Tag Archives: “kigali grenade attacks”

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.

Just when you thought it was safe to leave Burundi…

Having spent the past three months getting neither shot by bandits nor maimed by flying hand grenades; having dodged Documentation – Burundi’s dreaded secret police – and suffered no more than a bit of sunburn after an epic session of doggy-paddling in Lake Tanganyika, it would seem like the perfect time to pack up shop, offer a few last merci beaucoups, and retreat to the cool, politically stable, corruption-free, soon-to-be-fully wired hills of Rwanda to catch my breath, before taking the plunge into the lawlessness of eastern Congo.

Sunburn, flaky skin, and other things you won't find in the State Department's latest travel advisory

But yesterday’s news out of Kigali, where simultaneous grenade attacks claimed at least one person and injured more than two dozen others, has been just the latest in a series of sobering stories from Rwanda in recent weeks.

Reuters reports that the three explosions went off within a half hour of one another; according to what I’ve picked up from the blogosphere, they occurred at the Nyabugogo bus station, the Rubangura building, and the restaurant Chez Venant. The latest update from AFP confirms that “two suspects have been detained in relation to simultaneous grenade attacks in the Rwandan capital Kigali that killed one person and injured some 30 others.”

“Two suspects were apprehended, they belong to the Interahamwe militia,” police spokesman Eric Kayiranga told AFP, referring to the extremist Hutu militia responsible for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide….

“Those who commit these kinds of crimes want to sow chaos, intimidate people and kill the genocide survivors,” Kayiranga said.

“We are continuing the investigation and questioning the two suspects,” notably on whether any link exists between the blasts and the August presidential election, he added.

For my Rwandan and Burundian readers, a Kinyarwanda-language article appears at igihe.com, and also offers some pics of the aftermath, including those posted below.

Kigaliwire, an ever reliable source of chatter out of Rwanda, notes that

there have been a number of grenade attacks in Rwanda in recent months. In July, 2009 an attack injured 2 girls at the genocide memorial in central Kigali. In September 2009 four people were killed and 52 injured in an attack in Karambo village, 60 miles south of Kigali. In addition there were three unrelated grenade attacks in December 2009 and another in January 2010.

I’ve reported in the past how hand grenades are a popular form of score-settling in the Great Lakes region, due to their nauseating ubiquity. In Rwanda, though, it’s difficult to dismiss the political dimensions behind such attacks – especially when they occur at the Gisozi memorial, or are used to silence witnesses in gacaca trials, as is so often the case. A grenade attack in Rwanda always seems to require an added level of scrutiny.

Or maybe it just seems that way, since the raison d’etre of the iron-fisted Kagame government remains the threat of Hutu barbarians at the gate. Yesterday’s attacks come against a backdrop of increasing tension and repression ahead of August’s presidential elections. Earlier this month Human Rights Watch published a report urging the government to end its intimidation of opposition parties. “Opposition party members are facing increasing threats, attacks, and harassment in advance of Rwanda’s August 2010 presidential election,” said a statement accompanying the report, published on February 10.

In the past week, members of the FDU-Inkingi and the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda – new opposition parties critical of government policies – have suffered serious incidents of intimidation by individuals and institutions close to the government and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). One member of the FDU-Inkingi was beaten by a mob in front of a local government office. The attack appeared to have been well coordinated, suggesting it had been planned in advance.

“The Rwandan government already tightly controls political space,” said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “These incidents will further undermine democracy by discouraging any meaningful opposition in the elections.”

The Rwandan government and the RPF have strongly resisted any political opposition or broader challenge of their policies by civil society. On several occasions, the government has used accusations of participation in the genocide, or “genocide ideology,” as a way of targeting and discrediting its critics.

Notable is the case of Victoire Ingabire, a controversial politician who returned to Rwanda last month to prepare her candidacy for this year’s election, after spending 16 years abroad. An ethnic Hutu, she quickly found herself on the wrong side of the famously crotchety government and, according to HRW, “has been widely condemned in official and quasi-official media and described as a “negationist” of the genocide for stating publicly that crimes committed against Hutu citizens by the RPF and the Rwandan army should be investigated and those responsible brought to justice.”

Ms. Ingabire: Voted 'Most Likely to Get Pushed Down a Flight of Stairs By an Innocently Whistling Paul Kagame' in her high school yearbook

Two weeks ago, in a case whose details remain contested and ambiguous, Ingabire and her driver were attacked inside a government office as they waited to register their upstart political party.

Police spokesman Supt Eric Kayiranga said Ms Ingabire had jumped the queue at the local government office in Kigali, Rwanda News Agency (RNA) reported.

He said a group of local men attacked her because they were angry that a person who “negates the genocide” could be served before them.

The BBC also reports that he said this with a straight face.

The row over Ingabire has, predictably, taken center stage in the Rwandan press. The New Times – which is to President Kagame as a finely tuned 1733 Montagnana cello is to Yo-Yo Ma – notes in its typically understated manner that Ingabire has “earned herself the most vicious distinction for being the first and only person to publicly espouse a revisionist and Genocide denial position, in relation to the Genocide against the Tutsi, on the Rwandan territory.” The paper also took umbrage with an interview with Ingabire in The East African, noting with a dark sense of foreboding:

Reports that Ingabire’s interview with The East African was masterminded by some intelligence organizations within the region, with a long history of using journalists as agents and assets, if true, do not augur well for regional stability.

The suspicion that this is all an elaborate conspiracy, as opposed to just an earnest bit of reporting on a controversial figure, offers a revealing snapshot of how the Kigali junta views the role of the press in an ostensibly free society.

Which isn’t to say The East African can be excused for its own unbiased approach. “The big question now,” write Charles Kazooba and Esther Nakazzi, “is whether Kagame is ready to tolerate political opposition, or he will continue to use the past as a pretext to crack down on legitimate political dissent.” Sure, it’s not quite as comically one-sided as The New Times’ onanistic View From Kigali; but “tolerate” and “legitimate” are pretty loaded words, given the context.

Still, the interview makes for a fascinating read. On some points, Ingabire comes across as a reasonably sane and level-headed opposition figure. She says,

Kagame’s government is not ready to accept opposition. This is why they sent young men to beat me and my aide two weeks ago – which was a true reflection of the lack of democracy and freedom of expression in Rwanda.

This treatment extends to all opposition politicians. Kagame must accept that there is an opposition that needs political space. We are not enemies. Instead, he uses the genocide ideology against us. The genocide took place 16 years ago and now is the time for democracy.

These are points that, in various diplomatic and civil society circles I’ve encountered in both Rwanda and Burundi, are rarely disputed by anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with “salami.”

But Ingabire’s relationship to the FDLR remains ambiguous. Some of her assertions are a bit too cannily worded to be taken at face value.

The FDLR claims to be fighting for peace. They also accept that some of their members took part in the genocide. Everybody involved in genocide and crime against humanity committed in Rwanda has to be judged. Our argument is political space – it would solve the problem.

While lack of political space is certainly a problem in Rwanda, I’m not entirely sure that extends to the FDLR, for whom a campaign of murder, rape, violence and general thuggery seems to be the more salient problem. And when she fussily refuses to “discuss with the media details concerning the sources of [her party’s] funds,” you have to wonder whether the clumsy, heavy-handed assertions of The New Times about some of Ingabire’s political and financial allegiances might not have some small basis in fact.

In the end, the paper seems to hit the nail squarely on the head. “To certain Rwandan politicians, Genocide is an unfinished business,” says the paper, while referring to Ingabire. And the same could just as well be applied to the RPF leadership who continue to use the legitimate horrors of the genocide as a means to enforce an emergency rule without end. In Rwandan politics, the genocide is always an unfinished business.