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An exiled Rwandan general who went from close aide to outspoken critic of the country’s president, Paul Kagame, has described his former ally as a “dictator” determined to kill him, according to a newspaper report.
Kayumba Nyamwasa, who now lives in South Africa where he survived a shooting in 2010, called for an uprising in Rwanda to overthrow Kagame and was quoted as saying: “Don’t be surprised if we extract him from a pipe like the Libyans did with Muammar Gaddafi.”
The near fatal attack on Nyamwasa, and developments in other countries, have raised suspicions that Rwanda’s government has deployed hit teams against dissidents abroad. Rwanda denies the accusations.
Nyamwasa, 53, whose case is currently being heard at a court in Johannesburg, told South Africa’s City Press newspaper that Kagame was a “vicious, spiteful, erratic, insensitive, greedy and murderous” man who “wants me dead because I know too much”.
During and after the war to end the Rwandan genocide, Nyamwasa was Kagame’s closest confidant and held senior posts including army chief of staff and head of the country’s intelligence services. He fled the country in 2010, claiming his life was under threat, and took refuge in South Africa.
He was shot a few months later in his car after a shopping trip with his wife in Johannesburg and has testified that a bullet remains lodged at the base of his spinal column. Three Rwandans and three Tanzanians are on trial.
Nyamwasa is the co-founder of a dissident group, the Rwanda National Congress. “At the moment I don’t envisage war,” he added. “I believe we can get rid of Kagame through peaceful means.
“We are hoping for an uprising in Rwanda. In that case, he’ll be gone within three months. He’s a coward; he’ll run. Don’t be surprised if we extract him from a pipe like the Libyans did with Muammar Gaddafi.”
But he denied harbouring presidential ambitions of his own. “I want to rest – once I’ve helped to rid the country of the dictator,” he told City Press.
Nyamwasa alleged that Kagame ordered the 2001 assassination of Laurent Kabila, then president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “At a meeting of military chiefs, Kagame said we must get rid of Kabila. I said it would be too expensive in terms of life. We cannot do it … It’s an open secret that Kagame went ahead and did it.”
During the ongoing trial, Nyamwasa has also accused Kagame of shooting down the plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi that sparked Rwanda’s genocide in 1994. He cites this as a reason why he is being targeted.
Rwanda’s government has denied involvement in the attempted murder. On Monday a spokesperson said only: “Do you know of any government who would dignify that kind of outburst with a response? We are not commenting on an ongoing court case.”
Rwanda’s high commissioner to South Africa, Vincent Karega, also dismissed Nyamwasa’s claims. “He worked with Paul Kagame for more than 20 years. They shared ideology and plans and programmes. He even never complained about him as a wrong person.
“He’s got his own ambitions. Now he’s out in the cold he can say anything because he thinks it will help him get power. He’s not a significant political figure. These are low-level words and insults; these are the frustrations of his life.”
Nyamwasa fled to South Africa, Karega added, not for political reasons but because of allegations of embezzlement, mismanagement and nepotism during his time in charge of the army. A military court in Rwanda last year convicted Nyamwasa and three other dissidents in absentia and sentenced them to 20 years in prison for threatening state security and on other charges that they deny.
Asked about the allegation regarding Kabila’s death in Congo, Karega replied: “There were people arrested and jailed for the death of Laurent Kabila. Nyamwasa is using the momentum of the crisis in Congo now. But Rwanda is a very steady country and these things will not distract us.”
The high commissioner’s reference to Congo follows a UN report that implicated Rwanda in arming rebels and causing instability in its giant neighbour. The Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, son of Laurent, said on Sunday: “As for the involvement of Rwanda … It’s an open secret. You know, the whole world knows.”
Major donors including Britain, the US, the Netherlands and Germany have suspended some of their financial aid to Rwanda over its alleged backing of the rebels led by Bosco Ntaganda, a warlord wanted by the international criminal court on war crimes charges.
Rwanda has condemned the measures. “This child-to-parent relationship has to end … there has to be a minimum respect,” said the foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo. “As long as countries wave cheque books over our heads, we can never be equal.”
By Graham Holliday
KIGALI Oct 3 (Reuters) – It is just over a year since President Paul Kagame’s landslide election win and observers cite the continuing lack of political space as a key issue to be addressed before the incumbent’s final term ends in 2017.
Former chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa and a former chief of military intelligence, Patrick Karegyeya, who were sentenced to 20 years in jail in absentia by a military court formed the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) opposition party in December.
The trial of opposition politician Victoire Ingabire, leader of the unregistered FDU-Inkingi party, resumed on Sept. 7, 2011. She faces charges including denying the genocide, divisionism and working with a terrorist group.
The FDU-Inkingi party and the RNC formed a coalition at the beginning of 2011 and held a congress meeting in Washington in last month.
The 2011 Political Risk Map published by Oxford University and Aon in January lowered Rwanda’s risk level from “High Risk” to “Medium-High Risk”.
Kagame’s election win underlined his domination of the political arena. He has been praised for restoring stability after the 1994 genocide and engineering Rwanda’s rapid economic recovery and its vision to be a middle-income country by 2020.
But critics accuse Kagame of being authoritarian and of trampling on media and political freedoms.
What to watch:
– Trial of Ingabire. The case remains a major test of the independence of Rwanda’s judiciary. Her trial was adjourned until Oct. 4
Her British lawyer says the laws under which she is being tried were not enacted at the time the crimes were alleged to have been committed, or lie outside the court’s jurisdiction.
Ingabire denies funding FDLR (Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda) rebels and says her detention is politically motivated.
Eric Nshimiyimana, a supporter of FDU-Inkingi, was shot in Kigali in early September. Police said Nshimiyimana was shot while resisting a search on suspicion of having a weapon.
The FDU-Inkingi party dispute the police version of events. Nshimiyimana is recovering in hospital.
– Theogene Rudasingwa, former Chief of Staff to President Paul Kagame, a former Ambassador to the United States and a founding member of the RNC released a statement on Facebook on Oct. 1.
He claims President Paul Kagame “was personally responsible” for the shooting down of the plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, which sparked the beginning of the genocide.
A French judge claimed in 2006 that Kagame’s forces were responsible for shooting down the plane. A French inquiry into the crash has yet to give its verdict.
– Trial of Laurent Nkunda. The former leader of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a rebel force that repeatedly routed Democratic Republic of Congo’s army, has been held under house arrest in Rwanda since January 2009.
Rwanda say they are reluctant to extradite Nkunda to Congo as the death penalty is still in force in Kinshasa. Rwandan law precludes the extradition of persons under arrest to states that have the death penalty.
His trial has been postponed four times since the case was passed to the military courts in April 2010.
– The media. A bill to amend the 2009 media law — emphasizing self-regulation and creation of an independent overseer — is set to go to Parliament in November. A draft law on Access to Information is also expected to be enacted in the near future. It will be the first of its kind in Rwanda.
Some observers see the draft media law as a positive move, but remain concerned the changes will remain on paper alone due to a lack of capacity within the media.
Two newspapers that were banned in 2010 for six months failed to return to the streets of Rwanda. The editors of Umuseso and Umuvugizi now reside in exile and publish online. The websites of both are inaccessible from within Rwanda.
The editor of Umurabyo, Agnes Nkusi, was sentenced to 17 years for divisionism in February. Umurabyo reporter Saidath Mukakibibi received a 7 year sentence.
Kagame’s war on graft, which has led to Rwanda being ranked the least corrupt nation in east Africa, has seen former political associates locked up.
Rwandan officials are required to declare wealth by June 30 every year, but 361 government officials did not meet the deadline in 2011.
Investment. Diplomatic sources say there is division within the government about how to go about increasing foreign direct investment.
What to watch:
– Any signs of deepening rifts within the military. Some observers say Nyamwasa’s moves could expose further divisions within the ruling party.
What might come out of the alliance between Nyamwasa and Ingabire’s party, and how the government reacts to it, could expose weakness among a section of political elites close to Kagame. However, diplomatic sources say they do not see the coalition as a serious political or military threat to the RPF.
– The fate of Nkunda. Nkunda’s arrest heralded a new era in relations between Rwanda and Congo. But what happens to Nkunda could still influence relations. Congo wants him extradited for war crimes, but Rwanda says it should be done in a way that it avoids “conflict of law”.
Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said there was a political dimension to the case and that extradition was difficult and it could cause instability if not handled carefully.
© Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
In their interim report published on June 7, 2011 and presented in front of the United Nations Sanctions Committee, the UN Panel of experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have rejected Rwandan Government’s allegations accusing two exiled Tutsi military leaders General Kayumba Nyamwasa and Colonel Karegeya of collaboarating with the Hutu rebel groups of Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) and Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana).
“The Group would like to clarify that, contrary to reports in the Rwandan press, the Group’s final report in November 2010 did not document any substantial links with, or material support to, FDLR by the Rwandan dissidents Colonel Patrick Karegeya and Lieutenant General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, aside from a potential emissary who may have visited armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in February 2010, ” the UN experts said.
On January 21, 2011, during a summit of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (Communauté économique des pays des Grands Lacs, CEPGL) in Kigali, Rwandan Government officials had alleged that “an alliance between armed groups operating in Rutshuru, with the alleged support of Rwandan dissidents Lieutenant General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa and Colonel Patrick Karegeya, had the potential to destabilize the whole region”
The UN Experts added that RUD Urunana leaders denied any collaboration between RUD-Urunana and FDLR or RUD-Urunana and Rwandan National Congress (RNC), a political organization linked to the two exiled Tutsi high ranking officers. RUD-Urunana and another Rwandan Tutsi rebel group, the Rally for the Rwandan People (RPR) form the National Democartic Congress (NDC).
The experts said: “At the outset of its mandate, the Group met with the Secretary-General of RUD, Félicien Kanyamibwa, and its spokesperson Augustin Dakuze, who sought to respond to the Group’s final report of 2010 (S/2010/596). They denied any responsibility for events ending the Kasiki demobilization process in February 2009, instead blaming its failure on alleged attacks by Rwandan forces, the outcome of a visit to assess conditions in Rwanda in January 2009 and the rapprochement between the Governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They also disavowed political connections with FDLR or the Rwandan National Congress.” (see also AfroAmerica Network article: UN Security Council Meet Rwandan Opposition Leaders of February 9, 2011)
However, the UN Experts confirmed that Tribert Rujugiro, a Rwandan Tutsi magnate and a personnal advisor to the Rwandan dictator General Paul Kagame was funding the Congolese rebels of the CNDP. According to the UN Experts: “the Group gathered testimony from numerous CNDP officers that Mr. Rujugiro provided support to their movement. These allegations were confirmed by at least three independent sources.“ The UN Experts also confirmed that Tribert Rujugiro is a Congolese, not a Rwandan because ”in contrast, the documents annexed as “Exhibit L”, pertaining to the lands owned and acquired by Mr. Rujugiro, all indicate that Mr. Rujugiro was born on 4 August 1941 in the locality of Jomba, which is in Rutshuru Territory, North Kivu Province, and that he has Congolese nationality. These documents are duly dated and signed.”
A final report from the UN Group of Experts will be issued in November 2011.