By Andrew M. Mwenda
General had approached Museveni
Had contacted Kagame for talks
His driver had Uganda passport
Maj. Gen. Kashaka was go-between
Exclusive interview with suspect
At 4.30pm on Saturday June 19, South African police arrested the first suspect in connection with the attempted murder of Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Rwandan High Commissioner to India now turned dissident. The suspect was a retired Captain Francis Gakwerera, a businessman based in Mozambique but also a former soldier in the Ugandan, Rwandan and finally Congolese army.
Kayumba had a few months earlier escaped from Rwanda and launched a scathing criticism of President Paul Kagame and his government. It seemed the Rwandan government was behind this attempted assassination. Gakwerera’s profile suggests that he was the right man for such a job. He is a close family friend of Kayumba; so he knew the victim well. As a former combatant in three wars in three different countries, Gakwerera admits to having been a sniper (see interview on page 12).
The relationship between Gakwerera and the Kayumba family was confirmed by Kayumba’s wife, Rosette on her Facebook page. She said Gakwerera is a close friend of the family and could not have been involved in the attempted assassination of her husband. Gakwerera who was released after five days without any charges also denies involvement.
On Sunday June 20, Kayumba’s driver Richard Bachisha was also arrested in connection with the attempted assassination alongside two other Rwandans ‘ one known as Saad, the other as Rukara. There were also two other suspects; one Kenyan, the other Tanzanian. The arrest of Bachisha was intriguing given that he seemed loyal to his boss having helped him escape from Rwanda in the middle of the night of February 28.
Bachisha was put in the same jail as Gakwerera. The two did not know each other before. However, immediately they met, Bachisha poured out his heart to Gakwerera. He claimed that after he (Bichisha) arrived in South Africa, he was called on telephone by someone claiming to be Dr Ndahiro who asked him to kill Kayumba on behalf of the Rwandan government. That ‘Dr Ndahiro’ promised to pay him $2,000 dollars for the job.
Bichisha claimed that he later met agents sent by this Dr Ndahiro who gave him only $600. However, in spite of this breach of promise, he accepted to go ahead with the mission. It is here that Bichisha’s story becomes even more intriguing. He claimed that on Wednesday, June 16, three days before Kayumba was shot, the killers came into Kayumba’s house at night. They used a special keys to enter.
Bichisha told Gakwerera that Kayumba and his wife were sleeping in their bedroom. He was shocked by the audacity of the assassins. He told them the General’s home was not the right place to kill him. ‘Why don’t you give me more time to arrange another rendezvous on another day other than my boss’s house?’ he allegedly asked them. After some discussion, the assassins left.
According to Bichisha, the assassins left him their contact. He later telephoned them on Saturday, June 19, and told them that he was going to the shopping mall with Kayumba. He asked them to come and kill him from there. As agreed, the killers showed up at the mall where one of them shot Kayumba in the stomach. Bichisha claims that later that day, Dr Ndahiro called again and asked him to finish off Kayumba adding that this time Kagame had promised a reward of a house.
This is the same story Bichisha later told the South African police and also recorded in his statement. Bichisha also provided the telephone number from which Ndahiro called. The Chief of the National Security Services (NSS) which is Rwanda’s national intelligence arm is called Dr Emmanuel Ndahiro. Therefore, Bichisha seems to be referring to him. This story raises many questions than it answers.
First, if these professional assassins knew Kayumba’s house and had special keys to enter it, why did they need Bichisha? He seems a hindrance to their mission. Second, why would professional assassins abandon an opportunity to assassinate their victim in the middle of the night, in the privacy and quiet of his house when he was asleep and instead accept to do so in broad daylight at a crowded shopping mall?
Second, Bichisha’s description of the shooting incident is suspicious. He claims (Mrs Kayumba later corroborated this story) that a man approached their car as they left the mall and waved at them angrily to stop. Bichisha stopped the car and opened the driver’s window. The man pulled out a pistol and shot once at Kayumba in the stomach. After one bullet, the pistol jammed. The man walked around the car to Kayumba’s side where they wrestled for a while before the man fled.
The behaviour of the assassin sounds extremely amateurish. For example, why aim for the stomach instead of the head? Unless of course the aim was not to kill but to injure Kayumba! Second, the heroic story of Kayumba wrestling the assassin sounds like a Hollywood movie. Is this really what happened or this is the version of events Kayumba, his wife and their driver wanted the world to hear?
Third, if Ndahiro wanted to kill Kayumba, would he telephone the General’s driver whom he did not know and ask him to collaborate in the effort? He would have to be extremely naive to expose himself this way. Normally, the head of intelligence would not call personally to direct such a mission with a stranger. He would use his operatives. If what Kayumba’s driver is saying is true, was someone impersonating Ndahiro?
Fourth, there is no evidence linking Bichisha to those who tried to kill Kayumba. Even if he was involved, why was he so willing to implicate himself in a case of attempted murder that in South Africa carries up to 20 years in jail? Gakwerera claims Bichisha’s story sounded rehearsed. So whom was Bichisha working for? Security experts say Bichisha could have been a mole planted inside the prison by South African police to gather information from other suspects. He would then prompt the killers to reveal themselves.
But there is another twist in the Kayumba shooting incident that places South African authorities in credibility problems. Bichisha entered South Africa on a Ugandan passport issued on April 21, 2010 (see copy of the passport). It is this passport that Bichisha used when identifying himself before the South African police. Yet in all their press releases, the South African police have never revealed that one of the suspects is Ugandan.
But there are two other police statements. The two Rwandans arrested in connection with the shooting claimed that they had been approached by people who claimed that Kayumba had killed their relatives when he was head of Rwanda’s National Security Services, the state’s intelligence agency. These people paid them money to kill Kayumba. However, these Rwandans claimed, since they had been paid in advance, they took the money but did nothing.
The two Rwandan suspects are actually known petty criminals. The Rwanda government had applied for their extradition accusing them of breaking into its High Commission in Pretoria and stealing property from there. South African authorities had been dragging their feet on the case. The other two suspects denied any involvement in the shooting.
There has been a lot of politics in Kayumba’s case. First, on the day he was shot, the deputy president of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe showed up at the hospital where Kayumba had been admitted. He was joined by South Africa’s former chief spy, Bill Masetera, a close friend of Patrick Karegyeya (also a dissident with Kayumba). Masetera was the head of South Africa’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) when Karegyeya was Rwanda’s director of External Security. The two struck a good relationship.
Masetera later became a security advisor to former South African president, Thabo Mbeki. Later, the two fell out over allegations that Masetera was secretly enhancing the power of Mbeki’s main rival and current president, Jacob Zuma. From thence, Masetera’s relationship with Karegyeya became stronger as, he now claims, presidents tend to use and dump their intelligence chiefs.
But unlike Karegyeya, Masetera rooted for the successful side. He has thus been handsomely rewarded. He is a powerful influence in the government of South Africa and sits on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ruling Africa National Congress (ANC). Kayumba was also visited by the South African chief of police and the head of South Africa’s military intelligence. It is said that all these powerful ANC and government officials were there due to Masetera’s influence.
The involvement of powerful personalities from the South African government has caused some rifts in the relationship between the two countries. Some Rwandan insiders claim it has also biased the investigation into the Kayumba attempted assassination. A Rwandan source, who did not want to be named, told The Independent that Karegyeya was the one giving South African police tips on whom to arrest. Gakwerera also claims he was arrested on the advice of Karegyeya.
Further, Rwandan officials have openly accused the South African police of incompetence. For example, they claim that immediately Kayumba was shot, the first people to have been taken to make police statements are those who were in the car with him i.e. his wife and driver. They would have both been treated as suspects and or witnesses. They witnessed the shooting but were not shot. However, the driver was arrested 30 hours later.
However, a South African diplomat also added fuel into this fire when he insinuated in an interview that the Rwandan government was behind the shooting. The Kayumba case seems to be setting the relationship between the two nations into a precarious balance.
But there is more. The Rwanda government had applied for the extradition of Kayumba on charges of terrorism. But it is not the only government seeking his extradition. On April 6, Spain submitted its own application to extradite Kayumba on charges of crimes against humanity. Two days later, France also applied for the same.
Kayumba could afford to rubbish Rwanda’s claims against him because it is a poor country whose accusations can easily be disregarded. However, France and Spain are powerful nations considered to be mature democracies and reasonable in their actions. So their applications could carry more weight with South Africa.
What is clear, however, is that by the time he was shot, Kayumba had begun to reassess his options. According to sources close to Kayumba, the extradition applications from Spain and France had showed him that he and Kagame shared a stronger common threat than the issues that set them apart. So he began making contact with Kigali. How?
Kayumba is a close personal friend to Maj. Gen. Steven Kashaka, currently Uganda’s military attach to South Africa. Highly placed security sources in Uganda told The Independent that Kayumba approached Kashaka and asked him to help establish contact with Kagame. Kashaka consulted President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and sought his guidance. It seems Museveni gave it a go-ahead.
Kashaka then contacted Kigali and delivered the message that Kayumba wanted to ‘talk’. Kagame was informed of this effort but he was sceptical. First, Kayumba had appeared on Voice of America (VOA) and made scathing criticisms of the government and Kagame personally. Second, sources say that Kagame believes, on the basis of intelligence information that Kayumba was behind recent grenade attacks in Kigali. The Rwandan president does not forgive such things easily.
However, some Kagame loyalists impressed it upon their boss that the country was better off having Kayumba inside than outside of it. Kagame felt conceding to such logic would be like giving in to blackmail. After a lot of hesitation, he agreed that they explore the issue. Kashaka had offered to travel from South Africa to Kigali to begin discussions with key RPF insiders. Those concerned argued that a Ugandan military attach could not travel to Kigali from Pretoria without Museveni’s personal approval.
It is then that information arrived in Kigali that Kayumba’s driver had been issued with a Ugandan passport. Uganda and Rwanda share a complicated relationship characterised by intrigue, dexterity and double crossing. Rwanda learnt that when Kayumba left for South Africa, Ugandan intelligence kept close contact with him.
Kigali was told that Bichisha’s passport was delivered to him by the Ugandan police. His air ticket was reportedly bought by the Ugandan police. He was also reportedly driven to the airport by the Ugandan police. Later in his prison cell, Gakwerera says, Bichisha revealed all this Ugandan police involvement to him. Upon release Gakwerere informed Rwandan authorities.
What was Museveni’s game plan in this Kayumba saga? As top RPF officials pondered this issue, ‘a friend’ from the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) called Kigali. He claimed that Kayumba had sent a message to Museveni seeking contact. He said he had confirmed from reliable Ugandan security sources that Museveni had received Kayumba’s message but that it seems the Ugandan president had not responded to it, at least not yet. Was Museveni betting his time? Why?
It is in this context that Kayumba was shot. In Kigali, core people sat to assess the issue. One option was that a faction among them could have taken it upon itself to shoot Kayumba. Had internal discussions on a possible rapprochement with him caused his rivals for power and influence to try to kill him? Some did not rule this one out.