According to South Africa’s Mail and Guardian Newspaper, Karegeya is believed to have been killed by a group of about four Rwandese men led by businessman Apollo Gafaranga whom he knew as a friend and had picked from the airport to the hotel the deceased had booked.
The newspaper interviewed relatives of Karegeya who confirmed that prior to his death, the deceased spy chief had booked Gafaranga into Johannesburg’s Sandton Michelangelo Hotel on New Year’s eve and the duo planned to meet the same day to draw strategies for financing Karegeya’s political party – Rwandese National Congress (RNC). Unknown to him, his friend of four years was a trained assassin who had camouflaged as a fellow enemy of Rwanda’s government to pounce on friend. Gafaranga used the meeting to send the ex-spy master to his creator.
Relatives claim that Gafaranga, a well known Rwandan businessman who owns the $1 million Cine Star Cinema modern theatre in Rwanda’s Kigali suburb of Nyamirambo, had spent four years planning his mission. The assassin allegedly cultivated a friendship with Karegeya and visited the deceased frequently at his home in South Africa.
Karegeya fled to South Africa in 2007 and sought political asylum which was granted with police protection. The newspaper reports however that about a year ago, Karegeya asked the SA government to stop limiting his movements, a decision that allowed Gafaranga to escape scrutiny and reach him.
To conceal his identity, Gafaranga who has also been identified by other relatives as Karirisi, is believed to have acquired a South African passport, which he used whenever he entered South Africa.
There’s is contradictory information about whether Gafaranga’s South African passport was genuine or fake. However, the assassin allegedly used a different country other than Rwanda as his point of departure to enter South Africa, all to confuse intelligence.
“Political asylum seekers such as Karegeya claim the South African authorities had offered them protection. Meanwhile, an alleged agent of the Paul Kagame regime was frequently in their midst, evading airport security checks with false documents, and courting their inner circle with a view to commit murder,” the Mail & Guardian reported.
Rwanda’s ambassador to South Africa Vincent Karega, distanced Kigali from Karageya’s death.
“Even though he (Karageya) declared himself an enemy of Rwanda, we didn’t see any threat. Rwanda wasn’t involved,” he said.
So far no one has been arrested by the South African authorities since Gafaranga fled his hotel room and South Africa following Karegeya’s murder. But three Rwandan nationals were this week arrested at a hotel in the Mozambican capital Maputo in connection with the murder of Karegeya.
The suspects, who allegedly include Rwandan Lt-Col Francis Gakwerere, were arrested after Rwandan exiles alerted local police about their presence in the country.
The suspects are accused of being members of a Rwandan hit squad that targeted opposition party leaders in the strife-torn country.
It is understood that the suspects, who were six in total, had arrived in Mozambique during the Christmas week prior to the murder of Karegeya, which occurred on the eve of December 31 at a posh hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg.
According to Chad Thomas, an independent private investigator at IRS investigations, Gakwerere was taken into custody for questioning along with two other men of Rwandan origin.
“Gakwerere was also a prime suspect in the failed hit on Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa in 2010 but there was insufficient evidence to allow the charges to stick,” Thomas said yesterday.
But, within the Rwandan political-refugee community living in South Africa, there is one clear suspect involved in Karegeya’s crime: a man called Apollo Gafaranga.
The Rwandan press call him a “business mogul”; he opened a cinema worth $1 million in 2009. His brother, Mr Amini Gafaranga, appears close to the Kagame regime, speaking at Rwanda Day celebrations in London in May 2013, an event endorsed by Paul Kagame.
Two close friends of Karegeya, who spoke to the Mail & Guardian, say that Gafaranga had spent years befriending the former spy master and travelled to South Africa at least four times where he would meet Karegeya at his house.
But on his final and fatal visit, Gafaranga asked to be booked in a hotel, instead of staying at Karegeya’s house.
According to Mail & Guardian, this was because he was increasingly fearful of the Kagame regime, Gafaranga claimed, and he told Karegeya he did not want to jeopardize his friend’s security by staying in his house.
Up to this point, the former Rwanda spymaster-turned-enemy of the Kigali regime didn’t notice any hidden motive.
Karegyega then booked the hotel room at the Michelangelo Towers in Sandton. Karegeya picked his guest upon his arrival and drove him to the hotel where he booked him. That was December 29, according to South African media reports.
The two arrived at the Sandton Hotel, checked in and later on Karegeya left his friend, promising to visit him on the New Year for further political and business discussions.
On New Year’s eve, Karegeya went to visit his friend, without knowing that would be his end, because the man he thought was a friend and a possible financier in his bid to defeat the Rwandan regime was indeed a trained assassin.
Karegeya had no reason to be suspicious of Gafaranga because the latter had been part of Karegeya’s informal network of informants during his tenure as head of external intelligence in Kagame’s government.
Karegeya had earlier informed his nephew identified as David Batenga that he was going to visit his friend, Gafaranga, at Michelangelo Towers Hotel. On the New Year eve when Karegyega did not respond to text messages or phone calls, his nephew became suspicious and went to the hotel.
His nephew then went to the Michelangelo, where he discovered that the hotel room where Karegeya had gone for a meeting was locked.
The manager wouldn’t open the door as there was a “Do Not Disturb” sign on it. The police were called in and opened the door.
It is believed that three or four men were involved in the crime
Karegeya was found dead with curtain tie-backs and a pillow case in the safe but Garafanga had left. The killer left behind his suitcase.