Conflict & Justice

Who's to blame when Rwanda's exiled spy chief is found dead in South Africa?

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Credit: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

A Rwandan woman carries an umbrella for shade north of the capital Kigali.

Rwanda's former intelligence chief has turned up dead in a Johannesburg hotel room.

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Details are few, but South African police say they've begun a murder investigation. They found a rope and a bloody towel in a safe in the Michelangelo Towers hotel room of Patrick Karegeya and the former spymaster's body showed signs of possible strangulation. 

Karegeya was a fierce critic of Rwanda's current president, Paul Kagame. Government dissidents are calling the killing a political assassination. 

But the Rwandan government is denying involvement and New Yorker staff writer Philip Gourevitch says it's too early to point a finger of blame in the killing. 

"What can be said at this point is there's a consistent pattern of people who were insiders of the government and have very intense fallings out with the government of Paul Kagame going into exile and going into absolute opposition," Gourevitch says. "It's not a party that tolerates dissent internally and when they go into opposition they start to call for the overthrow of that government. And there have been either attacks, alleged threats, warnings of various kinds."

After an attempt on the life of opposition figure Kayumba Nyamwasa in 2010 in South Africa, Gourevitch interviewed President Kagame and asked about suspicions that Rwanda's regime was behind the attack.

"He of course denied it, but he said I wouldn't be unhappy if it had succeeded. Sending signals like that obviously raises this extremely strong suspcision," Gourevitch says. "But we don't actually know anything concrete."

Gourevitch authored  We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Familiesa book that examines the roots and the aftermath of Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

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