Slain former Rwandan spymaster Patrick Karegeya will be buried in South Africa on a date yet to be announced, the family has said.
In the first formal statement on the death of Karegeya in a Johannesburg hotel early last week, the relatives said the decision to bury his remains on foreign soil was a “difficult” one.
“It is with deep sorrow and regret that we announce the death of our father, husband and friend … As a family, we have taken a difficult decision to have him laid to rest in Johannesburg, South Africa on a day and date to be made known to you all later,” the family said.
Karegeya fled Kigali in 2007 teaming up with a group of military generals to form the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), a group that faults President Kagame, of turning into a dictator.
In the unfolding political drama, some of the RNC figureheads indicted for treason and terrorism were convicted by a military court and sentenced to lengthy jail term in absentia. Since his death in one of Michelangelo Towers hotel rooms in Johannesburg’s upscale Sandton suburb on New Year’s Eve, there has been speculation on his burial place.
As a man formerly wanted by the Kigali regime and whose family members have had run-ins with President Kagame’s leadership, the remains could not be taken for burial in Rwanda. Yet burying him like his father in Mbarara as requested by his Ugandan-based mother, Ms Jane Kanimba Kenshuro, became politically sensitive due to its potential to strain the present warm relations between Kigali and Kampala.
The Ugandan government yesterday insisted Karegeya cannot be buried in Uganda, saying he was a citizen of Rwanda and resident in South Africa respectively at the time of his death.
In a statement, Mr Fred Opolot, the Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, explained that the government had communicated to Karegaya’s family, rejecting a plea to have his body buried here.
The statement was in contradiction with an earlier position relayed by the Foreign Affairs state minister, Mr Okello Oryem. On Friday, Mr Oryem had told the Daily Monitor that Karegeya would be allowed to be buried in Uganda but “without involvement of government in the arrangements”, citing the deceased’s unique status.
In yesterday’s statement, the widow, Leah Karegeya, and their three children, currently living in the US and Canada, spoke of their pain to have the family patriarch buried on foreign soil.
“We thank our family and friends who have shown us tremendous love and support at this trying time. Your courage has strengthened us greatly,” they said, “We commit our dear beloved Karegeya to the Almighty God. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”
South African police who found Karegeya’s body in a pool of blood on January 1 following a distress call by hotel staff; said they are treating his death as “murder”. The motive and assailants remain at large.
Investigators were looking at the possibility that he was strangled and experts are carrying toxicological tests to ascertain actual cause of death following an inconclusive postmortem at the Johannesburg General Hospital.
Karegeya’s roles in uganda and rwanda
Karegeya was born and raised in Uganda as a refugee, but returned to Rwanda after the Rwanda Patriotic Front in which he played a key role, captured power in 1994. His parents, who originally stayed in Ntungamo District, continued to live in Mbarara in Uganda, giving the family two homes in the neighbouring countries. Karegeya rose to head Rwanda’s external intelligence and was a confidante of President Kagame until their fall-out in 2006, with the spy chief being detained and later stripped of his rank. He fled to South Africa where he, together with other renegade military generals, founded the opposition Rwanda National Congress, which Kigali accuses of plotting a violent regime change.