Reports emerging from Uganda claim the Rwandan government has thrown the net to catch Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa wider after a reliable source said the renegade former military chief, initially reported to be hiding in Kampala, had escaped to South Africa.
Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa was however noncommital about the whereabouts of the general.
“He left through Malaba (Uganda’s eastern border post with Kenya) at 14:00 hours (2p.m.) on February 27 [Saturday]. That is what I know,” Mr Kutesa told Daily Monitor on Monday, without stating the general’s destination.
He, however, did not divulge the source of his information nor did he provide details on whereabouts of the wanted general during the hours since he fled Kigali on Friday and his reported exit through Malaba, nearly a day later.
No official of the South African High Commission in Kampala was available to comment on reports that the general might have fled to that country
Ms Louise Mushikiwabo, the Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister, in a reply to our e-mail enquiries, indicated that Uganda had kept them in the dark about the latest development regarding the runaway officer.
“The government of Uganda has not yet given us a feedback, but we’re in touch,” she wrote, “We are seeking extradition, whatever country he is in.”
Gen. Nyamwasa is one of the highest ranked Rwandan military officers and a key player in the Rwanda Patriotic Army/Front guerilla movement that brought President Paul Kagame to power in 1994, although it is reported that he has since fallen out with Gen. Kagame over varying political ambitions.
Before his escape, authorities in Kigali had been investigating the general on a range of suspected misdeeds that officials there are reluctant to disclose.
“Prior to his defection, Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa was questioned by Rwandan investigative authorities on serious criminal charges,” Kigali said in a statement on Friday.
The statement issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry, a copy of which Daily Monitor has obtained, confirmed the fugitive officer was being sheltered in Kampala, something Ugandan officials denied.
Unconfirmed media reports linked the wanted military chief to the opposition Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, launched on August 14, 2009 to try to wrest power from President Kagame in elections due in August.
It emerged yesterday that Gen. Nyamwasa, who up until Friday was the country’s High Commissioner to India, would be prosecuted if efforts to have him extradited to Kigali succeed.
“Charges would depend on the outcome of the prosecutorial process,” Minister Mushikiwabo, also Rwanda government’s spokesperson, said in yesterday’s email.
She also said the general had already been stripped of his diplomatic status, which would otherwise have offered him cover of immunity from prosecution, following his defection four days ago.
In Kampala, a press conference called by the government to calm the gathering diplomatic storm over Gen. Nyamwasa was yesterday abruptly cancelled and Minister Kutesa said he will now hold one today.
Mr Richard Kabonero, Uganda’s Ambassador to Kigali, and his Rwandan counterpart, Mr Frank Mugambye, were due to give a briefing on tomorrow’s meeting in Kampala to members of the Joint Permanent Commission, a security clearing house for the two countries to resolve thorny issues.