Tag Archives: “Kayumba Nyamwasa”

The aftermath in Kigali.

The facts on the ground haven’t strayed too far from the rumors that spread after last night’s grenade blasts in Kigali. According to Reuters, “two synchronised grenade blasts injured 16 people in the Rwandan capital, and a third unrelated explosion killed one person in the west of the country.”

The explosions in Kigali happened within 10 minutes of each other in early evening on Thursday, a day after President Paul Kagame sought to quell fears of instability in the central African country, which has tight security after a genocide 16 years ago.

No suspects have been apprehended. Police spokesman Eric Kayiranga told Reuters that Rwandan authorities were still investigating possible links between last night’s attacks and similar grenade blasts last month.

“We are still investigating to know if they are coordinated or not and who are the real attackers. We are yet to know if it was the same (people),” said Kayiranga.

President Kagame: Cool as the underside of the pillow he doesn't sleep on, because the man never sleeps, and he wishes his lazy countrymen wouldn't sleep, either

Conversations I’ve had here in Kigali suggest there are a lot of puzzled people scratching their heads. Everyone seems to have been caught off-guard by the sudden escalation in violence – not least of all President Kagame himself, who, by all accounts, was unusually flustered at a Wednesday press conference I blogged about earlier this week. Effectively laying down the gauntlet with his insistence that Rwanda remains airtight in the wake of last month’s blasts and recent rumors of an attempted coup, His Excellency PK seems to have all but dared whoever was behind last night’s attacks to prove him wrong. Were last night’s attacks just an act of defiance? And if so, by whom?

The Christian Science Monitor, meanwhile, weighs in on what the blasts might mean for the internal politics of the ruling party.

A Rwandan political analyst, speaking to the Monitor on condition of anonymity, says that in a tightly controlled environment like Rwanda, the grenade attacks are more likely to be expressions of problems within the ruling party, rather than attacks launched against the Rwandan state by rebel groups such as the banned Hutu militia – the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

Kayumba, during happier times as ambassador to India

Which brings us back to AWOL Lt.-Gen. Kayumba, who recently told the BBC that “the Rwandan authorities had staged grenade attacks and then accused him of being behind them.”

“The regime in Kigali is really descending into total dictatorship and you know absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Gen. Nyamwasa told Voice of America in an exclusive interview [quoted here in Uganda’s Daily Monitor]. “So, in this case you don’t have to have a different opinion, you are not supposed to debate and if you are perceived to have a different opinion on anything, then you are an enemy.”

So is Lieutenant-General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa an enemy of the state, or just another scapegoat?

Fewer bombs, better beaches, and why I never should have left Burundi.

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.

Lieutenant-General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa. I hate to admit it, but this guy scares the piss out of me. He looks like a war crime waiting to happen.

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.

Strange times in Kigali.

I returned to Kigali this week with the hopes of enjoying some downtime before heading to eastern Congo. Sadly, this was not to be the case. As I recently reported, things in everyone’s favorite central African autocracy have taken a turn for the dysfunctional of late, even by this region’s strange standards. Grenade attacks, coup rumors, renegade generals on the run. If it weren’t for the fact that there’s not a beach in sight, I would’ve sworn I was back in Bujumbura.

Happier times for Presidents Museveni and Kagame, seen here in 2008, before renegade, coup-plotting generals fled into Uganda and threatened to strain relations between the two countries

Front and center has been the bizarre case of Lieutenant-General Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former army chief of staff who – after rumored sightings in Uganda – has apparently resurfaced in South Africa after fleeing the country last week. Kayumba, who was until recently serving as Rwanda’s ambassador to India, has had a strained relationship with the RPF leadership, after he was allegedly linked to a failed coup attempt in 2003. The diplomatic posting seems to reflect the conventional wisdom in Kigali, which is to keep your friends close, your enemies closer, and your failed-coup leaders in India. Uganda’s Sunday Vision reported on Kayumba’s contentious relationship with the government, citing local reports linking him to the troubled Green Party, as well as rumors that “no government official or even fellow soldiers attended the funeral of [Kayumba’s] mother recently,” which is a dark tiding indeed for a Rwandan political figure.

Yesterday, a clearly peeved PK gave a press conference here in Kigali, at which he dispelled any rumors that the fleeing general – as well as another former army officer, Patrick Karegeya – had been plotting a coup against him, according to South Africa’s Independent.

“Nobody, absolutely nobody, not even Kayumba, can carry out a coup here. Think about it and you’ll come to the conclusion no one can carry out a coup” in Rwanda, the president said.

“People can only dream about it, wish for it; I believe what I’m telling you,” Kagame said.

Kagame went on to add: “Never ever ever ever ever. Never. Ever.”

Kagame, who at a recent press conference 'double-dog dared' opponents to overthrow him

The press conference comes on the heels of an announcement by the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, who told reporters with a straight face on Tuesday that the Kigali grenade attacks of last month have now been linked to none other than Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegyeya. This comes after officials stated just hours after the attacks that two suspects had been apprehended, and that, in the definitive words of police spokesman Eric Kayiranga, “they belong to the Interahamwe militia.”

The Rwanda News Agency comments on the sudden about-face.

When three grenades exploded in Kigali two weeks ago and another in Huye district a week before, Police Spokesman Superintendent Eric Kayiranga quickly said investigations showed that Rwandan FDLR rebels were behind them.

The link has not been raised again. On Tuesday, the National Prosecuting Authority suddenly claimed that Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa and Col. Patrick Karegeya were behind the grenade attacks. On Wednesday, President Kagame said the link between these two scenarios might be possible.

Why would former RPF stalwarts now be canoodling with the Interahamwe? Exactly how many FDLR Hutus do you think are on Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba’s Christmas-card list?

Undeterred by the hilarity of their accusations, the RPF today released photographic evidence that Messrs. Kayumba and Karegeya are, indeed, plotting with Interahamwe militia. “We finally have our smoking gun,” said Kagame.

Interahamwe militia and rogue RPF elements plotting at a sidewalk cafe in eastern Congo, according to an investigative report by Rwanda's New Times

The Kayumba saga comes against a backdrop of increasing intimidation and harassment of opposition politicians, as I’ve reported before. These have included threats most foul against at least three prominent opposition figures – Victoire Ingabire, of the FDU-Inking Party; Bernard Ntaganda, of the Parti Social-IMBERAKURI; and Frank Habineza, of the Democratic Green Party – and have (predictably) drawn outraged cries from the international community.

President Kagame, of course, has repeatedly defended his actions, citing the ever-present threat of Hutu rebels to the east and fifth columnists within. In an op-ed for The Guardian, Stephen Kinzer sums up the Kagame position.

He believes western human rights activists underestimate the prospects for a new outbreak of ethnic violence in Rwanda, as well as the danger of allowing ethnically charged speech. “We’ve lived this life,” he said angrily at a news conference. “We’ve lived the consequences. So we understand it better than anyone from anywhere else.”

The levels of intrigue here are…intriguing. Kagame is a master manipulator, who has repeatedly used the genocide as a pretext for bullying the international community and cracking down on internal dissent. The refrain of “we understand it better than anyone from anywhere else” has, in some form or other, become the de facto position of the Kagame administration. It is part of its us-against-the-world mentality, which has always included, as a lingering subtext, a reminder of how the West failed Rwanda during its darkest hour.

On a scale of one to 10, this man is not to be fucked with.

The president is a grand strategist, as PR-savvy as any American exec, and observers in this country are always forced to consider how a given event – whether it be grenade attacks in Kigali, or the return of a rabble-rousing exile – is being manipulated by the man upstairs. However damaging or threatening the latest news might seem, you know it is being redacted in His Excellency PK’s enigmatic noggin, before being regurgitated in a way that, ultimately, casts the Kagame regime in an ever more righteous light. Ingabire, for example, has been given a relatively free hand (by Rwandan standards) to state her case to the foreign press. But is Kagame simply holding back because the international spotlight is on her? Or is he playing a more patient hand, perhaps giving Ingabire enough rope to (metaphorically, of course) hang herself?

(The same laissez-faire attitude, unfortunately, has not been extended toward her erstwhile assistant, Joseph Ntawangundi, who just three days after being attacked alongside Ingabire, was promptly arrested and locked up on an outstanding warrant for crimes committed during the genocide.)

I’m not entirely sure what to make of these opposition leaders. Frank Habineza, President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, for example, clumsily played the genocide card while appealing to the West to put pressure on Kagame for his repressive political tactics.

“We do not want the international community to wait, like it waited in 1994,” said Habineza, drawing a parallel that was unlikely to win him many fans. (You can hear more from Habineza here.)

Ingabire has not exactly shied away from the limelight.

And then there’s Ingabire. I’ve already written a bit about her political aspirations, after spending nearly 16 years in exile in Europe. The would-be president quickly stirred controversy by making some politically charged comments about Hutu victims at the genocide memorial. This more or less occurred while she still had crumbs from the in-flight meal on her chin.

Given such blatantly ethnic posturing – as well as some of the questionable figures looming in her background – it is hard to accept her intentions at face value. Likewise, the clumsy, stage-managed episode involving her supposed asylum request at the UK High Commission makes you wonder whether Ingabire isn’t as much a cool calculator as the man she hopes to dethrone. And you have to ask why someone so deeply concerned with the future of her country waited this long to return, anyway.

Recently Ingabire claimed that if the election were to be held tomorrow, the people would surely vote FDU into power, “because they know who we are.”

I don’t want to take anything away from the average man-on-the-collines here in Rwanda. I would like to give Rwandans – particularly the rural poor, who make up the bulk of this country’s population – the benefit of the doubt, and assume that, come August, they can and will calmly file to the polls with a selfless democratic spirit and full of only the highest of high-minded aspirations.

Unfortunately, that goes against everything I know about electoral politics in this region. Given the amount of time she has had to “campaign” in the country, I suspect most voters don’t know all that much about who Ingabire is. They simply know that she is a Hutu, and in a country where that group still holds a roughly 85 percent majority, she could very well be banking on the fact that that’s all they need to know. You can hardly blame the president, then, for being a bit concerned at the rumblings from below. And you have to wonder just what steps he might take in the next few months to suppress them.