A Kenya Army soldier allegedly assigned to protect wanted Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga disappeared — and may have been murdered — after he secretly took pictures of the fugitive, investigations have revealed.
The soldier was part of a shadowy unit set up by people close to the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) and the military or who appear to have had access to facilities controlled by the two institutions.
The unit provided security for the runaway genocide suspect, who has a Sh400 million bounty on his head, while he was hiding in Kenya even as the government denied knowing his whereabouts.
The startling facts about Kabuga, said to have been one of the brains behind the Rwanda killings, in which close to 800,000 people were hacked to death, were revealed yesterday in an investigative documentary aired on NTV last night.
The disappearance of Michael Sarunei, an infrantryman who was part of Kabuga’s bodyguard, has raised questions about the government’s handling of the hunt for the fugitive businessman, whom the United States Government has always insisted was being harboured by Kenya.
Contacted on Sunday, Government spokesman Alfred Mutua denied the involvement of the present government in the Kabuga saga. He said that all the allegations that have been made about Mr Kabuga’s refuge in Kenya point to events before President Kibaki took over at the end of 2002.
“This particular government has not been aware of anything to do with the protection of Mr Kabuga. We are working very closely with the Rwanda government to ensure that this man is arrested,” Dr Mutua said.
NTV investigations over the past five months, however, point to Mr Kabuga still being in the country.
Relatives of Sarunei, who joined the Kenya Army infantry in 1996, told of the soldier’s mysterious disappearance early on February 13, 2009, after saying he was protecting Kabuga.
They believe he was killed after he secretly took pictures of the elusive businessman. Three of those photographs were given to NTV. Shown to Rwandan Government officials and people who had worked at Kabuga’s radio station in Rwanda, they confirmed that the elderly man in a blue T-shirt was indeed the wanted suspect.
Sarunei’s disappearance is the latest twist in the Kabuga saga, which previously resulted in the murder of a freelance journalist, Michael Munuhe, who was tortured to death as he prepared to lead FBI agents to Kabuga’s hideout in Nairobi.
A relative of the soldier, who remains anonymous for his own safety, was interviewed by NTV reporter John-Allan Namu in Rift Valley, where he produced the pictures of a man later identified as Kabuga and video images of a white government Land Rover in which Sarunei was driven away by his captors.
Said the source: “Four years ago Michael (Sarunei) began earning a lot of money. I asked him whether soldiers were getting paid better these days. He told me that he was working for a very rich man from Rwanda, who the government had wanted to keep in hiding, and that’s why he was getting paid a lot. Michael told me that the rich man who he and others were protecting was called Kabuga.”
Sarunei had reportedly told his relative that his bosses had ordered him never to reveal anything about the man they were protecting or he would be killed.
But Sarunei never heeded this warning. According to the source, in late 2008, when Kabuga was still in a Nairobi hospital, the soldier secretly photographed him. Unknown to him, the pictures were discovered by a colleague who alerted Kabuga and his protectors in government.
According to the relative, on February 13, 2009, Sarunei was led out of his home one morning into a government vehicle, registration GK 029K, never to be seen again.
NTV showed the pictures to Rwanda’s prosecutor-general Martin Ngoga, who confirmed they were of Kabuga, though 18 years older than widely circulated pictures of him.
NTV also uncovered shocking new details about the mysterious death of Michael Munuhe, an FBI informer, whose body was found in the Gitu area of Karen in Nairobi on January 13, 2003.
His brother, Josephat Mureithi Gichuki, is convinced that Munuhe was murdered because he was about to reveal Kabuga’s whereabouts to the US security agency.
The police verdict was suicide, he says, but all evidence in the room where his brother was found pointed to a violent and bloody confrontation.
Months after he was buried, a relative was sorting through his old clothes when he found a three-page letter written by Munuhe.
It detailed how he was abducted one Wednesday night at the Safari Park Hotel exit by three armed men and driven for nearly four hours in the locked boot of a car.
It is undated, but Munuhe’s elder brother was able to figure out that it was written in late December 2002, a few days before his death.
He eventually ended up in a dark room where he was beaten and tortured to reveal information about his relations with the FBI.
Eventually he was taken to a room where he came face-to-face with Kabuga, who was seated with three other men.
“Kabuga told me about the tapes they had on my conversations with Mr Scott (believed to be his FBI contact) and three people. He criticised me for betraying him and Cheruiyot”.
The name of then Internal Security permanent secretary Zakayo Cheruiyot has featured often in stories about Kabuga’s refuge in Kenya.
However, Mr Cheruiyot, now the MP for Kuresoi, has always strenuously denied any involvement.
The informant, now in hiding, told NTV that he worked in the same squad with Sarunei, and claimed that the name Sadiki Nzakobi was one of the aliases that Kabuga used in Kenya.
He gave NTV some documents allegedly from the Department of Defence headquarters, and copies of documents procured from the Third Battalion of the Kenya Army in Nakuru.
These appear to be evidence of the first attempts to legitimise Mr Kabuga’s stay in Kenya, after it became known that he was involved in the Rwanda genocide. The Department of Defence has dismissed the documents and neither NTV nor the Nation could independently verify their authenticity or origin.
The documents appear to suggest that Mr Kabuga moved from an asylum seeker, to captain in the army and was honourably discharged and offered diplomatic immunity.
The first letter was dated July 5, 2000. Its reference number is OP/DOD/0324/2000 and is addressed to the DoD commandant, written in reference to one Mr Sadiki Nzakobi.
It says that Sadiki has sought asylum in Kenya due to insecurity in Somalia and should be assisted with the necessary military documentation to enable him stay in the country safely. It also asks that he be assisted with personal security to enable him access his personal doctor, a Dr Peter Rwakwach, so that he can undergo treatment.
The letter bears the name of an S.K. Kamau, and was signed on behalf of the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Defence. We could not ascertain whether indeed such an individual ever worked at the Defence ministry.
The Department of Defence at the time was overseen by the Internal Security PS, then Mr Cheruiyot.
Colonel (retired) Dr Rwakwach is a medical practitioner who works in Nakuru and served in the armed forces as a military doctor, retiring in 2002. The doctor denied knowing anyone by the name Sadiki Nzakobi.
The second document bears the letterhead of the Kenya Armed Forces 3rd Battalion in Nakuru and is a request for legal documents for Nzakobi. It claims that Nzokabi was the commanding officer of the DCOY or Delta Company, for seven years, resigning on September 6, 1998.
Another letter, also bearing the same letterhead follows up on the requests made in the letter from the permanent secretary’s office. The letter gave Nzakobi the authority to be treated in any military hospital.
Another letter, written on February 14, 2001 (Reference number OP/DOD/0652/2001) and also marked as confidential, states: “Please assist the above-mentioned person with military intelligence for his personal security. He is a person staying in this country under diplomatic immunity.”
This letter bears the name of James Theuri, on behalf of the Defence PS. Again, we could not establish whether this individual worked for the department and in what capacity.
The last document bearing the Kenya Rifles letterhead is a letter of discharge. This is the kind of letter any army officer would receive were he to have been honourably discharged.
An officer from DoD told NTV that the letters did not follow the normal protocol for a civilian-led ministry communicating with the commandant.
However, the informant insists that the documents are authentic.
NSIS is yet to respond to NTV’s questions about the alleged involvement of government agents or people with access to government facilities in the protection of Kabuga in Kenya.
NTV’s investigations led it to some of Kabuga’s intermediaries. One of NTV’s operatives was to be picked from Nyali Golf Club in Mombasa by a silver Toyota Harrier with a Tanzanian licence plate to meet two men who are from Rwanda.
They were to be taken to house that Kabuga allegedly stayed in while in Mombasa. NTV was not able to continue with its quest to meet Kabuga as the deal was terminated for fear that the wanted man would be arrested.
A day before the NTV crew could travel to Mombasa, the NSIS informant sent an SMS saying that some information about the investigation had leaked.
Additional reporting By Oliver Mathenge