The Independent Team
Following the flight of Rwanda’s former chief of intelligence services Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa to exile in February this year, The Independent sought out Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Maj. Gen. Frank Mugambagye. Mugambagye was Nyamwasa’s Deputy Chief of Staff in the mid to late 1990s before becoming Commissioner General of Police.
He was also one of the RDF officers who attended the meeting that grilled Nyamwasa and sparked off his escape from Rwanda. Below he explains what transpired in the meeting in an interview with The Independent Managing Editor, Andrew M. Mwenda.
You attended the meeting of RPF and RDF leaders that caused Kayumba to run away. What actually happened in that meeting?
It was yet another effort to try and give an opportunity to Kayumba Nyamwasa to come clean on a number of issues that had always surrounded his name. This has always been a practice, a method of work of RPF to sit down with cadres who have issues they need to clear so that they are brought back to the fold.
In that particular meeting Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa met with colleagues with whom he had worked in the army including me, Gen. Kabarebe and Brig. Jack Nziiza. Others in the meeting included the Secretary General of the RPF, Francois Ngarambe , the minister of local govenrment, James Musoni (who serves as the personal assistant to the chairman) and the ombudsman, Tito Rutaremara. These are senior cadre of the RPF.
Kayumba was called into this meeting of these senior people in the spirit of unity and brotherhood to express our concerns about his conduct which was raising a lot of suspicions.
What were the specific allegations against Kayumba Nyamwasa in the meeting?
During his tenure as Chief of Staff, it became very clear to everybody that he favoured certain officers against others, a practice that is totally unacceptable in the revolutionary army like RPF.
How did he favour some against others?
He would recommend certain officers for promotion or for deployments purely based on personal loyalty to him rather than the country or on professional merit. This led to the creation of factions in the army ‘ the Kayumba faction and then other factions formed in resistance. In operational areas, he would allocate resources only to those officers who were loyal to him. It became clear to the leadership of the army that he was creating a power-base, so to speak.
I was his deputy chief of staff at the time and I did discuss with him on a number of occasions this issue. I pointed out the dangers of his approach and warned him that it would raise a lot of suspicions against him. Then some officers like Karakye Karenzi openly challenged his decisions which they felt were based on personal ambition.
These actions may have been innocent. They do not necessarily mean he was a threat, do they?
No, they reflected a certain attitude in him which, thanks to time, he has come out openly to admit on BBC, VOA and in Sunday Monitor. He has clearly stated that he began to grow hostile to the current leadership in 2000. It follows logically that he did not sit by. He may have been creating a power base in the army in order to advance his own agenda given that he felt the current leadership was not serving the interests of the revolution.
Another sign of his disenchantment with the current leadership was his decision to abandon command of the army in the middle of an insurgency to go on a course abroad. So we raised this matter with him in the meeting.
But this happened in 2001. Why bring it nine years later?
This issue came up in the meeting as part of a general pattern of his conduct over a period of time. It was not the only issue. In the meeting, we were telling him where we think he had gone wrong. We would present an issue and ask him to explain it in the spirit of RPF.
What is it that he had done in the recent past to cause you guys to call this meeting?
I have said it was a continuation of what he had done earlier. I think it was 2001/ 2002 when he was called and questioned based on testimonies provided by some officers whom he was actually assigning to do activities that were contrary to what the army should be doing. This evidence was put before him.
Which activities specifically?
Recruiting people to belong to him. We have a command structure in the army. He was trying to create his own structures. The moment you do that the objective is very clear: you are undermining the very cohesion of the military.
What do you mean he was creating structures?
He was recruiting people and giving them different messages and assignments contrary to the rules and regulations of the army. He continued with these activities when he was Director General of the National Security Services. He kept in touch with cliques that he had cultivated. Even when he became an ambassador, he kept contact with the faction he had created. He was creating populist cliques even outside the military, for example in the business community. To be honest his appetite for accumulating resources is not low as I know him.
Is there any evidence of personal financial impropriety on his part?
There is plenty in terms of grabbing property and influence peddling to acquire resources.
But this is a mere allegation, you do not have any evidence. Besides, he says the president had actually commended him for being an honest servant, that he has always declared his wealth to the ombudsman.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Immediately after the genocide all the institutions had been destroyed. For a period the military did everything. It was into the economy, administration – everything. Some people used influence to grab property. But because there was no institution to collect evidence and keep evidence, some of these issues are not easy to qualify. But we knew what was going on.
Why wasn’t he arrested for these crimes then?
At that time there was that general lack of order, we were in crisis mode.
What did he do when he was ambassador in India to cause you guys to call him in February 2010?
He continued to link up with elements who are against the establishment.
Well I know for sure that all these disgruntled elements that have moved out of the country were in contact with him.
Possibly he was talking to them with a view to reconcile them and bring them back into the country.
But there is a way of doing that officially. You do not do it clandestinely. In any case, some of the people he was dealing with are clearly known to be anti- government.
Who are these elements?
I don’t think I really need to get into some of these details.
When you presented these details in the meetings what did he say?
Initially he denied some of these issues. But when colleagues presented him with evidence, he later yielded and accepted his culpability.
What was he planning, a coup?
I don’t know. In fact if I met him I would ask him what exactly was bothering him.
But as an army officer you know when someone is planning a coup.
I believe he was building something that would put him in a position where he would consider it.
He said that all of you guys are sycophants, opportunists who have lost the vision of the revolution. You are just serving the interests one man, Kagame.
That is laughable. We need to look at the track record of individuals. He cannot just wish away the contribution of President Kagame because it is central in the success of the revolution. Remember President Kagame took over leadership when we were in disarray. Over the years, everyone in this world knows and global economic institutions like the World Bank can attest that power in Rwanda has been institutionalised more than anywhere else in Africa. How can President Kagame assume the role of all institutions when institutions in Rwanda are growing stronger? Of course as president, he has the final authority given to him through an electoral mandate. If things fail, he is accountable. So he supervises the work of institutions.
Kayumba says President Kagame is not accountable. He owns planes in South Africa, he used public funds to build his house.
I have read all those accusations. President Kagame is one of the most honest leaders our continent has produced and Kayumba Nyamwasa knows that the president leads by example.
But that does not answer the charge that he used Rwanda government funds to buy private jets in South Africa?
That is what Kayumba says.
The planes belong to a private company in which private Rwandan citizens own shares. You can easily go to South Africa and satisfy yourself about its ownership. The funds did not come from the government of Rwanda. For Kayumba Nyamwasa to make such a ridiculous claim without putting forth any evidence shows that he is playing on public sentiments.
We did not finish the issue of the meeting. He conceded on a number of issues and told all of us that he is going to make a formal apology to the Commander in Chief and to the RPF. That is how the meeting ended. After making this commitment, the next day he escaped.