Jerome Starkey, in Kampala
The assassins came at night, when their target was alone, and knocked on his apartment door. They had been hunting him for weeks.
Joel Mutabazi, an Israeli-trained commando, had fled his own intelligence service after suffering 17 months of solitary confinement and torture and was about to divulge his Government’s darkest secrets.
But it wasn’t Mossad who were after him. Nor was it the KGB or China The killers, he claims, were from one of Britain’s closest African allies. Mr Mutabazi, who served for 20 years as President Kagame’s bodyguard, said that the men who came to kill him were, like him, Rwandan. “Kagame has no mercy,” he told The Times. “He is a killer. He is a dictator. He can’t stand any opposition.” The gunmen shot twice but missed, and ran off into the night.
In a series of interviews in Kampala, Uganda, where Mr Mutabazi is seeking refuge, he described the ruthless regime he left behind — one totally at odds with a government rewarded for its “vision, drive and delivery” by the pledge of £90 million a year in UK aid.
Mr Mutabazi said that President Kagame personally oversaw the systematic murder of thousands of Hutu refugees two years after the 1994 genocide that left at least 800,000 people dead. His allegations echoed and amplified a 2010 United Nations report, which President Kagame denied.
Mr Mutabazi said that he escorted Paul Kagame to a secret prison run by Rwanda’s Department of Military Intelligence (DMI) in the outskirts of the capital, Kigali, on at least two occasions in 1996. Twice, he said, Mr Kagame, then Minister of Defence, was called out to inspect lorries carrying containers full of dead bodies that had broken down en route to mass graves.
The US, Sweden and the Netherlands suspended their aid to Rwanda earlier this year over allegations that Kigali is helping rebels behind a slew of human rights abuses in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. But Andrew Mitchell’s last act as UK Development Secretary was to reverse a decision following suit, claiming that Rwanda was trying to resolve the conflict.
“He sings to the West about reconciliation, but it’s a lie,” Mr Mutabazi said of President Kagame. “Rwanda hasn’t learnt the lessons of the genocide. It’s a volcano and it’s going to burst and it will be worse than before.”
He accused President Kagame of running the country on tribal lines. “All of the soldiers in his bodyguard were Tutsi. If you married a Hutu woman, you were kicked out,” he said.
Innocent Kalisa, a fellow member of Mr Kagame’s bodyguard, who also fled to Uganda last year, said that a corporal and two sergeants were fired for that reason between 2006 and 2008.
In Kampala, Mr Kalisa surveyed the café where we were due to meet from a nearby hillside, then changed the location at the last moment, fearing assassination. The last reporter to interview Mr Mutabazi, Charles Ingabire, was shot dead leaving a bar in Kampala in November. (Read more…)