JOHANNESBURG, Jun 20– Former Rwandan army chief Faustin Nyamwasa took the stand Wednesday in the trial of six men accused of trying to kill him, detailing how his trusted driver had turned against him.
Nyamwasa was shot in the stomach outside his Johannesburg home on June 19, 2010, four months after arriving in South Africa, after abandoning his diplomatic post in India.
Nyamwasa told the court that his driver Richard Bachisa had helped him flee Rwanda in February 2010, after a high-level political meeting that included President Paul Kagame, where Nyamwasa refused to apologise for opposing what he viewed as politically motivated arrests in Rwanda.
“The purpose of the meeting was to harass me,” he said.
Fearing his own arrest, Nyamwasa decided to flee. Bachisa drove him to the Ugandan border, where he swam across a river to avoid border guards.
The next day he made it to Kenya, then flew to Johannesburg, arriving on February 27, 2010.
South Africa granted him temporary asylum, and he settled in an upmarket Johannesburg neighbourhood with his wife Rosette.
In May 2010, Bachisa contacted the general and said he feared for his life, begging to come to South Africa.
Nyamwasa helped him make the journey, and kept him employed as his driver, giving Bachisa a room in his brother-in-law’s home.
Bachisa remained Nyamwasa’s chauffeur until he was arrested in the alleged murder plot against him.
The chauffeur is now on trial with two other Rwandans and three Tanzanians in a Johannesburg court, where they have pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The case has strained relations between South Africa and Rwanda, which wants to bring Nyamwasa home 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 also faces terrorism charges for allegedly masterminding grenade attacks last year in the Rwandan capital in the run-up to presidential elections.
Nyamwasa served as army chief of staff and is accused of orchestrating the shooting down of an aircraft carrying former president Juvenal Habyarimana — an event that heightened ethnic tensions and helped spark the Rwandan genocide.
He is also accused of involvement in the killing of civilians in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, including 2,500 Hutu refugees.
France and Spain have both asked South Africa to extradite him over his alleged role in the 1994 genocide, which killed 800,000 people.