Exiled Rwanda general gives evidence in murder plot trial


A picture taken in 2001 shows Rwandan Army Chief of Staff, Major General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwansa during a press conference at Camp Kigali. The former army chief, who later became Rwandan ambassador to India, fled into exile in South Africa via Uganda and then Kenya. In South Africa he has survived assassination attempts.



Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, an exiled Rwandan army chief, gave evidence in a South African court Wednesday at the politically charged trial of six men accused of trying to kill him.

General Nyamwasa fled into exile in South Africa in 2010 after falling out with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, a former ally. A few months later, Nyamwasa was shot as he returned home in Johannesburg from a shopping trip with his wife, in an ambush that had all the hallmarks of an assassination attempt, GlobalPost reported.

Nyamwasa’s wife said at the time that a gunman approached their chauffeur-driven car as they waited to pass through a security entrance to their gated community. The gunman shot once through the window, hitting Nyamwasa in the stomach, before the gun jammed and the shooter fled.

South African intelligence operatives later foiled a second attempt on Nyamwasa's life, as he recovered from the gunshot wound in hospital.

More from GlobalPost: South Africa stops another attempt to kill Rwanda ex-army chief

Nyamwasa, now a witness at the trial of three Rwandans and three Tanzanians accused of trying to murder him, told the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court that his trusted driver Richard Bachisa had turned against him, Agence France-Presse reported.

Bachisa had helped Nyamwasa flee Rwanda after the general's falling-out with Kagame, and later followed him to South Africa. He was his chauffeur until he was arrested in the alleged murder plot, AFP said.

Rwandan dissidents have accused Kagame’s government of involvement in the attack on the general. Authorities in Kigali have denied any involvement.

During Nyamwasa's testimony Wednesday, the South African lawyer representing Rwanda, Gerhard van der Merwe, tried unsuccessfully to stop Nyamwasa from describing his background, arguing that to do could trigger speculation about government involvement in the shooting, according to the Associated Press.

More from GlobalPost: Special Report: Rwanda Now

Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front party have been in power since the end of the 1994 genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, when he led a rebel army into the capital to expel a Hutu-led government. 

According to the BBC, Nyamwasa aided Kagame’s rise to power and was appointed army of chief of staff in 1998, but the two subsequently fell out and last year a Rwandan military court sentenced the general in absentia to 24 years in prison for threatening state security.

Kagame’s government is accused of becoming increasingly despotic. Human rights groups say opposition politicians, journalists and civil society activists in Rwanda have been subjected to growing crackdowns.

More from GlobalPost: South Africa tries six for allegedly trying to kill Rwandan critic