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Monday, June 21, 2010

Gen. Kayumba shooting - the inside story

Johannesburg - Saturday, June 19, was an ordinary day in the Kayumba household, but it would turn out to be a day to remember for the family. Gen. Nyamwasa and his wife Rosette had gone out shopping with their driver. At around midday, they drove back to the apartment block in Melrose Arch, a posh neighbourhood in Johannesburg that has been home for the family since fleeing into exile a couple of months ago.

As in most residential areas in Johannesburg, the apartment block, which has at least 12 other families, has a fence, a gate, and 24-hour guards. When the Kayumbas arrived at the house in their black BMW X3 the guards, who are at the house 24 hours, opened the gate.

As they drove in, an unidentified man ran behind the car and knocked on the driver’s window. Surprised, the driver stopped and rolled down the window. When the window was halfway down, the man suddenly drew a pistol and fired at Gen. Kayumba, who was in the front passenger seat. The bullet struck Gen. Kayumba in the stomach, just below the lungs.

The gunman then went round the car to the passenger side where Gen. Kayumba was. As the gunman came around the car, Gen. Kayumba opened the door to confront him and try to disarm him. The general reached for the pistol and tried to wrestle it out of the gunman’s grip. As they fought for the gun, the gunman fired another shot, which glazed Gen. Kayumba’s finger.

With Kayumba rapidly losing strength, the gunman then pulled the trigger again but the pistol jammed. He tried again without success. Gen. Kayumba’s legs gave away and he collapsed in a pool of blood. By this time the driver had come around and also tried to wrestle the gun from the gunman. An eyewitness said the gunman, speaking in Kiswahili, told the driver to leave him alone, warning that he would kill him if he did not let him be. Seeing that the gun had jammed and the fracas was attracting attention in the area, the gunman then ran back outside, jumped into a waiting car, which then sped off. Throughout all this time, the guards at the apartment block were nowhere to be seen. They would later reappear and claim that they had ducked for their own safety.

Upstairs in the Kayumba household, the general’s two teenage children were watching television. They were shocked out of their fantasy world when they heard screaming – probably from their mother – and dashed outside to find their father lying in a pool of blood. With the help of a couple of neighbours, Rosette and her children helped Gen. Kayumba into the car and sped him off to Morningside Clinic, about 10 minutes away, in Sandton, where he was immediately put on a respirator while doctors worked furiously to stop the bleeding.

As relatives, friends and other Rwandans living in Johannesburg started trickling into the hospital, so did the rumours and the speculation of who might have done it. Johannesburg has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Carjacking and robbery are widespread, as is murder.

Yet the gunman who shot Kayumba did not ask for the keys to the Beamer, neither did he take anything. His decision to go round the car and try to shoot Gen. Kayumba again suggests that he was a man with a license – or call it mission – to kill. As expected, many eyes have turned to Rwanda.

In an interview with the BBC, Rosette Nyamwasa accused President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who her husband fell out with, of having a hand in the shooting. “[Mr Kagame] said it in parliament that he will actually kill my husband, that wherever he is he will follow him and kill him,” she told the BBC. But Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Foreign minister, issued a statement in which she said Mr Kagame’s government “does not condone violence”.

Sources in the South African police, who spoke anonymously in order not to jeopardise an on-going investigation, said that they are “keeping all options open” on whether it was “an assassination attempt”. By press time, doctors in Morningside said Gen. Kayumba was in a stable condition, despite the bullet that struck him still being lodged in his body. Doctors will decide later on whether to remove it or not. It will be several weeks, even months, before an official report is issued over the shooting but according to many visitors to the Morningside Clinic, the bullet that struck Gen. Kayumba was not fired by a robber but by a would-be assassin. 

Who is Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa?
•Born in the 1960s.

•Obtained a Bachelor’s degree from Makerere University (in the 80s) after taking A-level examinations at Mbarara High School in western Uganda.  He was a resident of Lumumba Hall while at the university.

•In 1984, he joined the National Resistance Army rebel group, then headed by President Museveni, and later the Rwanda Patriotic Army/Front that took over government after the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

•Gen. Nyamwasa headed RPF’s military intelligence during its bush days and was later named the army Chief of Staff.

•In 2001, he was sacked as the military chief and replaced with Gen. James Kabarebe. The general was, in November 2002, re-deployed as Head of Security Services.

•A couple of years later, Gen. Nyamwasa was appointed Rwanda’s High Commissioner to India. Early this year, he fled from Kigali during a government retreat in Rubavu. The Rwandan government immediately stripped him of diplomatic immunity after the defection that stirred suspicion with neighbours.

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