Rwandan soldiers behind Joburg shooting, says witness

2011-06-29 14:19

One of the men accused of trying to kill a former Rwandan general exiled in South Africa said that Rwandan soldiers with plenty of cash and cars were behind the plot, a friend testified today.

The testimony came on the second day of trial in the shooting of Lieutenant-General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa in June last year. The former Rwandan military chief went into exile just months before he was attacked.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s government has denied allegations of involvement in the case. However, witnesses in the trial have asked for special protection, saying they fear the Rwandan government.

Kalisa Mubarak, a 36-year-old Rwandan who immigrated to South Africa in 2003, testified today that he has known one of the six suspects since they were children.

He said that former Rwandan soldier Amani Uriwani told him about being recruited by some European-based Rwandans to help with a job in Joburg.

Mubarak said his friend would only say the target was also a soldier, and he tried to talk Uriwani out of taking part.

Uriwani was offered R10 000 for his part in the attack, according to his friend’s testimony.

Prosecutors say Mubarak has been moved with his wife and three children to a secret location under a witness protection programme.

Two bodyguards sat nearby as he testified in English and Kinyarwanda. He wore dark glasses and sat in the witness stand with his chin sunk in a black-and-white checked scarf draped around his neck.

Three Rwandans and three Tanzanians are accused of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and other charges in Nyamwasa’s shooting.

Nyamwasa and other Rwandans living abroad have accused the president of crushing dissent and democracy after he helped to end the 1994 genocide that left more than 500 000 people dead in Rwanda.

In May, British police warned some Rwandan exiles living in the UK that their lives were in danger, and the threat is believed to have emanated from the Rwandan government.

Human rights groups say opposition politicians, journalists and civil society activists have been subjected to crackdowns inside Rwanda as well.

The key suspect in the South Africa case is Pascal Kanyandekwe, a Rwandan businessman. He’s also accused of plotting to kill Nyamwasa while the general was hospitalized after the shooting.

Kanyandekwe and four men not linked to the shooting are to stand trial in the hospital plot later this month. He also is accused of bribery after two police officers said he offered them $1 million (R6.8 million) to let him go when they arrested him in July last year.

The shooting victim, who has kept a low profile since the attack, also faces international war crimes charges linked to the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide – allegations he denies.

Nyamwasa and other senior Tutsis are accused of waging an extermination campaign against Hutus in the chaotic aftermath of Rwanda’s genocide -charges that Nyamwasa denies.

A Spanish judge in 2008 charged Nyamwasa and 39 other members of the Rwandan military with the mass killings of civilians after they seized power in Rwanda.

A UN report last year echoed the 2008 Spanish charges, accusing invading Rwandan troops of killing tens of thousands of Hutus in 1996 and 1997 in neighbouring Congo.

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