Rwandan dissidents live in fear after critic gunned down in Mozambique

Rwandan dissidents live in fear after critic gunned down in Mozambique

A general view of Maputo city, Mozambique. Rwandan dissidents living in the country say they fear for their lives.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Fresh fears have gripped Rwandan dissidents living in southern Africa following the assassination of Revocat Karemangingo in Matola, a suburb of Maputo, Mozambique, on Monday evening.

Mr Karemangingo was a former lieutenant in the Rwandan army that was ousted by forces led by President Paul Kagame in 1994.

Gunmen using automatic weapons fired nine shots at his vehicle as he drove into his home from one of his businesses.

A critic of President Kagame, he had lived in Mozambique as a refugee since fleeing Rwanda in 1994 and was vice-president of the Association of Rwandan Refugees in Mozambique.

He becomes the latest Rwandan dissident to be mysteriously murdered abroad. He survived a previous assassination attempt in 2016.

Kigali has consistently denied allegations that it is targeting dissidents living in exile.

But South Africa-based Rwanda National Congress spokesperson Etienne Mutabazi said the deployment of Rwandan troops to fight Islamic State-linked insurgents in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province had left dissidents vulnerable to assassination.

“They came allegedly to fight against Islamic insurgents,” Mutabazi told the Daily Maverick, a South African online newspaper.

“However, at the time, we said Rwanda was probably more interested in seeking economic interests and pursuing Rwandan refugees in Mozambique.”

He said with President Kagame now having easy access to exiled opponents in Mozambique, “we have reason to believe that Rwanda had a hand in it”.

Cleophas Habiyaremye, president of the Association of Rwandan Refugees in Mozambique, also expressed the same fears, saying the Rwandan community in Mozambique “is scared after this murder”.

Dissidents killed over the years

Over the years, several deaths, assassination attempts and disappearances of dissidents have been recorded in South Africa and Mozambique.

In February 2021, Rwandan opposition activist Seif Bamporiki was shot dead in Cape Town's Nyanga township while delivering a bed to a customer.

Two years ago, Camir Nkurunziza, a former member of the Rwanda National Congress who had fled Rwanda after serving in the presidential guard, was also shot dead in Cape Town in 2019. He was hijacked before he was shot.

He was also a known supporter of the Rwandan government of President Paul Kagame before becoming a critic.

Patrick Karegeya, a former colonel and Rwandan spymaster, was murdered in a Johannesburg hotel in 2014. Once a powerful figure in Rwanda, he had fled his country in 2007 fearing for his life after allegedly plotting a coup against President Kagame. While living in South Africa, he helped set up the Rwanda National Congress.

Former Rwandan army chief Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa survived an assassination attempt in Johannesburg in 2010.

Read: Rwanda denies any role in attempt to kill Nyamwasa

The killing of Rwandan dissidents in South Africa has led to frosty diplomatic relations between Pretoria and Kigali for over a decade now.

Kigali has accused South Africa of harbouring Rwandan dissidents opposed to President Kagame and who are believed to be attempting to overthrow his government.

The death of Mr Karemangingo comes after Rwandan journalist turned political activist Ntamuhanga Cassien disappeared in Maputo in May after Mozambican police had allegedly taken him into custody.

Authorities in Mozambique have denied knowledge of his detention as his whereabouts remain unknown.
In 2019, businessman and Rwanda community leader Louis Baziga was gunned down in Matola, the same Maputo suburb where Karemangingo was murdered.

Seven years earlier, the body of the former head of the Rwanda Development Bank, Theogene Turatsinze, was found floating in a river near Maputo.