- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An exiled Rwandan general, testifying under oath in South Africa on Wednesday, feared he would be arrested as a political prisoner in his homeland, so he fled to Johannesburg, where he was shot.

Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa’s testimony brought East Africa’s fractious politics to South Africa, where he is a witness in the case against three Rwandans and three Tanzanians accused of trying to kill him in Johannesburg in 2010.

Rwandan authorities repeatedly have denied involvement in the shooting and hired South African lawyer Gerhard van der Merwe to monitor proceedings.

Since coming to South Africa in 2010, the former Rwandan military chief has accused Rwandan President Paul Kagame of crushing dissent and trampling democracy after the two worked together to end the 1994 genocide that left more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead in Rwanda.

Rwandans in exile have accused Mr. Kagame of using his agents to hunt down his external foes, and foreign governments have raised similar concerns.

In Rwanda last year, a military court convicted Gen. Nyamwasa and three other dissidents in absentia and sentenced them to 20 years in prison for threatening state security and other charges. They maintain their innocence.

Questions also have been raised about Gen. Nyamwasa’s conduct when he was close to Mr. Kagame. Gen. Nyamwasa and other senior Tutsis are accused of waging an extermination campaign against Hutus in the chaotic aftermath of Rwanda’s genocide. Gen. Nyamwasa also denies those charges.

Rwanda objects

Soon after Gen. Nyamwasa began testifying, standing in a gray suit and speaking in a soft, steady voice, prosecutor Shaun Abrahams told the court he wanted Gen. Nyamwasa to describe his background.

Mr. Van der Merwe interrupted to say that could lead to speculation about government involvement.

“The consequences in doing that could be severe,” Mr. van der Merwe said.

Magistrate Stanley Mkhari dismissed the objections and ordered Mr. van der Merwe to remain a silent observer for rest of the case.

“The government of Rwanda is not a party to the process,” Mr. Mkhari said.

Resuming his testimony, Gen. Nyamwasa described being born and raised in a marginalized Rwandan community in Uganda, which borders Rwanda.

He said he earned a law degree from Uganda’s prestigious Makere University and joined then-Ugandan opposition leader Yoweri Museveni’s rebel movement in the 1980s in part in hopes of improving the lives of Rwandans in Uganda and in Rwanda.

Story Continues →