A prominant Rwandan journalist said that ,”Mr. Patrick Karegeya gives a good insight of issues in Rwanda in an interview with the RED PEPPER, a Uganda-based-daily publication. He talks about despotism, personalization of state affairs-like institutions of the state, insensitivity, perpetuation of clientelism in public administration, a lack of genuine reconciliation, rigging of elections, human rights violations, terrorizing the population into submission, state of fear, deceit, absence of rule of law, appropriation of public finances for personal aggrandizement and many other issues of governance deficiencies all with relevant examples…the only way to challenge Kagame’s regime is tackling the real issues that hurt Rwandans, just the way Mr. Karegeya does in the interview….”
The unedited interview is below:
COL. Patrick Karegyeya is a former top spy for the Rwandan government who fell out with the leadership and fled into exile in South Africa. From South Africa, he called Red Pepper on Wednesday following the attempt on his exiled colleague, former Rwandan Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa’s life in Johannesburg South Africa by unknown assassins to explain their differences with the Rwandan government. RED PEPPER’S Arinaitwe Rugyendo interviewed him.
Rugyendo: What really is your problem with President Kagame?
Karegyeya: I have no personal problem with President Kagame. Our differences are premised on matters of principle over national issues mostly with regard to governance and human rights.
Rugyendo: What issues are those?
Despotism – The struggle to liberate Rwanda was premised on the establishment of democracy. This has not happened in the past 17 years of Kagame’s rule. We were all required then to participate and praise the rigging of elections where Kagame allots himself 95% in the Presidential Elections in 2003 and 94% in 2010. Some of us then wondered whether there was any difference between him and President Habyalimana (ex-Rwandan President), yet during the struggle we vehemently criticized the rigging of elections by his government.
Rugyendo: But some people have argued that this demonstrates Kagame’s popularity.
Karegyeya: Well, even supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, President Ben Ali and President Muammar Gaddafi were saying the same a month before their ouster. When you look at the sacrifices and anger during the revolutions in those countries, it is a wake-up call on how despotism can be deceitful to those looking at it from outside. It is only a despotic leader who can register 90+ in general elections
Rugyendo: Unlike those countries, Rwanda boasts of an efficient state- one of the best in Africa
Karegyeya: Any country that churns out refugees like Rwanda does lack the fundamental guarantees of the rule of law. President Kagame is the jury, the judge and the hang man in Rwanda. Many people have been held for long periods on his orders. Fabricated charges are designed to victimize political opponents in courts of law. Many people decide to run to exile because their cases cannot fairly be adjudicated by courts of law.
Rugyendo: Can you cite any names?
Karegyeya: Most people who were in government in the early 1990s have probably disappeared without trace, run to exile or severely marginalized in Rwanda. What happened to President Bizimungu? What about all leaders of the transitional government of 1994?
Rugyendo: But most of these cases are a result of indiscipline. What do you want the president to do?
Karegyeya: Kagame argues that his former colleagues were either nothing, useless or corrupt. But none of them owns two bombardier global express long range luxury jets, none of them sleeps in a hotel room for $20,000 a night on public expense.
Rugyendo: Patrick, any president anywhere is entitled to comfort?
Karegyeya: True, but it is nauseating listening to the most kleptocratic despots preaching zero tolerance on corruption. We are totally opposed to a leader who has appropriated public finances for his aggrandizement.
Rugyendo: But isn’t it normal for you in the opposition to acuse the rulers of Despotism?
Karegyeya: In Rwanda every one is a potential candidate to prison, exile or disappearance. The state of fear, suspicion and deafening silence is simply unbearable. Nobody loves living in a police state where citizens open their mouths only when they visit a dentist or are on their dinner tables. The killings have been extended to foreign countries -assassination attempts in South Africa are well documented, the UK MI5 warned the Rwanda government about an assassination attempt on British territory and many others. Rugyendo: The Rwandan government has denied all this
Karegyeya: If you were in their shoes, would you admit?
Rugyendo: I have been to Rwanda. Every citizen moves about freely
Karegyaya: The Rwanda I know of which is Kagame’s Rwanda, the media, human rights organisations and even the church are put on the leash to preach and condone government excesses. Most of them, if not all, have been infiltrated and manned by security agents to the extent that it is absurd to call them civil societies. Unfortunately, Kagame has created the tendency and belief that Rwanda will end with Kagame. Generally my quarrel with President Kagame is about liberty and freedoms. We argue that there is a difference between Kagame and Rwanda. Rwanda and Kagame do not mean the same. His critics could be his opponents but not national enemies. Unless these distinctions are drawn, we have no other way of describing Paul Kagame other than being a despot.
Rugyendo: You one time said and I quote: ‘Dictators’ don’t step down, they are brought down,’ in reference to President Kagame. Isn’t he justified to hunt you down?
Karegyeya: Former President Mubarak is in court for killing those who called for his ouster. Everywhere in the world, opposition politicians call for the ouster of obnoxious leaders. What is wrong for us to call for the removal of a dictator in Rwanda? We have advocated for peaceful means of bringing down a dictator. He has no right to hunt us down. It is already scandalous that all those challenging his dictatorship are either dead, in exile or in prison. When he gets out of power and criticizes the regime that will replace him- would he prefer to be hunted down? My statement should not be put out of context by a violent regime which envisages change of government exclusively by violent means.
Rugyendo: But honestly, when you declare war on an elected regime, why do you expect it to treat you with flowers?
Karegyeya: We are not asking for friendship with Paul Kagame. We are demanding for our rights not flowers. We did not declare war. There was no war in Egypt or Tunisia. The oppressed people called for the removal of the regime and it happened. Why should it be different for us. The issue of elected regime in a dictatorship is subjective. Both Ben Ali and Mubarak were ‘ elected’ leaders and so is Paul Kagame. We are conscious that most regimes that came to power through the barrel of the gun including the regime in Kigali are neither democratic nor sustainable. Another war in Rwanda would be unfortunate and costly but a revolution like what was experienced in North Africa is long over due. We belong to the Rwanda National Congress and we articulated our programs and objectives. War is none of our options.
Rugyendo: You were jailed twice over indiscipline, desertion and insubordination, stripped of your rank and now you face over 20 years in jail. What do you make of that?
Karegyeya: It shows the extremes of dictatorship and insensitivity. What you do not know is that all our properties were also confiscated as if we do not have families. Kagame is the jury, the judge and hang man who uses excesses to satisfy his temperament. The purpose of collective punishment is to threaten the population into submission and completely terrorize opposition. All dictators have done the same from Idi Amin to Saddam Hussein. Where else except in Kagame’s Rwanda that a President can relentlessly hunt down people even in exile? What crime did our families commit? Would he like similar treatment when he is out of power?
Rugyendo: But as the country’s former top spy, you were part of the mess that you are fighting
Karegyeya: Well I am a human being and must have made mistakes and to err is human. We admitted which ever mistakes we could have made and we advised that some of those mistakes should be rectified. That is why the fall out with Kagame and why we are being hunted. We can authoritatively point out those mistakes because we know them. If we advocate for reform even where we were involved it is because we are not averse to self criticism. We believe in collective responsibility and individual culpability. What we do not accept is the perpetuation of a police state that does not tolerate criticism and collective responsibility We are talking about personalization of institutions of the State, this is bigger and beyond the mandate of the top spy.
Rugyendo: You and the President are comrades. Are your differences so bad that you can’t reconcile?
Karegyeya: I was held incommunicado for five months, later imprisoned on fabricated charges. My case was comical because there was no single prosecution witness and yet I was sentenced to two years in imprisonment. Recently, we were sentenced in absentia to long prison terms. It is not ourselves who can answer this question – it is President Kagame who can competently answer this question because he is the one hunting us down. But judging on how he treated Late Alex Kanyarengwe, (former president) Pasteur Bizimungu, Jozeph Sebarenzi and many others, we have searched and found very few people with whom Paul Kagame has reconciled. However, we should not personalize these matters. We are talking about issues of governance. Reconciliation with individuals while holding the nation hostage is not the solution.
Rugyendo: What are Kagame’s greatest points?
Karegyeya: What we used to think were strong points were a protracted strategy to entrench himself. Ultimately, it tragically becomes a very weak point. Those who praise him will argue that Kigali is smart but how would you feel sleeping in a smart city while your fundamental human and civil rights are denied, where the justice system is totally controlled and no independent media can exist. There is more propaganda than reality and Rwandans are conditioned to praising what they do not understand or don’t believe. When you rob people of their consciousness there is little distinction between a human being and a chattel.
Rugyendo: What are his weakest points?
Karegyeya: Deceit and insensitivity. It is only an insensitive person who stays in $20,000 room per night from a poor country like Rwanda and has the courage to talk about corruption and excesses. If you go out and claim that you were elected by 93.5% in Rwanda, you need to be medically examined. If you go out and celebrate the scandal, that makes it worse.
Rugyendo: What in your view is the best way forward for a fractured society like Rwanda?
Karegyaya: We need to build institutions instead of individuals. We need to nurture a culture of tolerance and stop the justice of the victor. Leaders should think about genuine reconciliation based on truth and tolerance. We should concentrate on restorative justice instead of retribution. There is a need for serious consideration of merit instead of perpetuating clientelism. Above all, accountability should begin from the top.
Rugyendo: In light of the recent attempt on your colleague, GEN Nyamwasa, who is hunting you down and why?
Karegyeya: The South African government spokesperson said that the attempt to assassinate Gen Kayumba was instigated by a state. Surely it cannot be Nicaragua or Moldova. Some elements were recorded negotiating prices to carry out crimes. Definitely they were not going to use personal money and they clearly say where the money is coming from. Those whose voices are recorded are well known serial killers by most Rwandans.
Rugyendo: There are those who think it’s Rwandan detractors who want to discredit the regime
Karegyaya: When a leader goes to parliament and declares that if it means to use a hammer to kill a fly, he will do it, what more do you want to know? And as I said above, the killers are well recorded giving instructions and they are known.
Rugyendo: Kagame accuses you of terrorism and of masterminding grenade attacks in Kigali. He probably knows you better! Karegyeya: Kagame accuses all his critics of terrorist acts. Maybe that is the only method of resistance familiar to him. We are not thugs nor are we senseless people. What has a market vendor got to do with all this? It is Kagame who wanted to terrorize people in submission before the elections. Why is it that the grenade attacks stopped after the elections? One time those used to throw the grenades will confess who directed them to do it.
Rugyendo: Is it helpful to fight a regime in the comfort zones of South Africa? Why don’t you return home and freely contest for leadership using civil means?
Karegyaya: Ask Pasteur Bizimungu, Charles Ntakirutinka, Bernard Ntaganda , Victoire Ingabire and Deo Mushayidi what it means to criticize a dictatorial regime in Rwanda.
Rugyendo: There are reports that the reason you cannot be extradited to Rwanda is because you are protected by intelligence agencies like the CIA and MOSSAD
Karegyaya: That is totally untrue. CIA is for Americans and MOSSAD is for Israelis and we are here in South Africa which is a sovereign state and not controlled by either country. The fact is that the charges under which we were sentenced do not meet international standards. Interpol declined to honour them and any credible country or institution would. Remember we were sentenced by a military court in absentia on the basis of what we wrote or said in the media. Any extradition would certainly mean extraditing political prisoners and no civilized people can do that.
Rugyendo: Are you safe in South Africa after the recent attempt on Gen. Nyamwasa’s life?
Karegyeya: Everyone has his own day. We know of many people who have since died in Rwanda at the hands of the state. We also know of many others who have died of natural causes. When Pinochet (former Chilean dictator) and many dictators like him were hunting down their critics, they did not envisage that their time would come. We are not going to run to the moon and we believe countries should respect the sovereignty of others.
Rugyendo: Are you associated with any armed effort against the government of Rwanda?
Karegyeya: We are not in any way associated with any armed groups and we do not intend to. There are less bloody and cost effective ways of challenging a dictatorial regime. There are more civilized ways of fighting other than launching a violent war. Human rights have taken centre stage and we believe in preservation of life. The Rwandan war was very costly and the outcome is not better than what we fought against. Nobody should take the people of Rwanda through the same motions.
Rugyendo: What are your views on the law regarding ‘genocide ideology?’
Karegyaya: Nobody should deny the Rwandan genocide. Hundreds of Tutsi were butchered simply because of their identity and nobody should deny this. At the same time, nobody should deny that lots of Hutu died at the hands of Interahamwe and RPA soldiers. Denials on either side will not in any way foster reconciliation.
Rugyendo: Who shot down the President Habyarimana plane sparking off the genocide in 1994?
Karegyeya: Investigations have been taking place. I do not want to compromise or influence any outcome. But surely as day follows night, the truth will one day come out.
Rugyendo: You were instrumental in the RPA war, did the RPA commit some acts of genocide in areas under its control during the war of liberation?
Karegyeya: Human rights abuses, certainly. Genocide, I do not think so.
Rugyendo: There are reports that French and Spanish judges who are implicating Kagame and others in the downing of the Habyarimana plane are quietly talking to you to stand witness against the president
Karegyeya: Nobody has approached us. What we know is that the French investigators met some Rwandan officials in Burundi. Maybe for the record, I am not one of the officials under investigation. I do not think either the French or the Spanish would have interest in me.