The former army chief of staff of Rwanda fled the country last week. At the time of his defection, he had been Rwanda’s ambassador to India.
Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa is one of a growing number of senior Rwandan army officers who in recent years have fallen out with President Paul Kagame.
Media reports in Rwanda and Uganda early this week said he had fled into Uganda, with the latest reports from Uganda saying he had since moved on to South Africa.
In 2007, another senior military officer and former director of intelligence, Patrick Karegyeya, also fled to Uganda and then on to South Africa.
Once again, the much-hyped Rwandan intelligence services have been taken unawares by this defection.
Who is Kayumba Nyamwasa?
Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, like most senior RPF government officials, is a Tutsi and lived most of his life as a refugee in Uganda.
Brig. Kayumba Nyamwasa is from the Abaganza clan of the Tutsi (or a Muganza). President Paul Kagame is from the Baganza clan. The late Major General Fred Rwigyema and Major Peter Baingana were from the royal Abanyignya clan.
Kayumba Nyamwasa studied at Mbarara High School in western Uganda and later enrolled at Makerere University in Kampala. He resided in Lumumba Hall.
From there, in 1984, he joined Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA) guerrillas fighting in the Luwero Triangle.
He served in the Ugandan army after 1986 and was one of the Tutsi soldiers who invaded Rwanda in Oct. 1990 at the start of the RPF’s four-year guerrilla war.
By 1994, Nyamwasa was the director of military intelligence in the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), the military wing of the RPF.
As the Uganda Record reported in a world exclusive last month, the directorate of military intelligence of the RPA was the unit that prepared, coordinated, and executed the firing of the missile that brought down the presidential jet on April 6, 1994.
There is even some speculation that Nyamwasa’s defection might have had something to do with the Uganda Record report, as the RPF government has been desperately trying to conceal all trace of that assassination in 1994.
At the time President Kagame sent Nyamwasa to India as Rwanda’s ambassador, the two men had fallen out and there were behind the scenes reconciliation moves.
That was the reason Kagame sent him to India in the first place, to create the right conditions for reconciliation.
The Rwandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued a statement saying Nyamwasa “ceases to represent Rwanda to India and any and all other countries or institutions, with immediate effect. Prior to his defection, Nyamwasa was questioned by Rwandan investigative authorities on serious criminal charges.”
Nyamwasa’s sadistic personality
As the RPF fought out its guerrilla war in the early 1990s, a sadistic side to Nyamwasa came into view of RPF soldiers, some of whom are still traumatised by what they witnessed him do.
In 1992 and 1993, 1,500 Hutus at the Commune Muvumba and Commune Kiyombe (commune means “gombolola”) were killed by being hit with a blunt hoe in an operation commanded by Lt. Col. Jackson Rwahama and Nyamwasa, assisted by the RPA’s 7th Mobile Brigade commanded by Capt. William Bagire.
The Battalions of the 7th Mobile Brigade involved in the atrocities were Sierra, Bravo, and 7th.
The Hutu captives were brought in numbers of 100 at a go and put into trenches that were then sealed with iron sheets. They were then left to die in the pit.
When the RPF took power in 1994, they started confiscating Hutu land and houses all over Rwanda. Much of the property was given to the returning Tutsi exiles.
Major General Fred Ibingira and Kayumba Nyamwasa massacred thousands of Hutu in 1995 and 1996 and took their land in the communes of Muhazi, Rwamagana, and Kayunza, (an area that is about the size of the area between Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda).
The murder of Major Lizinde
A Rwandan army officer named Major Theoneste Majoro Lizinde became the Commandant of the RPA’s General Headquarters in the early 1990s.
He was a Hutu and had been in the Rwandan government army.
He later fled to Nairobi, Kenya, after falling out with the RPF government. He was gunned down in Nairobi by Kagame’s agents.
Why did he defect to Nairobi?
In mid 1994, shortly before the RPA captured state power, Lizinde ate a sheep that the RPA used to move about with in battle. It appears that this sheep was used as some kind of spiritual protection to the RPF’s fighters.
When confronted by the RPA officers over the sheep, Lizinde said he did not see why they should complain about his slaughtering and eating the sheep.
After all, Lizinde said, had the RPA not massacred 5,000 Hutu in two communes Muvumba and Kiyombe and the bodies dumped in mass graves, and that he was an eye witness to these atrocities?
After this confrontation, Lizinde was stripped of his job and his escorts were taken away. After taking power, the RPF government put Lizinde in charge of of logistics in the RPA.
He defected to Kenya through Uganda. Lizinde said he had witnessed Lt. Col. Jackson Rwahama and Kayumba Nyamwasa murder the 5,000 Hutus.
In late 1993, at commune Muvumba, Kayumba Nyamwasa personally handled a corporal of the government army who had been captured in battle.
Nyamwasa shot the corporal at and below the knees with a pistol until his legs fell apart.
Nyamwasa then got a machete and heated it in a fire place that the RPF fighters used to cook their food, until the machete became extremely hot. He then got the machete and started pressing it on the face, back, shoulders, and stomach of the corporal as the corporal screamed in agony and later died.
A number of RPF soldiers who witnessed the murder of the captured corporal were frightened by what they had seen.
From April 21 to 25, 1995, over 2,000 Hutus were murdered near the airport under the order and supervision of: Col. Kayumba Nyamwasa, Maj. Jack Nziza, and Lt Emmanuel Gasana, all of them from the Directorate of Military Intelligence
In 1997 into 1998, more than 2,000 Hutu were murdered at the localities of Cyabingo and Ruhondo by Col. Kayumba Nyamwasa, Lt. Col. Karake Karenzi (the commander of the 408th Brigade), Maj. Philbert Rwigamba of the 67th Battalion, Maj. Firmin Bayingana, and Capt.Misingo Karari of Ruhengeri.Other RPF soldiers spoke of other atrocities committed by Nyamwasa in the captured town of Butare.