Kigali ‘terrorising’ the opposition: exiled Rwanda general

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Rwanda’s exiled former army chief Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa on Thursday accused Kigali of “intimidating” and “terrorising” the opposition after state prosecutors reportedly issued a warrant for his arrest.

According to Rwandan news website Igihe, which is close to the regime of President Paul Kagame, the prosecution “issued arrest warrants against exiled general Kayumba Nyamwasa and other leaders of the new P5 rebel group”.

P5 is a platform made up of five Rwandan opposition parties, including Kayumba Nyamwasa’s Rwandan National Congress (RNC), that Kigali has accused of fomenting rebellion — a charge it denies.

“It is the way the government of Rwanda works… by intimidation and terrorising the opposition,” Kayumba Nyamwasa told AFP in South Africa where he has been living in self-imposed exile since 2010.

“If you oppose Kagame, either he will kill you (or) if he does not kill you, he will imprison you, (and) if he does imprison you, he will harass you,” he said.

Kayumba Nyamwasa has been targeted by at least four assassination attempts.

There was no immediate comment from Kigali while Pretoria said it had not been informed about the warrants, which also targeted Kayumba Nyamwasa’s brother-in-law Frank Ntwali and Kennedy Gihana, a lawyer based in South Africa.

– Deflecting attention? –

The former army chief said the arrest warrants, which were issued on January 18, were timed to deflect attention from a fresh probe into the murder of fellow Rwandan dissident Patrick Karegeya, which opened in Johannesburg on January 16.

“They are trying to divert attention from the inquest and try to engage South Africa, the international community and the media so that the inquest is overshadowed by this question of the arrest warrants,” he said.

Karegeya, Rwanda’s former spy chief and a former close aide to Kagame, was found dead in a luxury Johannesburg hotel room on January 1, 2014. He had been strangled but so far, no-one has been charged with his death.

He went into exile in 2007, heading for South Africa where he was joined three years later by Kayumba Nyamwasa. There, the pair founded the opposition RNC.

On January 21, South African prosecutors said that “close links” existed between Kagame’s regime and four Rwandan suspects who quickly fled the country immediately after the murder, one of whom had booked Karegeya’s hotel room.

Kigali is regularly accused of threatening opponents in exile, notably of seeking to kill them — a charge Kagame has always denied.

Kayumba Nyamwasa said his RNC wanted to change the democratic process in Rwanda.

“We can not support a president who rigged up to 99 percent of the elections, meaning effectively, there is no opposition in Rwanda,” he told AFP.

Any president who scored such a high number in an election “cannot be anything other than a dictator”.