The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is hunting down Rwandan death squads who have been dispatched to South Africa to assassinate an exiled general who is allegedly plotting the overthrow of the regime of President Paul Kagame.
Graphic showing trail of killings allegedly linked to the Rwandan state
City Press has learnt that the NIA has over the past year thwarted several attempts by Rwandan intelligence operatives to find and kill former Rwandan army chief of staff Lt-Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa.
City Press can also reveal that the presence of Rwandan death squads in South Africa has triggered a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
South Africa recalled its high commissioner in Rwanda a year ago and has not returned him, while the Rwandan high commission in Pretoria is also without a high commissioner.
NIA chief Mo Shaik has over the past year been dispatched to Rwanda several times to dissuade Rwandan intelligence commanders from sending their hitmen to South Africa.
Approached for comment, Shaik said to City Press: ‘No comment. Speak to the NIA’s spokesperson.’
NIA spokesperson Brian Dube did not respond to questions.
Nyamwasa was once a close ally of Kagame but became his enemy number one when he recently became a founder member of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), intent on ousting the president.
Nyamwasa was last year granted political asylum in South Africa and is currently under witness protection in a safe house.
Another former Kagame confidant in exile in South Africa is also in witness protection. He’s Colonel Patrick Karegeya, the former director of Rwanda’s external military intelligence. He was also a founder member of the RNC.
Nyamwasa, once one of the most powerful men in Rwanda, was shot and wounded in June last year when a Rwandan agent came to South Africa and hired Tanzanian gunmen.
The agent left South Africa after the shooting but was sent back to finish his job. Upon his arrival, South African intelligence officers tracked him. When he hired Somali refugees to strangle Nyamwasa in hospital, he and his accomplices were arrested.
Ten men have been charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to murder and are standing trial in two different cases in Johannesburg.
Evidence will also emerge how the Rwandan agent tried to bribe a South African police officer with one $1 million (about R7 million) when he was arrested.
The first case starts later this month.
Since the first attempt on the life of the general, a special NIA task team has worked around the clock to identify Rwandan military agents and thwarted attempts to kill Nyamwasa and Karegeya.
The NIA recently apprehended a Rwandan secret agent who admitted that he had been sent to South Africa to locate general and several other executive members of the Congress. He had $15,000 (R100,000) in his possession.
Intelligence agents also identified a Rwandan immigrant who heads a security company who received a large amount of money to kill the general. The Rwandan allegedly kept they money and then fled South Africa.
International Relations spokesperson Clayson Monyeala said the recalling of the high commissioner was to help South Africa understand ‘the issues that were causing a strain’.
He says South Africa ‘reserves the right to determine the timing of the return or not’ of its high commissioner in Rwanda.
Most of the resistance against Kagame is organised from America and South Africa where the Congress has set up structures, held meetings and devised strategies to oust and even overthrow Kagame and his RPF government.
Nyamwasa was recently ordered by the NIA to withdraw himself from any activities, including that of the Congress, that could be viewed by the Rwandans as hostile.
Shaik has told his counterparts in Kigali to provide South Africa with evidence about Nyamwasa’s alleged involvement in the grenade attacks in that country.
He could under South African law stand trial for sabotage here but no evidence has up to now been furnished.
The local ‘face’ of the Congress is now the general’s brother, Frank Ntwali, who is also in exile in South Africa. Ntwali, a lawyer, says members of the Congress live in fear of the their lives and expects another attack at any moment.
City Press was told that further evidence emerged of Rwandan death squads last week when an alleged agent was arrested in Kampala in Uganda. The agent had a large amount of money on him, carried a gun and had three passports, one of which included a South African visa.
British police recently informed two Rwandan dissidents in letters that it had received information that the Rwandan government is planning to assassinate them on UK soil. One of the dissidents is a founding member of the RNC.
The Rwandan government did not respond to any requests for comment.