The United States says it is deeply worried about threats made by Rwandan President Paul Kagame against political opponents after one of his exiled critics was found murdered in a hotel room in South Africa. “We are troubled by the succession of what appear to be politically motivated murders of prominent Rwandan exiles,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Thursday, condemning the recent killing in Johannesburg of Rwanda’s former Director of External Intelligence, Patrick Karegeya.
Relatives of the former spy chief and other exiled opponents of Kagame blame the Rwandan president for Karegeya’s murder, saying this the latest in a systematic policy of assassination of foes and defectors by the Kigali government. Kagame and his administration flatly deny any involvement in the death of Karegeya, whose body, apparently strangled after a meeting with a mysterious business associate, was found in a posh Johannesburg hotel on New Year’s Eve. South African police have said they are investigating but have not yet announced any arrests, despite confused reports of a group of Rwandan suspects being detained in Mozambique.
Last weekend, Kagame, who has won Western praise for rebuilding Rwanda after the 1994 genocide there, defended his nation’s right to self-defence against those who “betray”. “We didn’t do it, but my question is; shouldn’t we have done it?” Kagame said at a January 12 prayer breakfast, clearly referring to the Karegeya case but without naming him. “No one will betray Rwanda and get away with it. Regardless of who you are, there will be consequences,” he added.
State Department spokeswoman Psaki said these comments by Kagame were viewed with “deep concern” by the United States. She delivered the diplomatic reprimand as the U.S. military started flying 850 Rwandan troops into Central African Republic, helping to shore up a struggling French and African peacekeeping operation that is trying to halt a wave of killings in the former French colony.