political tools to destabilise the current leadership in Rwanda.”

Several government officials have made remarks over social media hinting that Karegeya “had it coming”, but Karega said this did not point to culpability on the government’s part.

“Karegeya and Kayumba have never been critics or opposition to Rwanda – they are justice fugitives,” he said.

“Rwanda has no pity or responsibility over what happens to them outside Rwanda… Not being sympathetic to their death or the violence they encounter does not make the leaders in Rwanda the culprits.”