By Henry D Gombya
Portia Karegeya felt something was wrong when her dad did not answer her calls.
The widow of Col Patrick Karegeya, the former Rwanda intelligence chief who was murdered in a Johannesburg hotel room on New Year ’s Eve in South Africa has warned the Western world that it is time they realised they are supporting a dictatorial regime in Rwanda led by a ‘brutal and calculating killer who delights in killing his opponents’.
In an exclusive interview with The London Evening Post early this morning, Leah Karegeya said: “People are dying one by one, they are scared and can’t talk and finally something worse may happen. It is time they realised who Kagame really is. He is a killer who delights in killing. He thinks the solution for any problem [in Rwanda] is to kill. The world needs to go down on its knees and pray for that country. He is a brutal killer. I don’t know what right word use to describe what kind of [extremely cruel] killer he is.”
Mrs Karegeya was commenting about the moment she and her daughter 24-year old daughter Portia started suspecting something terrible had happened to her husband. Speaking in a calm, collected and sombre voice, Leah Karegeya said she had last spoken to Col Patrick on New Year’s Eve to tell him where she was going. She said: “I last spoke to my husband in the morning of New Year’s Eve. I told him where I was going. He told me ‘when you arrive, give me a call and let me know you have arrived’.
She said soon after arriving at her destination, she sent him a text message to tell him she had arrived safely but her message was not returned. “That was afternoon here (in the United States where she lives). He didn’t return the message but I expected him to return it anytime. He is this type of person who would communicate all the time with you. I knew that by midnight he would call us to wish us Happy New Year.”
Karegeya’s widow went on to say they started getting worried when they failed to get any communication from him. Portia, who lives in Canada, called and told her she was getting scared that her Dad wasn’t acting normal. The daughter told her Mum that there was no way her Dad wouldn’t have called them by now. “My daughter said: ‘Mum! I fear something terrible may have happened to Dad’.
Mrs Karegeya explained what happened next. “For some reason it [the expected message from Col Patrick] didn’t appear. I kept checking my phone for any text messages until morning and there was none. Then when morning came I said ‘what has happened?’” She adds: “Then my daughter (the first of three children – the other two are a boy of 22 years and another boy of 18 years) called from Canada and said ‘Mummy this is strange. This is not like Daddy. I sent him messages and he has not replied. I called his number and it is on voice mail. And this is not like Daddy. There is no way he cannot communicate with us on New Year’s Day.’”
She then told her daughter that she was also perturbed as to why her Dad hadn’t replied to the text message she had sent him before midnight on New Year’s Eve. “Then I tried to ring his nephew, the one who is always near him and he also was not answering his phone. I then texted him and he was again not replying to the messages. Then I panicked. I texted Mrs Kayumba [Nyamwasa]. I asked whether Patrick was with them and told them we hadn’t heard from him and were wondering what is happening.”
As the family in the United States got more worried and became very panicky, they received a call from Patrick’s nephew. When Mrs Karegeya answered the call, the person at the other end simply kept quiet and put the phone down. Then the people in Johannesburg called again several times and each time they put the phone down and could not bring themselves to break the bad news that indeed something terrible had happened to the colonel. “When they rang I could recognise the voice but the moment I started talking they could not bring themselves to talk to me and tell me what had happened. They called a second time and the same thing happened. Then when they called the third time, I told them ‘talk to me. I fear Patrick is dead’.
This writer found it quite hard to stop tears flowing when Mrs Karegeya explained what happened next : “When I said that, she broke off then I heard her screaming and saying ‘Auntie please sit down’. I could not hold the phone anymore. I just put it down. We [had been] feeling funny throughout the morning. My daughter and I were exchanging messages and telling each other who we had been trying to call. Then I shouted over the phone asking her ‘what happened?’, ‘what happened?’ Then my daughter told me she thought they had poisoned him and that the [South African police] were around [in the hotel room].
Failing to have the courage to tell Mrs Karegeya that indeed her husband had been killed, the people in Johannesburg kept texting her messages of saying they were doing this and that. It was not until Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, Col Patrick’s friend and fellow exile, finally gathered the courage to call Mrs Karegeya and break the sad news to her himself. Then all pandemonium broke loose. The rest is now history.
Asked how she was coping to fill the vacuum left by her husband’s assassination, Mrs Kayumba said: “Mr Gombya, I cannot explain that. I think I even haven’t felt it as much. So far I feel am like empty – my children are just…I don’t know. They should have at least shot him. But can you imagine strangling a person?”
Speaking about Apollo Kiririsi Gafaranga, the person named by Dr Theogene Rudasingwa last week as being the one who may have lured Col Karegeya to his death, Mrs Karegeya confirmed that she knew Apollo. “Yes I had seen him once. He used to come and stay with him. He was a friend. And at one point I remember when I was speaking with him (her husband) on Skype, he (Apollo) was with him and he said ‘I have a friend here who wants to say hello’. I just said hello to him.”
Karegeya’s widow believes that what may have undone her husband was his friendliness to almost everybody. “He had so many friends. I didn’t question him who he really was with but it looked like he was familiar with him and having been always security conscious, having him in the house must have meant he trusted him. “They (her husband’s killers) knew Patrick well. They knew how social he was and [in order to get to him] they had to use a friend. Mrs Karegeya said she believes the guy (Apollo) must have been planted on her husband for a very long time.
Mrs Karegeya described the incomprehensible feeling in the Karegeya family after the colonel’s body was refused to be returned to Uganda where he was born. Asked how she felt when she learned that Ugandan authorities had refused the body of her husband to be laid to rest in Uganda, she said: “For me, the world is just bad. It’s too harsh. When you look around, you think of people you knew, you think of friends you had and when you see how things turn out to be, you just shudder.” Asked whether she felt her family had been let down by Ugandan authorities at a time of great suffering, Leah Karegeya said: “He (Col Patrick) was born in Uganda. His family is in Uganda. Even though he moved to Rwanda for the love of serving his people, it does not remove the fact that Uganda is his home. That’s where his father is buried. That’s where his land is. That is where our home is. It’s just so hard.”
Meanwhile, Rwanda’s social media has named the alleged squad sent by the Rwandan government to assassinate President Kagame’s bitter critic. We are not in a position to verify the facts behind the names on the list but since they are now in the public domain, we are hereby reproducing them exercising our constitutional freedom of expression. Here is the alleged list:
Rwanda Exile Death Squad, South African Chapter.
Apollo Ismael Kiririsi; who is a perceived friend to Karegeya; Brig. Gen. Faustin Kaliisa – external inteligence under the president’s office; Col Francis Mutiganda – head of Rwanda’s external intelligence and former escort to Jack Nziza; Maj Matungo – an assassin from the presidential guard; Lt Col Francis Gakwerere -an external operative who is an alleged experienced assassin; Captain Tuyisenge – presidential guard and Paul Kagame’s personal body guard; Lt Col Charles Shema – external and Paul Kagame’s nephew.