Kayumba Nyamwasa is the leader of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition group in exile which Rwanda President Paul Kagame accuses of aiming at toppling his government.
Nyamwasa, who lives in South Africa, has survived at least two assassination attempts he believes were ordered by Rwandan authorities. Rwanda, which denies targeting Nyamwasa, has outlawed his group, which it links to operating rebel cells in eastern Congo.
The former Rwandan Lieutenant General once served as the Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army from 1998 to 2002. He was also head of Rwandan intelligence from 1998 to 2002 and served as Rwanda’s ambassador to India between 2004 and 2010.
Born in 1962 in Rwanda, Nyamwasa grew up in refugee camps in Uganda and earned a law degree in Makerere University. He later joined Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army in January 1986 and served as a Ugandan military officer before 1990. He contributed to the creation of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in the late 1980s and was considered the central figure in the military during the RPF campaign and the post genocidal period, when he oversaw anti-insurgency campaigns in the country’s north-west.
He fled to South Africa from India on 28 February 2010 and sought exile there. The Rwandan government later stated that he may have been working with Colonel Patrick Karegeya, another former intelligence head who was living in exile in South Africa.Nyamwasa is accused of involvement in acts of terrorism in Rwanda, including three grenade attacks in Kigali on 19 February 2010, but was not arrested in South Africa due to a lack of extradition treaties between the two countries and evidence.
In June 2010, Brigadier General Jean Bosco Kazura, head of the Rwandese Association Football Federation, traveled to South Africa to see the World Cup and allegedly contacted Nyamwasa. Kazura was recalled and placed under arrest, although an army spokesman said this was purely because he had failed to obtain permission to travel.
Nyamwasa was shot in the stomach in Johannesburg, South Africa on 19 June 2010. Several people arrested after the shooting were found to be Rwandan.
The RNC leader was recorded to have said that Kagame wants him dead because he challenges his dictatorial views. Nyamwasa’s wife stated that the attack was politically motivated. Al-Jazeera reported that “Rosette Nyamwasa said they were in the parking lot of their home and a man came to the side of the car with a pistol and shot at her husband who managed to get out of the car and then there was a scuffle. The driver of the car then chased the assailant away.”
Jean-Léonard Rugambage, a Rwandan journalist who investigated the attempt on Nyamwasa’s life, was murdered a few days later in Kigali.
In 2011, the Military High Court in Kigali condemned him along three others for terrorist acts, threat to state security and public order. He was stripped of his military rank, disgracefully removed from the army and sentenced to 24 years in prison. All four men were tried in absentia.
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