An exiled Rwandan general was in the intensive care unit of a Johannesburg hospital today after being shot in the stomach.
Lieutenant-General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa was shot in South Africa on Saturday in what his wife Rosette Kayumba called a Rwandan-backed assassination attempt, a charge the Kigali government dismissed as “preposterous”.
In Kigali, the Rwanda government condemned the shooting of Lt Gen Nyamwasa.
Ms Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s government spokesperson said in a statement: “We learned the news through the media, and have no confirmation or details of the incident.”
“The government of Rwanda does not condone violence, and we wish the family strength and serenity. We trust in the ability of South African authorities to investigate the incident thoroughly.”
Once a close confidant of President Paul Kagame, Lt-Gen Nyamwasa fled to South Africa this year after falling out with the president, later accusing him of using an anti-corruption campaign to frame opponents.
Lt-Gen Nyamwasa’s wife said she, her husband, their children and a driver had returned home from a shopping trip when an armed man approached their car and shot her husband.
Her husband and the driver got out of the car and scuffled with the gunman before he fled, she said. She said doctors told her husband would survive.
Mrs Kayumba said she believed President Kagame was behind the attack, and ruled out an attempted robbery or carjacking because the gunman targeted only her husband and did not try to steal the car.
“He must be behind this, I don’t have proof... but we’ve been harassed for such a long time,” she said of President Kagame.
The flight of Nyamwasa, who fought alongside Kagame to end the 1994 genocide in the central African nation, was a sign of a growing rift between the president and some of his top aides.
During and after the war to end the genocide, Nyamwasa held a number of key positions, including army chief of staff and head of the country’s intelligence services.
Despite his heroic stature Kigali wants him back to answer to charges of alleged terrorism in connection with bomb blasts which rocked the country early this year something he has vehemently denied.
General Kayumba is also subject to two indictments. France and Spain have in the past issued arrest warrants against Nyamwasa and other RPF officials, for his alleged role in the lead-up to and during the 1994 genocide.
Rwanda is due to hold a presidential election in August, which Kagame is widely expected to win. The United States has toughened its stance on the country, saying it is concerned about democratic freedom there.
In the run-up to elections, Rwanda has suspended two independent newspapers, arrested a high-profile opposition figure and prevented two opposition parties from registering, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told the US Congress this year. Rwandan authorities link Nyamwasa and another fugitive senior officer in South Africa to a series of deadly grenade attacks in the capital this year, and accuse him of nepotism and unlawful accumulation of wealth.
He has rejected the charges and said the president has used his anti-corruption campaign to frame opponents.
“If accountability is going to be used as a political weapon to frame perceived opponents, then it ceases to be meaningful or useful,” Lt-Gen Nyamwasa said in a statement printed in the Ugandan newspaper the Monitor in May.
Meanwhile, South African media reported various accounts of the attack, including one where Mrs Kayumba said she and her husband were returning from shopping to the upscale gated community where they live in northern Johannesburg when a lone gunman fired on him.
Mrs Nyamwasa also told the Associated Press that she felt the shooting was an assassination attempt since there had been no demand for money or goods.
She is also quoted saying that the gunman had shot at them, until his gun jammed.
Other contradicting reports indicate that the ex-army chief until 2002 was shot by unknown assailants while on his way to watch a FIFA World Cup football march between Ghana and Austria.
However according to Sapa (the South African Press Association), a non-governmental news wire based in Johannesburg, the South African police is quoted as saying that authorities have no information on the shooting.
SAPA also said that a South African foreign ministry official referred questions to police and declined to comment unless the incidence is ascertained.
“We are still trying to find out details. At the moment we don’t know whether there was shooting or where and when it took place,” Colonel Eugene Opperman told Sapa.