Nairobi – Once Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s most trusted allies, who fought alongside him to end the 1994 genocide, some of his exiled former comrades-in-arms are now spearheading calls to oust him.
Kagame has often silenced Hutu opposition with accusations of pro-genocide ideology but the fiercest challenge to his rule is emerging from his erstwhile close circle of Tutsi rebels from the Ugandan diaspora.
Four of them co-authored a document which AFP obtained on Tuesday, September 7 accusing Kagame of being authoritarian, corrupt and driving the country back towards a conflict on the same scale as the 1994 massacres.
“The people of Rwanda, together with rest of the international community, have a moral duty to work to end this repressive system of government,” the 60-page report said.
Among the authors are General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former army chief who survived a June assassination attempt in South Africa, and Patrick Karegeya, a former intelligence chief who fled Rwanda in 2007.
The other two are Theogene Rudasingwa, a former Kagame chief of staff, and Gerald Gahima, former prosecutor general.
Kagame, in power since 1994, was on Monday, September 6 sworn in for a second term that should be his last.
Sixteen years after they helped him end the genocide, many of his former brothers-in-arms have either been distanced, are dead or in exile.
“When Kayumba fled, the scale of the crisis became obvious,” said Rwanda specialist Andre Guichaoua.
The defections, which started in the mid 1990s, have continued over the years and have grown to include former members of the inner circle.
In 2005 Karegeya, the former all-powerful head of external security, demoted to army spokesperson, was imprisoned for insubordination. He fled two years later, first to Uganda, then to South Africa.
Earlier this year Kayumba Nyamwasa, who was army chief of staff until 2001, followed.
In the months following his exile, several officers were arrested, for indiscipline, immorality or graft.
Kayumba and Karegeya have been accused of being behind a series of grenade attacks in Kigali.
“All those who were not part of the Ugandan nucleus have been progressively eliminated. The dissension is now within this nucleus,” Guichaoua said.
Kayumba’s defection is the most serious “for he was likely to represent an alternative to Kagame and receive support abroad”, he added.
On June 19, three weeks after criticising Kagame in a Ugandan daily, Kayumba was shot in the stomach in mysterious circumstances in Johannesburg.
Nothing was stolen during the attack and Kigali denied any involvement. But Pretoria said security operatives from an unnamed African country were involved.
Power is increasingly centred around Kagame alone, rather than in the hands of a united RPF and the president is increasingly “isolated within the army”, Guichaoua said.
“The so-called ‘dissensions in the inner circle’ can also be seen as the consequence of the widening of the ruling group,” an RPF member told AFP.
“Those who grew disgruntled are people who failed to adapt to change i.e. the widening of the RPF membership…a lesser role for the security organs and the emergence of a new generation,” he said.
“This is not a trend that should be seen only as a narrowing or a regression.”
Karegeya and Kayumba are privy to the regime’s darkest secrets. Their margin for manoeuvre on the international scene is limited by war crimes allegations against them but the two represent a serious challenge to Kagame, in particular if they can obtain outside support.
Kagame also downplays the importance of those who flee the country.
“I think there are more crises in the minds of outsiders about the RPF than there are within the RPF”, he said last month.
Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch
Welcome to Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net/gsdl/cgi-bin/library