Before my family and I send our heartfelt condolences to the family of Patrick Karegyeya, let me say his assassination shocked and devastated me because he was my friend, a great Rwandan and Ugandan patriot and an African hero who was taken too early by the cruel hand of an assassin.
Assassination of Patrick Karegyeya by Rwandan agents, now admitted by President Paul Kagame, hit me like assassinations of Chris Hani, J.M. Kariuki, Tom Mboya, Patrice Lumumba, Thomas Sankara, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, John and Robert Kennedys hit me before and those of Mahatma Gandhi, Dedan Kimathi and Che Guavara hit mankind.
I loved and miss Patrick Karegyeya because he was a man who fought oppression all his life and sacrificed his life for the freedom of humanity.
Mainly Patrick Karegyeya fought for freedom in Uganda and Rwanda. For his opposition to dictatorship, he was jailed by Obote for three years. Later he joined the government of Paul Kagame in Rwanda as one of his intelligent chiefs.
I first met Patrick in 1986 when he worked as an intelligence officer in President Museveni’s government after the defeat of dictatorships of Idi Amin, Okellos and Obote that together killed 800,000 Ugandans fighting freedom and democracy.
When we applied for asylum in Uganda after fleeing Moi’s killer machine, we were interviewed and recommended for asylum by Patrick Karegyeya. Under pursuit of Kenya’s Special Branch, UNHCR later relocated us to Norway and Sweden but I kept links with Patrick.
When Rwanda Patriotic Front launched guerrilla warfare in Rwanda from Uganda, Patrick stayed behind in Uganda, I believe as a key link between RPF and Museveni’s government in Uganda without whose support RPF would not have won their struggle in Rwanda. When RPF took government in Rwanda, Patrick relocated to the country as the chief of external intelligence.
Patrick was a true Pan Africanist who lived and fought for both Uganda and Rwanda giving his best to both countries.
Since Patrick Karegyeya was killed, there has been a tussle regarding where he will be buried. Though Patrick Karegyeya is both a citizen of Rwanda and Uganda – having fought for both countries – against laws of God that no person shall be denied a place of burial, leaders of Rwanda and Uganda who claim to be champions of democracy and development have refused that Patrick be buried in either country.
To the shame of East Africa, Patrick will be buried in South Africa. How can leaders of East Africa claim to be integrating their countries and uniting their people when they cannot allow a patriot and democrat of East Africa to be buried in East Africa?
If Museveni could allow Idi Amin to be buried in Uganda, why can he not allow a man who was born in Uganda, was jailed for Uganda and served Uganda not be buried in Uganda? And does Kagame belong to Rwanda than Karegyeya?
Now Patrick will be buried in South Africa, a country whose struggle for freedom he sympathized with but fought less for.
However, as we thank South Africa for accommodating Patrick in death, we regret that the security she has given those to whom she has granted asylum is so lackluster that fascist regimes have killed political opponents there. This should never happen in a country whose leaders were themselves hunted down in exile and out of power.
That Kagame and Museveni can deny Patrick the right to be buried in Rwanda and Uganda means these two leaders believe they own their two countries at the exclusion of others whom they consider subjects. Yet Patrick and others did not fight for Rwanda and Uganda to make them exclusive properties of leaders.
That Patrick was denied burial in Uganda and Rwanda also means his assassination was also assassination of democracy in both Rwanda and Uganda.
Indeed if the assassination of Patrick can happen without condemnation of East African leaders, in violation of South Africa’s sovereignty, followed by a refusal of burial in gross violation of democracy and natural justice means, the East African integration that Kagame and Museveni talk much about is nothing but East African regional dictatorship.
Some Kenyans support the assassination of Patrick Karegyeya saying Kagame is a benevolent dictator that Rwanda and Africa need for their development.
Such unapologetic support for dictatorship shocks because assassinating dictatorships cannot be benevolent. Moreover, supporting tyranny means we have forgotten cruelties of our one party dictatorship while many Africans are selfish enough to build their wealth on the skeletons of fellow citizens.
Indeed support of an economically successful Rwandan dictatorship reminds me of German masses’ support for the Holocaust and Nazi tyranny, merely because both were built on phenomenal industrial success, elimination of German poverty and unprecedented hell for Jews. Many Kenyans will support dictatorship hoping to benefit from it. When the dragon arrives however, most will end up eaten.
The following are things I will always remember Patrick for.
One, when Kenya was discussing Moi’s comfortable retirement and some were opposing it, Patrick told me a comfortably-retired president would be Kenya’s best gift to Africa. It would encourage Africa’s dictators to retire rather than kill opponents to keep power forever in fear of misery in retirement.
Two, during the Westgate attack by al Shabaab, Patrick called to wish Kenyans well, a mark of true pan-Africanism.
Three, when African leaders were attacking ICC and demanding non-prosecution while in office, Patrick said they were wrong. Was it a premonition of his fate at the hands of African dictatorship?
They have killed Karegyeya but never the dream of freedom for Rwanda, Africa and the world.