JOHANNESBURG – The South African police court has ruled the murder of Rwandan dissident Patrick Karegeya was plotted and executed by agents directly linked to the government of Rwanda.
The body of Karegeya was found in a South African hotel five years in what South African officials later alleged was planned by a group of alleged assassins who were found to be directly linked to Rwanda.
Why Kigali denied the claims, Rwanda police embarked on investigating the matter whose findings were released on Thursday in Johannesburg.
Justice Mashiane Mathopa ruled that the murder of Karegeya was committed by known persons and he ordered the case to be handed over to prosecutors, who will consider whether to issue arrest warrants.
Justice Mathopa made his ruling basing on a new summary of the police investigation, which concluded that the main suspects in the Karegeya murder and several other attempted assassinations were “directly linked to the involvement of the Rwandan government.”
It remains to be seen how South Africa will prosecute the alleged assassins since there is no extradition treaty between Rwanda and South Africa.
However, South Africa can issue warrants for the arrest of the suspects, which could allow them to be detained if they travel outside Rwanda
The South African lawyer representing the family of Rwanda’s former intelligence chief Colonel Patrick Karegeya wanted the case to go to trial instead of a probe.
Gerrie Nel, an advocate with AfriForum said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has had enough evidence for five years to warrant a trial for the murder of prominent Rwandan dissident.
Nel also goes on to accuse the South African government of trying to “cover up” what he is quoted of calling the murder a political assassination.
Several South African media outlets say, Nel asked a Randburg magistrate during the inquest to stop the judicial inquest into Karegeya’s death.
Nel said the police and the NPA had been sitting on enough evidence to prosecute Karegeya’s suspected killers for five years but had “inexplicably” not done so.
Nel, a former star public prosecutor, is representing Karegeya’s family and other Rwandan exiles in this case.
He suggested the inquest was a delaying tactic to avoid prosecuting the four Rwandans suspected of strangling Karegeya.
Nel, a former public prosecutor, is a high-profile figure in South Africa. He was the chief prosecutor in the trial of the sprinter Oscar Pistorius for the shooting of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2014 but later left government service to work at AfriForum, where he is representing members of the Rwandan diaspora in Johannesburg.
The probe could further strain relations between the two countries.
Thirty witnesses are expected to be interviewed by the probe which may also lead to criminal charges, according to South Africa’s prosecution authority.
However, the timing of the inquest has been questioned by many in Kigali as a plot dissident based in South Africa.
Others say the move is intended to disrupt efforts to repair relations between South Africa and Rwanda.
The relationship between the two countries has been strained since South Africa expelled three Rwandan diplomats in the wake of the attempt on the life of Kayumba Nyamwasa, Rwanda’s former army chief of staff who is also exiled in South Africa.