Court told of Rwandan leader's genocide links

Sat, Jun 23, 2012, 01:00

A RWANDAN general who fled to South Africa two years ago has claimed in a court hearing in Johannesburg that his country’s current leader was behind the assassination of the previous president, which triggered Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

During the trial on Thursday of the six men charged with trying to kill Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa outside his home in 2010 the general testified he was targeted by them because he had fallen out with Rwandan president Paul Kagame.

Gen Nyamwasa was once Mr Kagame’s military chief, but after a break down in their relationship he fled to South Africa, where a few months after his arrival a failed assassination attempt was made against him in the driveway of his Johannesburg home.

When giving evidence in the case against the accused – three Rwandan and three Tanzanian men – Gen Nyanwasa was asked why the accused men would have wanted him dead.

He reportedly replied: “There are facts in my knowledge that the president of Rwanda ordered the killing of the former president of Rwanda, president Habyarimana.” The shooting down of Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane in 1994 as it came into land sparked a 100-day killing spree in Rwanda by extremists from the Hutu ethnic majority against moderate members of their own tribe as well as the Tutsi minority.

As the world watched, brutal massacres were perpetrated across the country, and when the violence stopped more than 500,000 people were dead.

The slaughter was only halted when Mr Kagame’s Tutsi rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front army took control of the country.

In the years that followed, accusations have surfaced that Mr Kagame’s forces were behind the shooting down of Mr Habyarimana’s plane. The Rwandan president has always denied any culpability, and a French investigation into the incident supported his claim.

While Rwanda has made a remarkable recovery since the genocide, Mr Kagame has been accused of having dictatorial tendencies. In addition, the unsolved murder of a number of his critics in recent years has led to accusations he was the hidden hand behind their demise.

Mr Nyamwasa established the Rwandan National Congress when he came to South Africa, which he says is a vehicle to pursue peaceful political change in his country. There is speculation Mr Kagame saw Mr Nyamwasa as a political threat. The trial will resume on July 10th next.