Shortly after Rwanda’s former ambassador to India, Kayumba Nyamwasa was shot and wounded in Johannesburg, over a week ago, a seasoned South African political analyst called me wondering what is wrong with Rwandan politicians.
He was prompted to ask this question after reading and watching news reports featuring, not only Kayumba’s wife but also Patrick Karegyeya, another fugitive soldier, accusing the government of Rwanda of attempting to assassinate Kayumba.
My friend in Johannesburg was quite intrigued, as to how these people could have come to such a firm conclusion within fifteen minutes of the shooting, indeed, at a time when the South African police spokesperson was telling the world that there hadn’t been any such shooting in his jurisdiction.
In the course of the discussion, he recounted a recent incident involving Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, who was attacked in Johannesburg, and narrowly escaped, after heavy exchange of gunfire between the attackers and Mr. Tsvangirai’s body guards.
Now, my friend’s argument here, was that Tsvangirai had been presented with a perfect opportunity to accuse President Robert Mugabe, his sworn political enemy, of attempting to take him out. When I probed him about the identity of the perpetrators of the attack against the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, he informed me that Tsvangirai’s position was that the incident was a random attack, characteristic of the violence in South Africa.
At no point, in the course of the interactions with the news media, did President Mugabe or ZANU PF feature, in this case. Indeed, South Africa is such a violent place that Kayumba has just earned himself another dubious distinction, as the only victim who has attempted to politicize it.
While Tsvangirai considered the attack on him as part of what happens in South African homes and streets, Kayumba, on the other hand, could not let this opportunity pass without milking it for all it is worth.
And that is what is wrong with Rwandan politicians. This sort of conduct is the most cynical form of political opportunism and it is the kind of route, Morgan Tsvangirai wouldn’t take. He despised it.
A Rwandan politician and his wife saw it as an opportunity to get back at a government they now resent. Reports that a delegation of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) leaders in South Africa visited Kayumba at his hospital bed in Johannesburg, should serve as an eye opener to the Rwandan people, as to what Kayumba represents.
The most ridiculous detail of these accusations was Kayumba’s wife telling news reporters that President Paul Kagame declared, in parliament, that he would kill her husband.
The President’s speeches in parliament are carried live on national radio and television, and Rwandans couldn’t believe what they were hearing, when Mrs. Kayumba launched her spin campaign.
None of what she was declaring had been part of the President’s speech and the Rwandan public, were confounded. The Rwandan parliament, like elsewhere, makes laws and there is no provision in the Constitution that grants the president powers to declare a Fatwa in the House or anywhere else.
It is on the basis of such unfounded and vindictive allegation that a section of the international media have chosen to portray the attack on Kayumba as an assassination attempt perpetrated by the Government of Rwanda.
I mean, a Head of State declaring in parliament that he has put a price on someone’s head, would have made international headlines, way before someone took a shot at Kayumba.
It wouldn’t have required Kayumba’s wife to make the allegation, the journalists, who have now swallowed the lie, line hook and sinker, would have been able to refer to the alleged statement in parliament, if it existed. Not a single one has bothered to find out if such a recording exists in any archives in Rwanda. This would have constituted not only the most sensational news item, but an equally incriminating finding.
Instead, all we are treated to speculation feeding on itself, with journalists in Uganda falling over themselves as they seek to affirm that their own country is gradually taking over what they regard as Rwanda’s privileged relationship with the West, because some unknown people shot at Kayumba in Johannesburg.
This is Timothy Kalyegira’s position as espoused in his article, “Inside politics of the attack on Lt. Gen. Nyamwasa”, Sunday Monitor, June 27, 2010.
Kayumba’s is not the only recent case of someone running away from Rwanda, only to be confronted with gun violence. Peter Erlinder, the American genocide denier, made bail here and left calling this country every name in the book.
As soon as he landed home in St. Paul, Minnesota, he was robbed at gun point, right at his door-step, an act that prompted a screaming headline in the local publication, Star Tribune, “Home from Rwanda, Peter Erlinder is robbed at gunpoint in St. Paul”. His wife, Masako Usui, pretty much regretted having had her husband flown out of Rwanda.
“We rescued him from Rwanda. (That is how she chose to characterize the bail) and we brought him home, but in front of his house he can be killed? It’s kind of surreal for me”.
Surreal, indeed, and may be Mrs. Erlinder has lessons for Rosette Kayumba if, only, she could listen.