Hunt is on for ‘the gang of four’

2011-06-18 16:16

Human rights groups have launched legal action seeking the cancellation of Rwandan general Kayumba Nyamwasa’s refugee status in South Africa, calling him a fugitive and a suspected war criminal.

The Consortium for Refugees and Migrant Rights, and the Southern African Litigation Centre say the Refugees Act states that those accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity are excluded from receiving protection as refugees.

Nyamwasa was shot and wounded outside his house in an upmarket Joburg estate in June last year when a Rwandan agent came to South Africa and hired Tanzanian gunmen.

The agent left South Africa after the shooting but was sent back to finish the job.

Upon his arrival, South African intelligence officers tracked him down.

When he hired Somali refugees to strangle Nyamwasa in hospital, he and his accomplices were arrested.

Ten men have been charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to murder and are standing trial in two different cases in Joburg.

The first case starts later this month.

Another former confidant of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Colonel Patrick Karegeya, is also in witness protection in South Africa.

Karegeya, the former director of Rwanda’s external military intelligence, was also a founder member of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) with Nyamwasa.

Since the first attempt on Nyamwasa’s life, a special National Intelligence Agency (NIA) task team has worked around the clock to identify Rwandan military agents and thwarted attempts to kill Nyamwasa and Karegeya.

The NIA recentlyapprehended a Rwandan secret agent who admitted that he had been sent to South Africa to locate Nyamwasa and several other executive members of the RNC.

He had $15 000 (R103 000) in his possession.

Most of the resistance against Kagame is organised from the US and South Africa, where the RNC has set up structures, held meetings and devised strategies to oust and even overthrow Kagame.

Nyamwasa was recently ordered by South African intelligence bosses to withdraw himself from any activities, including that of the RNC, that could be viewed by the Rwandans as hostile.

In 2008, under Spain’s broad human rights laws, a Spanish judge charged Nyamwasa and 39 other members of the Rwandan military with genocide and crimes against humanity for the mass killings of Hutu civilians.

Several United Nations reports have also linked Nyamwasa to possible war crimes.

Alan Wallis, a lawyer from the Southern African Litigation Centre, said: “Asylum and refugee law is designed to protect individuals who are facing persecution.

“Refugee law is intended to protect the vulnerable and not those who are the cause of the vulnerability.”

The Department of Home Affairs granted Nyamwasa refugee status “on an urgent basis” after he was wounded in June last year.

Nyamwasa is a member of what has been dubbed in Rwanda as “the gang of four”, the most prominent founding members of the RNC.

The other members are Hotel Rwanda film hero Paul Rusesabagina, whose courage during the genocide saved thousands of Tutsis; the former director of external military intelligence, Patrick Karegeya; the former attorney-general, Gerard Gahima; and the former chief of staff, Theogene Rudasingwa.

Rusesabagina recently flew to South Africa for a secret meeting with Nyamwasa and Karegeya. A few days later, Rwandan government newspaper, The New Times, screamed on its front page: “Evil befriends evil indeed.”

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