Rwanda denies trying to kill exiled general as six are held in South Africa

South African police were investigating a possible conspiracy yesterday after making six arrests in connection with the attempted assassination of an exiled former Rwandan army chief of staff.

Lt-General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a dissident Rwandan military commander who fled the country earlier this year, is recovering in a Johannesburg hospital after an attempt on his life on Saturday that his wife has blamed on the president of Rwanda. The authorities in Kigali have denied any knowledge of a plot to kill General Nyamwasa.

"The Government of Rwanda does not condone violence, and we wish the family strength and serenity," said government spokeswoman Louise Mushikiwabo. "We trust in the ability of South African authorities to investigate the incident thoroughly."

Police have refused to confirm the nationalities of any of the six people arrested but sources close to the investigation said one of the men was a Rwandan with a military background known to the general.

The shooting, which took place at lunchtime on Saturday as the former army chief of staff and his wife returned from a shopping trip, has refocused attention on the leadership of President Paul Kagame, who is facing mounting criticism for his authoritarian rule ahead of August elections.

Mr Kagame, who took over the central African state after his rebel army swept into Rwanda to end the 1994 genocide, is himself a military man turned politician. Although he has steered the mountainous country towards stability and economic growth his democratic credentials are suspect.

The government is completely dominated by members of the Tutsi-led RPF rebel army and a report by the Commonwealth Human Rights Commission last year described Rwanda as "an army with a state".

Analysts said that political tensions within the military were equivalent to a power struggle within the ruling party and since General Nyamwasa fell out with President Kagame he has been loudly denounced as a terrorist and blamed for a spate of grenade attacks.

Since the dissident general's departure there has been a major reshuffle in the Rwandan military, which is seen as the likeliest source of a serious political challenger to the man who has ruled the country for the last 16 years.

In a recent interview with The Independent, Mr Kagame said Rwanda wasn't ready for "democratic niceities" and he has moved strongly against potential political opponents, using the genocide laws to block a presidential opponent and denying other parties the right to register for the August poll.

Rwandan police recently arrested a US lawyer who travelled to Kigali to defend opposition leader Victoire Ingabire from genocide denial charges. Paul Erlinder spent over a fortnight in prison and was said to have "attempted suicide" while in custody. He was released over the weekend following angry protests from Washington, normally a staunch ally.

South African police have officially refused to divulge any details about those arrested or what charges they face. But the fact that General Nyamwasa's wife clearly identified a lone shooter means that authorities believe there was a conspiracy if they have made six arrests. The suspects face attempted murder charges.

The general, who came to South Africa earlier this year, was shot in the stomach while driving to his home in northern Johannesburg. A former confidant of the Rwandan president, the army man has been a powerful critic of Mr Kagame since moving into exile in February, accusing him of corruption and running a dictatorship.

Rwandan rivals

General Nyamwasa

When the RPF forces swept into Rwanda in 1994 to end the 100 days of killing that claimed 800,000 lives, they did so under the command of Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa. As part of the clique of senior military commanders close to Paul Kagame he went on to become army chief of staff in 1998. He was named by France as one of the culprits in the shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane, the event that triggered the genocide. The Rwandan government angrily rejected the charge and blamed the incident on a Hutu clique. Lt Gen. Nyamwasa served as ambassador to India until February when he abruptly went into exile in South Africa.

Paul Kagame

Rwanda's President has come to be seen as a competent and effective leader since taking charge in the wake of the 1994 genocide. Under his leadership the country has stifled all debate over what happened 16 years ago with the official line that Mr Kagame's RPF forces halted a Hutu-led genocide of Tutsis being the only acceptable account. Rwanda has been successful in attracting foreign aid and investment and is keen to burnish its image as an emerging high-tech hub. UN experts have pointed to the leadership's role in destabilising neighbouring DR Congo, which Rwandan forces have repeatedly invaded since 1994.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Content Assistant / Copywriter

£15310 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Sewing Technician

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This market leader in Medical Devices is...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£24000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Situated in the heart of Bradfo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior IT Support / Projects Engineer

£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence