A South African police investigation concluded that the main suspects in the 2014 murder of Rwanda’s former intelligence chief Col Patrick Karegeya were “directly linked to the involvement of the Rwandan government,” a court heard on Thursday.
Rwanda has consistently denied involvement in his murder.
The late Col Karegeya, was a fierce critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and co-founder of the opposition group Rwanda National Congress (RNC). He was found strangled to death in a hotel in Johannesburg on New Year’s Day in 2014.
In a sworn statement to court on Thursday, the investigating officer in the case, Lieutenant-Col Kwena Motlhamme, said that the murder was conducted by “known” suspects.
He said that the police were aware of several previous assassination attempts against Col Karegeya as well as on Rwandan dissident General Kayumba Nyamwasa.
“The investigation in this matter revealed that the identified suspects had left South Africa immediately after the crime. Two months later, another Rwandan national namely General Kayumba Nyamwasa was attacked in Johannesburg with a view to assassinating him,” read the statement.
“These two incidents, together with several other attempts on the lives of both Gen Nyamwasa and the deceased in this case, were directly linked to the involvement of the Rwandan government.”
Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Richard Sezibera, was not available for comment by press time, but in December last year, Rwanda noted that the renewed investigation was a ploy to sow tensions with South Africa.
Rwanda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had communicated its concerns to South Africa about attempts by the South African Department of International Relations to delay normalisation of relations.
“These include unfounded allegations made against Rwanda in public statements and the media, based on rumours and distortions propagated by Rwandan detractors based in Canada and South Africa, and media platforms associated with them,” the statement said.
In a January inquest, South Africa named the four suspects in Col Karegeya’s murder as Appollo Ismael Kiririsi, Samuel Niyoyita, Nshizirungu Vianney and Alex Sugira—all Rwandan nationals.
In a ruling on Thursday, South African judge Mashiane Mathopa ordered the case to be handed to prosecutors, who are expected to consider issuing arrest warrants for the suspects.
South Africa insists that the suspects are in Rwanda, but the two countries do not have an extradition treaty to enforce an arrest warrant if it were to be issued.
Shortly after the killing in 2014, investigators were summoned to South Africa’s parliament and questioned about the role of the Rwandan government.
South Africa expelled three top Rwandan diplomats in March 2014, which prompted Rwanda to also expel six high-ranking South African diplomats.
Diplomatic ties between the two countries have been frosty since then, with South Africa withdrawing its visa services for ordinary Rwandan citizens.
Its embassy in Kigali remains vacant following the end of tenure of ambassador George Twala, who left Rwanda in February after serving for six years. South Africa has not sent a successor.