The latest breaking news in the Twittosphere suggests as many as 3-4 grenade blasts around Kigali’s Amahoro Stadium, reports of automatic gunfire, and rumors of a coordinated blast in Gisenyi. This is all unconfirmed, and there’s virtually nothing solid to go on at this point. I trust Hereward Holland, Reuters’ man in Kigali, will have a full report for us in the morning.
In the mean time, I’m reading through a recent report in The Economist on “Progress and repression in Rwanda,” which tidily runs through 16 years’ worth of progress and challenges since the genocide. Not exactly groundbreaking for anyone who regularly follows the news from Rwanda, but for those of you who stumbled upon this blogging while searching for “megan fox sexy nude pics,” it offers a useful primer ahead of August’s presidential polls. Regarding the political climate:
Mr Kagame and his government are stifling political and press freedom in advance of a presidential election due in August. He is almost certain to win but evidently he is determined to secure a big majority to implement his “one Rwanda” policies. Opposition parties have been forbidden to “use words or facts that defame other politicians”. In practice, the government can label any criticism against it as “divisionism”, which entitles it to lock up the offenders. Members of the opposition say they are spied on and bullied.
It is unclear whether the government will let the Democratic Green Party, a feisty new opposition group, be registered. If not, the Greens say they will back another lot, the Socialist Party-Imberakuri, which should be able to run a presidential candidate. The head of a third opposition party, the United Democratic Forces-Inkingi, Victoire Ingabire, says she has been vilified since returning from exile in January. The government, she says, has encouraged people to assault her, accusing her of being a génocidaire. This week a former military intelligence chief, Kayumba Nyamwasa, who was reported to have joined the Greens, fled Rwanda and is said to be claiming asylum in South Africa. The government says he is wanted on criminal charges—presumably divisionism.
This Kayumba has made plenty of waves in the past week, so I dug around a bit in search of some backstory. While the passages quoted below are hardly unbiased, and taken from a source of dubious repute (Uganda’s incendiary Radio Katwe, which was once banned for spreading “malicious and false information” against the ruling party), they help shed some light on the bitter political infighting within the RPF, and just where Kayumba fits into the broader political picture.
General Kayumba Nyamwasa is one of Ugandan returnees within the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). One of the few intellectuals within RPF, he is one of the Ugandan National Resistance Army (NRA) officers who terrorized Northern Uganda during Museveni’s the early years of reign.
The methods of killing he learned in Uganda helped him brutally repress the insurgency in North Western Rwanda in 1996-1998.
A witness who saw these officers in action in Gulu suggests that it is during that military campaign that RPA offcers perfected their methods of killing.
When he repressed the rebellion in Rwanda, the then Colonel Kayumba Nyamwasa was the commander of Brigade 221. In January 1998, Colonel Kayumba Nyamwasa was appointed army chief of staff and replaced Colonel Samuel Kanyemera. Brigade 221 which Nyamwasa headed was then divided, with separate commands based in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri prefectures.
As a reward for putting down the budding insurgency, Kayumba Nyamwasa was appointed Rwandan Patriotic Army Chief of Staff. This was inspite of massive war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Brigade 221 against the Hutus of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi, and on several occasions, the Tutsis of these regions.
These were good years for General Kayumba Nyamwasa. The popularity he gained among the Tutsis extremist circles and especially those surrounding Kagame himself grew day by day. Then came persistent rumors of coup d’etat against Kagame. And the name of Nyamwasa kept popping up. Meanwhile, General Nyamwasa had managed to get the attention of British Intelligence Services.
When General Kagame grew too impatient with General Nyamwasa, Nyamwasa usually turned to the British for temporary relief. Nyamwasa was sent to England, officially for training, but in reality it was to isolate him politically. He was replaced by General Emnanuel Habyarimana, a Hutu and ex-FAR who was also later replaced by General Kabarebe when he become Minister of Defense.
…In November 2002, a government reshuffle consecrated the return of General Nyamwasa as Head of Security Services, to please Tutsi extremists. However, according to people close to him, the General Kayumba Nyamwasa who returned from Britain was not the same General Nyamwasa of the 1996-1998 Ruhengeri and Gisenyi massacres. He had matured politically.
Confidents say he was a man haunted by the horrible crimes he committed. They added that he even once suggested to Kagame and his cronies to admit the crimes committed by RPF and proposed a general amnesty for all crimes committed in Rwanda from 1990 onwards.
Since then, the Dictator of Rwanda viewed General Kayumba Nyamwasa as a serious contender and dangerous rival, i.e. an enemy to watch day and night, and eventually eliminate by all means. When General Kayumba Nyamwasa disappeared from the public for a few days, people in Kigali were quick to point to the worst: the imprisonment for a failed coup. Kagame found an ingenious solution: he appointed General Nyamwasa ambassador far from Rwanda and in a country without geopolitical influence in the Great Lakes Region: India.
In the article “Kigali: Does Kagame finally get Kayumba Nyamwasa?” of October 17, 2004, AfroAmerica Network wrote: “The appointment as an Ambassador to India is viewed as a waiting game as AfroAmerica Network had predicted: either Nyamwasa, tired and forgotten, will slowly and surely fade away, or he will do the unthinkable: try a coup de force.”
While I suspect many of these charges would fail to stand up in any but a Rwandan court, the broader storyline of Kayumba’s fall from grace is a familiar one for anyone who’s followed the political squabbles within the RPF. As Kayumba himself explains in an interview with Uganda’s Daily Monitor,
Look at the turnover of all people who have served in that regime. It tells the whole story. Look at all those who have served with President Paul Kagame, ask him who is still serving with him now. If all of us are bad and he is the only good person, then Rwanda has no future.
That is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch. But as tonight’s events – whatever they turn out to be – have made clear, Rwanda’s future is anything but certain.