Rwandan ex-spy chief found 'murdered' in South Africa

2nd January 2014, Comments 0 comments

South African police launched a murder investigation Thursday after Rwanda's exiled former spy chief and fierce critic of President Paul Kagame was found dead -- and believed strangled -- in a Johannesburg hotel room.

Police said the body of ex-colonel Patrick Karegeya, 53, was discovered slumped on a bed by staff at the $350-a-night hotel at around 5:30 pm (1530 GMT) on New Year's Day.

His neck was swollen and "a preliminary investigation revealed that he might have been strangled," police lieutenant colonel Katlego Mogale told AFP.

"The police also found a bloodied towel as well as rope in the hotel's safe."

Karegeya was the former head of Rwanda's external intelligence service and once a close ally of Kagame.

But after a decade spent as the gatekeeper to Rwanda's foreign intelligence network -- including in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where Kigali has often played a pivotal role -- he fell out of favour.

He was demoted to army spokesman, and later arrested, jailed for "indiscipline" and stripped of his rank as colonel.

In 2007 he fled into exile in South Africa, where he became a fierce critic, describing Kagame as a dictator and alleging he had first-hand knowledge of the state killing of Rwandan dissidents abroad.

Members of Karegeya's political party, the opposition Rwanda National Congress (RNC), said he was killed while attending a meeting at the Michelangelo Towers in Johannesburg's upmarket Sandton district.

Theogene Rudasinga, himself a former close aide to Kagame, told AFP Karegeya had been going to meet a man at the hotel.

"The guy he went to meet was well-known to Patrick. Patrick's body was found in the room reserved by that gentleman," Rudasingwa said.

He did not identify the man, saying only that he was a Rwandan national who travelled frequently between Rwanda and South Africa.

The RNC's party chairman for Africa, Frank Ntwali, laid the blame on Kagame's supporters.

"He was strangled by agents of Kagame," Ntwali told AFP.

Rwanda has vehemently denied involvement in the attacks.

"That is an emotional reaction and an opportunistic way of playing politics," Rwandan High Commissioner Vincent Karega in South Africa told local television station eNCA.

South African police spokeswoman Mogale said investigators were "following all the possible leads."

"The motive for the murder is unknown at this stage and most probably they are going to enlist the assistance of the Rwandan embassy with regards to solving this matter," he added.

Another prominent Rwandan dissident in South Africa, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, survived two assassination attempts in June 2010.

The RNC has claimed that investigations found "overwhelming evidence of the involvement of Rwandan intelligence operatives in those attempts".

Karegeya and Nyamwasa are both prominent figures in the opposition party, despite not holding specific posts.

Karegeya leaves behind his wife Leah and three children.

The case is being investigated by the South African police's Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.

© 2014 AFP

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