By David Himbara
Michela Wrong’s new book, Do not Disturb, achieves her dual purpose of narrating the story of Patrick Karegeya’s assassination, and exposing the regime responsible for the gruesome act. Based on meticulous research, including Court testimonies presented at the trial of Karegeya’s murderers in South Africa, which Michela attended, Do not Disturb is first-rate investigative journalism that documents a regime gone bad. This is a must-read for anyone interested in post-genocide Rwanda and Paul Kagame’s politics of take no prisoners.
When the sign “Do not Disturb” is placed on a hotel room door, the hotel guest must be left alone to rest, work, or engage in any private endeavours of choice. This is the sign that the men who travelled from Rwanda to South Africa to assassinate Patrick Karegeya put on the door of his hotel room at Michelangelo, in Johannesburg. The killers did not want to be disturbed in the act and sought to buy time to escape from South Africa back to Rwanda. And that is how Michela Wrong begins in her book Do Not Disturb to narrate the story of Patrick Karegeya’s murder and Paul Kagame’s totalitarian regime responsible for the killing.
Extensively sourcing her story with testimonies from key participants, Michela uses Karegeya’s killing, once Rwanda’s head of external intelligence, to achieve the two objectives of her book. This is a story of Karegeya as a husband, father, friend, public servant, intellectual, and comedian who never lost a chance to make people laugh. Michela superbly captures the Patrick Karegeya that I called my friend. I cried as I read this book, especially when I recalled the last time I saw Patrick alive in October 2013. He had come to my house in Byranston, Johannesburg, and as usual, he was making jokes, including his line that if Kagame had a satellite and saw the two of us together, “Kagame would kill two birds with one stone.” Two months after the visit to my house, Karegeya was dead. But Wrong’s work serves an even bigger purpose. Do not Disturb is an extraordinary exposé of Kagame and his brutal regime that has turned Rwanda into an open-air prison in which 12 million Rwandans languish. In Michela’s book, we see a documentary of the iron-fisted strongman who assassinates former comrades-in-arms who do not toe the line and dare to flee Rwanda.
Reading Michela’s narrative of Karegeya’s assassination, I couldn’t help but compare Karegeya’s sad ending in exile to the demise of Leon Trotsky 81 years ago. After falling out with the Soviet Union totalitarian ruler Joseph Stalin, Trosky was stripped of his positions in government, and sent packing into exile in Mexico City where he was assassinated by Soviet agents in 1940. And so it was with the Kagame-Karegeya story strikingly described in Michela’s Do not Disturb. After becoming a critic of Kagame, Karegeya was stripped of his rank, jailed, and subsequently fled to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was assassinated on December 31, 2013.
This book must be read especially by Rwandans. The detail of Michela’s writing, the extent of her research, her insights into the Rwandan mindset, and the audacity to tell the story like it is, make the book a tremendous work of Rwanda’s contemporary history that few accounts can hardly match. Even the iron-fisted Kagame will be disturbed by the Do Not Disturb. To Michela, specifical thanks for telling us Rwandans the ugly truth about the land of the thousand hills.
“Michela Wrong lays out the context of her story with great care…The story is compelling.”― Democracy in Africa
“Imagine a journalist of the 1930s brave enough to investigate one of the mysterious assassinations of Stalin’s opponents who had fled abroad – and to tell that story to a world where too many people were enamored of the Soviet leader. Michela Wrong has taken on a similar job today: to use a killing to expose a man today seldom recognized as a ruthless dictator. Her skills as a writer and expert knowledge of Africa make this a chilling story.”― ADAM HOCHSCHILD, author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa
“A withering assault on the murderous regime of Paul Kagame, and a melancholy love song to the lost dreams of the nations of the Great Lakes. Michela Wrong proves once again that she is an intrepid and highly professional researcher of the subject she knows best. It’s a major accomplishment, very driven, very impassioned.”― John le Carre, best-selling author of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
“A unique insight into many hitherto little known dark sides of a profoundly criminal regime. Based on first hand observations and numerous interviews with key players, victims and witnesses, this book is an indictment of those complicit in ensuring President Kagame’s impunity during the last quarter century.”― FILIP REYNTJENS, author of Political Governance in Post-Genocide Rwanda (Cambridge University Press).
About the Author
Michela Wrong is a writer and journalist with more than twenty years’ experience of covering Africa. She joined Reuters news agency in the early 1980s and was posted as a foreign correspondent to Italy, France and Ivory Coast. She became a freelance journalist in 1994, when she moved to then-Zaire and found herself covering both the genocide in Rwanda and the final days of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko for the BBC and Reuters. She later moved to Kenya, where she spent four years covering east, west and central Africa for the Financial Times.
She is the author of three books of non