Ms Rosette Kayumba, wife to renegade military general Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, has accused the Rwandan government of trying to assassinate her husband in South Africa, an allegation Kigali vehemently denied yesterday.
Speaking to the BBC hours after Gen. Nyamwasa was shot at their exile home in Johannesburg, Ms Kayumba said: “[Rwandan President Paul Kagame] said it in parliament that he will actually kill my husband, that wherever he is he will follow him and kill him.”
She said she believed the lone gunman who waylaid them on returning from a shopping errand at around 1p.m. (midday South African time) was a hired hit man since he never demanded for cash or any valuables and shot until the pistol jammed firing.
Yesterday, Ms Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister and government spokesperson, said by phone from Kigali that the allegations are “preposterous”. “This [assassination of opponents] is not something President Kagame does. He’s a man of integrity,” she said.
Mr Kagame, she said, is a leader who “demands accountability from all persons”, Gen. Nyamwasa inclusive - although he chose to flee. “If you want accountability from someone, you don’t kill them; you allow them an opportunity for explanation or to justify their case,” Ms Mushikiwabo said. Gen. Nyamwasa, who until his escape in late February was Rwanda’s ambassador to India, fled to exile, alleging he was being hounded by the government on fabricated charges.
Authorities in Kigali have in the past been guarded about Gen. Nyamwasa’s alleged crime, but minister Mushikiwabo yesterday said the general is being investigated for his “involvement with elements that were involved with the insecurity - throwing of grenades - in Kigali.”
Sixteen people were, in March this year, injured in two almost-simultaneous grenade explosions, one at a car-washing bay and the other at a bus station in a wealthy Kigali suburb.
Earlier, two people died and several others were wounded when a grenade exploded on them on February 19. President Kagame told Daily Monitor in an interview published in May, that Gen. Nyamwasa, a former Chief of Staff of Rwanda’s Defence Forces, had promoted divisions in the army and fled to avoid “accountability”. He said: “People like Kayumba or [ex-Intelligence chief Patrick] Karegeya or others who flee the country will always say whatever they want to say in an attempt to absolve themselves from any responsibility.” “I think for them to escape - already there is a responsibility they are escaping or fleeing from.”
In a rejoinder emailed to this newspaper a week later, Gen. Kayumba denied the accusations levelled against him and instead made several allegations of his own against President Kagame and the Rwanda Patriotic Front government. “President Kagame is not honest when he alleges that we ran away from accountability. [Our] disagreements [are] centred on governance, tolerance, insensitivity, intrigue and betrayal of our colleagues,” he wrote.
And he added: “Accountability should begin from the top; beginning with the President before he demands accountability from his subordinates.” Gen. Nyamwasa, an alumnus of Makerere University and Mbarara High School in Uganda, first enlisted, in 1984, as a member of the then Yoweri Museveni-led successful National Resistance Army military campaign.
He later joined the RPF, led by Mr Kagame, serving it as the military intelligence chief – but all the while maintained close working relation with the UPDF and headed investigations into the Kisangani clashes between Ugandan and Rwandan armies during the 1997-2003 war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Ugandan military yesterday joined sympathisers from around the world to commiserate with the Nyamwasa family. “Humanly speaking, his shooting is unfortunate,” said Lt. Col. Felix Kulayigye, the defence and military spokesman. “I believe any person deserves [to enjoy] the right to life unless deprived of it by a court of law. We hope the criminals will be apprehended.”
It is understood that after serving in various senior positions, Gen. Nyamwasa’s relation with President Kagame soured over accusations and counter-accusations of unexplained riches, insubordination and dictatorship.
In 2001, Gen. Kagame fired the general as the military chief and replaced him with his counterpart James Kabarebe. The President, in November 2002, however, warmed up to Gen. Nyamwasa re-deploying him as Head of Security Services and later Rwanda’s ambassador to India until he escaped four months ago, citing threats to his life. The renegade reportedly fled through Uganda and Kenya, stirring diplomatic nightmare among the East African neighbours, before settling in South Africa where he is seeking asylum - that appears likely.
In accounts offered to the British public broadcaster, the BBC, about the Saturday shooting incident, Ms Rosette Nyamwasa said a man they did not know approached as if to speak to them just as they drove in their Johannesburg suburban home.
“[The gunman] spoke to my driver, but he wanted space to be able to shoot my husband,” she said. “Then when my husband bent, he shot. And fortunately, it went into the stomach and not in the head... My husband got out immediately... And he grabbed the gun. In that kind of scuffle, the guy couldn’t cock the gun.”
The Rwandan Foreign Ministry says the charges are “ridiculous and far-fetched” but the general’s wife could have made them either because she is “distraught or upset”. “We feel for the Nyamwasa family,” Ms Mushikiwabo said, “Anyone interested in [knowing the cause and motive of the gun attack] should allow the South African government to investigate and report.”
The minister said Rwandan prosecutors have offered incriminating evidence and she has engaged her South African counterpart to persuade authorities there to arrest and extradite Gen. Nyamwasa. “We hope he recovers soon so that we can pursue that line,” said Ms Mushikiwabo.
By midday yesterday, Rwanda said the only information they had about the shooting of Gen. Nyamwasa was through the media and the South African government was yet to formally notify them.