The United States on Friday denounced efforts to silence Rwandan dissidents after condemning the killing of Kigali’s former spy chief.”Vibrant democracies allow peaceful political opposition. Efforts to silence dissidents run counter to Rwanda’s democratic development,” a State Department official told AFP.

The United States on Thursday condemned the killing of Patrick Karegey, a former Rwandan spy chief and dissident who was found dead in a luxury Johannesburg hotel on January 1.

Washington also voiced concern over a threatening statement by Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame.

The body of Karegeya, a fierce critic of Kagame who had spent the past several years in exile, had marks to the neck, South African police said, indicating he might have been strangled.

“We urge the government of Rwanda to respect the rights of all political parties and political leaders that are committed to a peaceful, democratic process in Rwanda,” the State Department official said in an email.

South African police, who found a bloodied towel and a rope in the room’s safe, have opened a murder probe, and Karegeya’s supporters have accused the Rwandan government of his assassination.

“We are aware of the case. We condemn the murder of former Rwandan government official, Colonel Patrick Karegeya in South Africa, where he lived in exile,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a press briefing Thursday.

She said the US welcomes South Africa’s “prompt and thorough investigation” into Karegeya’s death and was awaiting the outcome of the probe.

“We also welcome their statement pledging… to leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice those involved in this criminal act,” Psaki said.

“And let me also say we are troubled by the succession of what appear to be politically motivated murders of prominent Rwandan exiles. President Kagame’s recent statements about, quote ‘consequences’ for those who betray Rwanda, are of deep concern to us.”

Kagame on Sunday said in Kigali that “treason brings consequences” without referring directly to the Karegeya case.

“If someone feels no shame in destroying what we have built over a period of time, I for my part will not feel shy of protecting what we have built. Anyone who betrays our cause or wishes our people ill will fall victim. What remains to be seen is how you fall victim,” Kagame said.

Karegeya was the former head of Rwanda’s external intelligence service and once a close ally of Kagame.

In 2004 he was demoted, then arrested and served an 18-month jail sentence for desertion and insubordination. He was stripped of his rank of colonel in July 2006 and he fled the country the following year.

Washington, which has long been an ally of Kagame, imposed sanctions against Kigali last year amid accusations that Rwanda was helping to recruit child soldiers to M23 rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

“In July 2012, we suspended all $200,000 of the fiscal year 2013 foreign military financing program for Rwanda because of its support for the M23,” the State Department official confirmed.

Source : Sapa-AFP /bm
Date : 17 Jan 2014 20:30