Africa

Rwanda denies shooting exiled army chief in S Africa

  • 20 June 2010
  • From the section Africa
Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa
Image caption Lt Gen Nyamwasa went into exile in South Africa earlier this year

Rwanda has said it was not behind the shooting of an exiled former military chief of staff in South Africa.

Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a critic of Rwanda's president, is recovering in hospital after being shot outside his Johannesburg home.

His wife said it was an assassination attempt as the lone gunman had made no demand for money or goods.

But Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told the BBC the government did not condone violence.

Sources close to Lt Gen Nyamwasa told the BBC on Sunday that he was recovering and should be able to leave hospital in a few days.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says that since leaving Kigali in February, Lt Gen Nyamwasa had been a thorn in the flesh of President Paul Kagame, whom he accuses of corruption.

Official denial

The Nyamwasas had been returning from a shopping trip at around midday on Saturday (1000 GMT) when the gunman approached their car.

"[The gunman] spoke to my driver, but he wanted space to be able to shoot my husband," Rosette Nyamwasa told the BBC.

"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."

She added that Mr Kagame wanted her husband dead.

"[Mr 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.

But Rwanda's foreign minister told the BBC in statement that Mr Kagame's government "does not condone violence" and said she trusted South Africa to investigate the shooting thoroughly.

Later in an interview with the BBC, Ms Mushikiwabo said there was evidence that Lt Gen Nyamwasa was responsible for a campaign of violence in Rwanda.

"I'll not speculate much more, as this is a case that has yet to be prosecuted, but there are very serious charges against him on his links with networks that have been planting grenades in the country since the beginning of the year," she told the BBC's Newshour programme.

Lt Gen Nyamwasa has denied the allegations.

Military reshuffle

Our analyst Martin Plaut says Lt Gen Nyamwasa was one of President Kagame's closest confidants, until they fell out.

Since arriving in South Africa, the former army chief has accused the president of corruption, accusations the Rwandan authorities have denied.

He also claimed the judiciary was compromised and told the BBC in a recent interview that the judges were now "President Paul Kagame's property".

A couple of months after Lt Gen Nyamwasa went into exile, along with another top military officer, Mr Kagame reshuffled the military leadership ahead of elections due in August.

At the time, two high-ranking officers were also suspended and put under house arrest.

The elections will be the second presidential poll held since the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Arrest warrants

Lt Gen Nyamwasa played an important role in the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by Mr Kagame, which put a stop to the killing and which is now in power.

But France and Spain have issued arrest warrants against Mr Nyamwasa for his alleged role in the lead-up to and during the genocide, along with other senior RPF figures.

Mr Kagame, in power for the last 16 years, is viewed by many in the West as one of Africa's more dynamic leaders.

However critics have raised concerns about his more authoritarian tendencies and the government has recently been accused of harassing the opposition ahead of the elections.

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