JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) — An exiled Rwandan general was shot and wounded in South Africa on Saturday in what his wife called a Rwandan-backed assassination attempt, a charge the Rwandan government dismissed as “preposterous.”
Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa was in the intensive care unit of a Johannesburg hospital after being shot in the stomach, his wife, Rosette Kayumba, said.
Once a close confidant of President Paul Kagame, General Nyamwasa fled to South Africa this year after falling out with the president, later accusing him of using an anticorruption campaign to frame opponents.
Ms. Kayumba said she, her husband, their children and a driver had returned home from a shopping trip when an armed man approached their car and shot her husband.
Her husband and the driver got out of the car and scuffled with the gunman before he fled, she said. She said doctors told her her husband would survive.
Ms. Kayumba said she believed President Kagame was behind the attack, and ruled out an attempted robbery or carjacking because the gunman shot only her husband and did not try to steal the car.
“He must be behind this,” she said. “I don’t have proof, but we’ve been harassed for such a long time.”
Rwanda’s foreign minister and government spokeswoman, Louise Mushikiwabo, denied the accusation. “Not only do I deny it,” she said, “I think it’s preposterous for Mrs. Nyamwasa to be making that kind of comment.”
She added: “The Rwandan government does not go around shooting innocent citizens. The time when presidents and governments went around assassinating their citizens is over in Rwanda.”
The flight of General Nyamwasa, who fought alongside Mr. Kagame to end the 1994genocide in Rwanda, was a sign of a growing rift between the president and some of his top aides.
During and after the war to end the genocide, General Nyamwasa held a number of key positions, including army chief of staff and head of the intelligence services.
Rwanda is due to hold a presidential election in August, which Mr. Kagame is widely expected to win. The United States has toughened its stance on the country, saying it is concerned about democratic freedom there.
In the period leading up to the elections, Rwanda has suspended two independent newspapers, arrested a high-profile opposition figure and prevented two opposition parties from registering, the American assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Johnnie Carson, told the United States Congress this year.
Rwandan authorities link General Nyamwasa and another fugitive senior officer in South Africa to a series of deadly grenade attacks in the capital this year, and accuse him of nepotism and unlawful accumulation of wealth.
He has rejected the charges and said the president has used his anticorruption campaign to intimidate political opponents.
“If accountability is going to be used as a political weapon to frame perceived opponents, then it ceases to be meaningful or useful,” he said in a statement printed in the Ugandan newspaper The Monitor in May.