Q: How many masterminds does it take to plan a grenade attack?

The AFP reports that Rwandan authorities have “arrested a suspected mastermind of recent grenade attacks in the capital which injured 16 people this week and killed two others last month.”

Deo Mushayidi, a former member of the then rebel group Rwandan Patriotic Front that ended the 1994 genocide, was arrested in neighbouring Burundi.

“Deo Mushayidi, one of the main perpetrators of these acts, was arrested in Burundi and is currently in the hands if the police,” [Attorney General Martin] Ngoga told the state-run Radio Rwanda.

He said the police had “sufficient evidence” against the alleged mastermind, though he refused to speculate on what, exactly, qualified as “sufficient.”

In a disappointing twist, Mushayidi was not filmed by state TV in media plot, as with last month’s failed, er, “coup” in Bujumbura. But his arrest is a new wrinkle for those of us who have been following along with our grenade-attack scorecards at home.

February’s attacks, you’ll recall, were initially pinned on FDLR rebels, before the focus switched to two renegade RPF malcontents this week. Mushayidi now enters the picture as the latest arch-fiend who, as the government would have us believe, “belongs to a ‘network’ including fugitive Lt. Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa and exiled Col Patrick Karegeya which wants to cause ‘state insecurity,’” according to reports in the Rwanda News Agency.

Mushayidi: Is this egghead behind the recent Kigali attacks?

Though a late-comer to the recent unrest, Mushayidi is no stranger to the political scene here in Kigali. Allan Thompson, writing in The Media and the Rwanda Genocide, offers the following biographical snippet on Mushayidi, during his time as a journalist with the newspaper Imboni.

After Joseph Sebarenzi, the popular Tutsi speaker of Parliament, was forced to step down Imboni revealed the RPF’s behind-the-scenes role. The government then seized the journal and banned it. Following President Kagame’s attack on the paper, its two Tutsi journalists left the country: Deo Mushayidi (also president of the Rwandan Associations of Journalists) and Jason Muhayimana.

It was at that time, according to AFP, that Mushayidi “fled to Belgium in 2000 and joined several diaspora opposition groups and last year formed his own party.”

At this point the narrative splinters, depending on just who you want to believe. Mushayidi in exile was a vocal critic of the Kagame government, and became a frequent guest on both the BBC and the VOA. You can hear some of his criticisms of the Kagame regime here (in French, with half-assed English translations).

But the Rwanda News Agency reports that “Mr. Mushayidi allegedly fled with his partner Jason Muhayimana – who was publisher of the same newspaper, after members of the association management team started agitating for accountability of a yet-an unknown amount of funding from the UN agency UNESCO to support the Press House.” In effect, Mushayidi was said to be a crook. (President Kagame allegedly said of him at a press conference, “Don’t you know that Mushayidi ran away with money of his colleagues in the media”)

The report goes on to make more strenuous accusations.

In August 2007, Mr. Mushayidi took his campaign to another level. As regional Tripartite Plus army chiefs were mapping out strategies end the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in D R Congo, Mr. Mushayidi and other political opposition parties in Europe announced a plan to cooperate with the rebels.

Mr. Mushayidi teamed up with exiled Defense Minister Gen. Ben Habyarimana, ex-Prime Minister Rwigema Celestin and other exiles – announcing that they were merging with the guerrillas to oust President Kagame from power by force.

And there you have it: a former Kagame stalwart, now teaming with FDLR rebels and RPF cast-offs, conspiring to disrupt the president’s cakewalk this August through a series of attacks – coordinated, it seems, from three separate countries.

Oddly, it seems no less plausible than any of the other theories I’ve heard lately.

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5 responses to “Q: How many masterminds does it take to plan a grenade attack?

  1. “How many masterminds does it take to plan a grenade attack?”
    You should have called it ‘a minuscule little grenade’ to make the coordinated attacks that caused several deaths sound even smaller. But yeah, after all they only took a few Rwandan lives. And who tells you that the grenade attacks are the only action planned by Mushayidi and cie? We can only hope that the man’s arrest will send a strong signal to his men and stop their cowardly murders.
    Mushayidi repeatedly mentionned his support for and partnership with the FDLR which is, just in case you forgot this, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. That alone is enough to put him behind bars for a loooong time.

  2. Ali,

    The grenade attacks were terrible and tragic, and if you, too, are in Kigali right now, you’ll know, as I do, just how confused and rattled people are. However, my recent comments have had less to do with the attacks than with the government’s response to them – and here, I’m afraid, a certain degree of skepticism is in order. If my skepticism takes the form of glibness and a kind of bleak humor, I wouldn’t want that to diminish the loss of life, or the fears that people have. It’s just my way of commenting on the government’s very sloppy – and yes, comical – handling of these very serious events.

    My question about Mushayidi is whether or not he did, indeed, “repeatedly mention his support for and partnership with the FDLR.” This allegation was made against him in the Rwanda News Agency story I quoted, but it contradicts what many Rwandans are telling me – none of whom are convinced that either Mushayidi or Kayumba are behind the attacks. If Mushayidi is, indeed, the “mastermind” he is said to be, then yes, it’s a very good thing that he’s behind bars. But if the government’s wild accusations – first, against the FDLR/”Interahamwe,” then Kayumba, now Mushayidi – are just a way to round up vocal critics ahead of the elections, then it’s a very different “strong signal” that’s being sent.

    Moreover, our difference of opinion underscores my biggest issue with Kagame’s Rwanda: that in a repressive media environment, it’s impossible to know just what to believe. On the one hand, you have The New Times, which gathers its news through government-issued press releases; on the other, you have the Kinyarwanda-language press, which is either libelous/slanderous, or simply accused of same because their reporting challenges the ruling party. (You also have the diaspora press, which tends to be full of rabid accusations and conspiracy theories that are even less credible than all the above.) In that sort of climate, it’s no wonder that rumors are often given as much credence as what’s reported as fact.

    Chris

  3. I don’t necessarily disagree with some aspects of your approach. A few points however:
    1. Perhaps you should understand your limitations as someone who is analyzing highly complex events in Rwanda and probably does not speak/read Kinyarwanda (Correct me if I am wrong) . There is typically a marked difference between what Mushayidi and others say/write in Kinyarwanda and what they publish in English/French. RE is support and partnership with the FDLR, here is a recent interview where he makes no secret of this: http://dir.groups.yahoo.com/group/Umusoto/message/17918
    You will probably need a translator. Make sure you don’t select him based on his ability to confirm your views.

    2. I am wondering whether humor, bleak or not, is an appropriate way to deal with these issues, but that’s certainly your right. I am also wondering whether the FDLR/”Interahamwe,” – Kayumba-Mushayidi saga is as comical as you suggest when dealing with terrorist attacks specifically designed to create chaos and uncertainty. All these are SUSPECTED to have links with the attacks and the last time I checked, fingers seemed to point towards the activities of one WITH the others rather than one OR the other. ‘Western “sophisticated” agencies have not shined by their consistency in similar circumstances. The Al Quaeda-Sadam-WMD-noWMD or the Talibans-Bin Laden-Pakistan-Afghanistan tergiversations sounded as ‘comical’ as anything, viewed from Rwanda.

    3. As for your friends ‘convictions’ I am not sure what those are worth at this point. Maybe they are your friends because you tend to share similar views. I have to say that I am not necessarily convinced myself at this point. I am just not convinced either that this all an evil manipulation by Kagame-RPF-New Times. Investigations are being carried out. We should keep our eyes and ears open rather than continue to relay rumors.
    5. Finally, I have some reservations over the conclusions you are drawing from “our difference of opinion”. Referring to the US (your own country?) case, are you suggesting that the views of FOX NEWs lovers and MSNBC watchers are in such perfect harmony thanks to the wonderful media environment? Are the increasingly wild “Tea partiers’ a product of Kagame’s repressive media? Is the Health Care debate headache what Rwanda should be aiming for?
    Ali

  4. Ali,

    I appreciate your response, and will reply at length when I catch my breath in the next day or so.

    To the other reader whose comment I chose not to approve, and to others who might feel compelled to comment in the future: let’s keep it civil here. I’m willing to entertain any and all opinions that are thoughtful and have something to contribute to my li’l dialogue space here on WordPress. But name-calling, hateful diatribes, etc., will not be tolerated, and are severely frowned upon by the PostcardJunky.

    Thanks to all.

    Chris

  5. Pingback: Sixteen injured as grenade attacks hit Kigali | Kigali Wire

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