Francis Gakwerera is one of the people arrested for the June 19 shooting of former Rwanda Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, in Johannesburg, South Africa. He spoke to The Independent’s Andrew M. Mwenda.
Where do you live and what do you do for a living?
Francis Gakwerera: I live in Mozambique where I have been running a business since 2005. However, whenever I am travelling between Maputo and Kigali, I travel through South Africa. I also buy things from South Africa which I sell in Mozambique.
How did you get arrested in relation to shooting Kayumba?
I was in South Africa in transit to Maputo. I had some business to do in South Africa and also to find a place in a boarding school for my child. I use South Africa for many things. My wife studied there for five years. I arrived Wednesday and was arrested on Saturday. The police accused me of being the person who shot Kayumba.
Why you? Do you know Kayumba? Do the two of you have historical wrangles?
I know him very well. We are family friends. I know him, his wife and their children. They are like family to me. I first met Kayumba in Kitgum in 1987 when he was Assistant District Administrator (ADA) and I was a sergeant in the 19th Battalion of the NRA, now UPDF. We shifted together to Gulu. On October 1, 1990 we drove in the same motor vehicle to Kagitumba when the RPF was launching the struggle. It was an Isuzu double cabin pickup with UC number plates. We have since remained very close personal and family friends.
So why were you accused of trying to kill him?
That is what surprises me. Kayumba is my friend and he knows that I cannot do something like that to him. Besides, he also knows that if I was involved in his shooting, he would not have survived.
Did you do business with him that went wrong?
I have never done any business or financial transactions with Kayumba.
Do you still work for Rwandan intelligence? They too could have had an interest in killing him.
I am a businessman and so I do not get involved in politics anymore. I used to be a soldier in the Ugandan army, then later in the Rwandan army and finally a soldier in the Congolese army. In Congo, I was the Commanding Officer of the Presidential Guard of Laurent Kabila from when he was a rebel leader to the time he became president.
I fell out with Kabila and returned to Rwanda. I asked to retire from the army and then I went into business. I never got involved in military, intelligence or political work again.
But why did the South African police arrest you?
I think this whole thing was engineered by [Patrick] Karegyeya (former director of Rwanda’s External Security). Whenever I travel through South Africa, I meet and talk with Karegyeya because he too is my friend. Sometimes he picks me from the airport whenever I get into South Africa. On this occasion, I got into South Africa on Wednesday and called him on Friday, the day before Kayumba was shot. On Saturday, I had a lunch appointment with Karegyeya which he cancelled saying he was going to watch soccer.
Then later, he called me saying Kayumba had been shot. He said the situation was tense but promised to call me back later. Thirty minutes after, I called him to ask the state of Kayumba and he again said he was busy but would call back. I was at the home of Albert Gatare, a brother of the late Miko. He told me that Kayumba was in Riverside Hospital. Then I went back to the Guest House where I was staying. It is then that police called me. They said they want me.
The police came armed to the teeth – in all, nine police were involved. There were many policemen with police dogs. They took me to prison and dumped me there. Then on Sunday night – almost 30 hours later, they brought other suspects among them one Richard who, as it turned out, is Kayumba’s driver. The other suspects included two Rwandans, a Kenyan and a Tanzanian.
Did you know any of the suspects?
I knew the two Rwandans.
So what happens when you get company?
That night, I had a long chat with Kayumba’s driver. He told that he was actually involved in the shooting of Kayumba. He said someone called him on telephone saying his name is Dr. Ndahiro. He promised to give him $2,000 dollars if he could help them kill Kayumba who is an enemy of Rwanda. He said that this Dr. Ndahiro promised that the driver would be rewarded by President [Paul] Kagame if he cooperated.
The driver also said that the shooting was the second attempt on Kayumba’s life. The first had been at his house. He told me the killers came into the house at night a few days earlier. They had special keys which allowed them to enter easily. Kayumba was sleeping in his bed with his wife. They wanted to go into the bedroom and shoot him. The driver said he stopped them saying that would be bad. He could arrange a better rendezvous. So three days later, he tipped them off when Kayumba and wife were going to the shopping mall and that is how they came to shoot him.
What did you tell him?
The story sounded suspicious to me. First, I understood him to be referring to Dr. Emmanuel Ndahiro, the head of the National Security Services. So I asked him if he knew this Ndahiro and he said no. I asked if he had ever met him. He said no. I asked if he knows his voice, he said he has never seen him or heard him speak. So I asked him why he believed that it was Dr. Ndahiro. He said he simply trusted.
Second, this story of killers coming into the house at night all sounded phony. You cannot want to kill someone, have him in the best place (his home) best location (his bedroom), best time (at night) and in the best situation (when he is asleep) and just walk away and wait to do it at a shopping mall, in broad daylight and in front of many people. What type of killers are these? They must be amateurs!
How do you know all these things, you sound like a professional assassin?
I told you I was a soldier in the NRA, RPA and later in Congo. I was commanding officer of the presidential guard of rebel leader and later President Laurent Kabila. In these struggles, I worked as a sniper sometimes. I had to cross enemy lines, leave our frontline and go into the frontline of the enemy and snipe the enemy. It was tough business. So I know.
The story of Kayumba’s shooting is all phony. I would have expected the killers to be smarter than the story the driver told me. For example, he said the killer came over to his window and shot at Kayumba in the stomach. But a killer would aim for the head, not the stomach. Then the killer went over to the side of Kayumba and they had a physical fight, the gun jammed and then the killer ran away. All this does not sounds like childish games to me.
Then what happened?
On Monday we were transferred to John Foster Prison. There we recorded statements. Kayumba’s driver recorded his statement in my presence and he repeated to the police what he had told me in jail. It seemed all rehearsed. On Tuesday we were taken to court and I was told I had no case to answer. The judge told me to go home. Instead of being released, I was taken back to Bramelene Prison to clear myself. I spent two days there and was finally released on Thursday.