Making sense of Gen. Kayumba’s case

Four days ago, a senior editor with Tanzania’s leading newspaper, The Citizen, asked me to write an op-ed about the split in Rwanda’s opposition ranks. Drawing from a piece in the East African where I was quoted as saying that the Rwandan opposition’s prime enemy is not President Paul Kagame but the opposition itself, the editor wanted the readers to understand what the hell engulfed the Rwandan opposition- from FDLR, FDU, PSI and then RNC. I humbly declined the offer because, in my opinion, a continued discussion about these break-ups lead to more harm than good. I argued that there is no proportional good in discussing these split ups.

And so is how, as a retired farmer, I advised RNC top men, including Gen. Nyamwasa himself. But few of them heeded my advice. Like in the US presidential elections, the social media had turned into a theatre of war between RNC and its splinter group. Thus, when Kayumba Nyamwasa had a three-hour interview today; I was afraid he would fall into Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa’s trap- of getting engulfed in war of words. I had to line up 7 national and international policy issues to pose to him should the show turn trivial like I have been seeing on social media between both warring factions.

But I was proven wrong. Any historian, even a poor historian, will tell you that Nyamwasa’s delivery today was the best he has ever put up. Answering all the accusations levelled against him with satiated clarity and without mentioning any name; Nyamwasa talked about post-Kagame Rwanda with a historical reference to Arusha peace agreements of which he was a part- watering down any iota of any ideological difference with the splinter group premised upon policy alternatives in post-Kagame Rwanda.

In the court of social media, Nyamwasa has been declared guilty (as a mass murderer) until proven innocent. Fine; the social media has given farmers, lawyers and engineers equality. But the man explained his three court proceedings in South Africa in which he emerged a winner- and which cases took into account his mass murder accusations.

I am one of the few people who don’t subscribe to the RPA/F as a liberation army/movement. Right from Luwero Triangle to Kinshasa, I believe that President Kagame and his troops committed war crimes and a possible genocide. However, I am one of the people who believe that RPA’s modus operandi was (and still is) designed in a such way that being in command position doesn’t tantamount to responsibility and inside knowledge. Is it probable that Kayumba didn’t participate or didn’t know of the mass murder against innocent civilians? Yes, because the South African courts found him innocent. To buttress his innocence, he explained how he let Dismas Nsengiyaremye free after taking over Gakirage/Rukomo axis; how he integrated ex-far captured during the 96-97 insurgency; how he saved people in Giti; how he was away in Libya when some of the crimes attributed to him were committed in Rwanda.

Well, Kayumba is someone far from an angel. A Committee to Protect Journalists friend of mine reminded me recently of an incident in which Kayumba personally closed Umuseso’s offices- a newspaper I worked for- and took into custody Umuseso’s former editor. His former subordinates in the military always remind me of how he and democracy can never be bedfellows. Yet a possible explanation for this may lie in the RPA modus operandi. Kayumba’s delivery today sounded angelic – a man who defended Pasteur Bizimungu and Sebarenzi Kabuye against Kagame’s wrath yet judged as Kagame’s right hand man in the repressive machinery that drove Rwanda down to the dustbin. But, yes, the court of public opinion has a right to judge otherwise.

I may have disagreements with him about the International Criminal Court or what concessions should be given to President Kagame for his safe exit but one thing remains clear: He is not a war-lord holed up in military jungles but rather a well-informed politician cum general; with vast knowledge of policy issues and alternatives- from Rwanda’s public debt to geo-political re-alignments in the region. On that note; I have e-mailed The Citizen Editor accepting to write the op-ed.

Didas Gasana