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Rwanda's former army chief told a South African court on Thursday that he was shot two years ago for defying President Paul Kagame, as he testified in the trial of six men accused of attempting to kill him.
“The reasons why I would think anyone would want me dead is that I have over the years defied the leadership, in particular President Kagame, on things that needed change,” Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa told a Johannesburg court.
Three Rwandans and three Tanzanians are accused of attempting to murder Nyamwasa in Johannesburg, where he was shot in the stomach outside his home on June 19, 2010, four months after receiving political asylum in South Africa.
He recounted in detail how a man approached the right-hand side of his car on that day asking for help, while his driver waited to turn into the driveway of his gated complex.
The driver stopped after they entered the gate, and the shooter shoved his gun through the driver's open window into the car and fired. The general was hit in the right lower abdomen as he was ducking out of the car.
After a scuffle, Nyamwasa ran to his house 15 metres away and closed the security gate.
“He was running behind me and shouted 'I'll kill you! I'll kill you!',” said Nyamwasa. The gunman ran off when neighbours started shouting.
The bullet is still lodged in Nyamwasa's spinal chord and was not removed because at the time he did not have health insurance, he said.
The former army chief said he believed that the assassination attempt was retribution for his claims that Kagame had ordered a former president's airplane shot down, an act that sparked the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
“There are facts in my mind that the president of Rwanda ordered the killing of former president of Rwanda (Juvenal) Habyarimana,” Nyamwasa said.
But magistrate Stanley Mkhari refused to admit Nyamwasa's comments on Kagame as evidence in the case, branding them as speculation.
Rwandan opposition parties have previously accused Kagame of ordering the plane's shooting, a claim repeated in October by his former chief of staff Theogene Rudasingwa.
The crash of Habyarimana's plane, in which Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was also killed, triggered genocide in which an estimated 800 000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were killed.
Nyamwasa himself has also been accused of ordering the shooting of the plane. France has issued an arrest warrant for him in connection with an investigation into the incident, but he denied any direct involvement.
“The French indictment accuses President Kagame of having planned and ordered the shooting of Habyarimana's aircraft,” he told the court.
“My name is on the list of people who knew of this.”
Spain has also asked South Africa to extradite Nyamwasa because of the murder of 2 500 people, including a Spanish priest, at a stadium during the genocide.
He stressed he was accused of “command responsibility” and not murder, but denied that the officers who perpetrated the killings had been under his command.
The assassination trial has strained relations between South Africa and Rwanda, which wants Nyamwasa repatriated to serve a 24-year prison sentence after a military court last year tried him in absentia on charges of desertion, defamation and threatening state security.
He denies the Rwandan court had jurisdiction over him.
He also faces terrorism charges for allegedly masterminding grenade attacks in the Rwandan capital in the run-up to 2010 presidential elections.
The defence will cross-examine Nyamwasa when the trial resumes on July 10. - Sapa-AFP