Johannesburg - Rwanda's government paid contract killers to assassinate opponents and critics of President Paul Kagame, according to a Canadian newspaper investigation published on Saturday.
The Globe and Mail spoke to exiles based in South Africa and Belgium who claim to have been recruited by Rwanda's military intelligence to silence critics of the strongman's regime.
The investigation claims to provide the strongest evidence yet that Kigali is behind attacks in South Africa, Britain, Sweden, Belgium, Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique.
It cites a recording of a 2011 telephone conversation in which it says Rwanda's then chief intelligence chief, Colonel Dan Munyuza, discusses the murder of two of Kagame's former aides with former soldier Major Robert Higiro.
“We will show our appreciation if things are beautifully done,” Munyuza is quoted as saying in the recording, which was verified to the newspaper by three independent sources.
“The price is not a problem,” he is quoted as saying, referring to the $1 million (about R10 million) being offered for a contract to kill Johannesburg-based ex-army general Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa and former intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya.
Karegeya, who was living in exile in South Africa, was found strangled to death in a luxury Johannesburg hotel on New Year's Day.
Nyamwasa has managed to survive at least four assassination attempts, including one that left a bullet lodged in his spine. He was shot and wounded in South Africa in 2010 during an attack that was described by Pretoria as an attack by foreign “security operatives”.
Higiro denies having a hand in the attacks and informed the targets before they happened, the newspaper said.
The Rwandan high commission to South Africa declined to arrange an interview with Munyuza when contacted by The Globe and Mail.
Human rights groups have long accused the Rwandan government of being behind hits on Kagame's critics who have sought political asylum abroad.
But Kigali has denied any links with the killings, despite a warning early this year from Kagame that “anyone who betrays our cause or wishes our people ill will fall victim”.
Kagame is revered as a hero by many both in his country and abroad for his role in ending the Rwandan genocide twenty years ago, which left about 800 000 people dead and the country in ruins.
The Globe and Mail said there was a “common” pattern behind the assassinations, where “Rwandan agents search for vulnerable people within the social circles of their targets and then put pressure on them or offer them money in exchange for their cooperation.” - Sapa-AFP