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Former Rwandan Army Chief Defects

The French revolutionary George Danton apparently said: Much like Saturn, the revolution devours its children.

In Rwanda, it hasn’t been quite as spectacular as in the days of the Jacobins, but it is remarkable nonetheless. Earlier this week, the Rwandan government confirmed that Lt. General Kayumba Nyamwasa had fled the country and was now faced with an arrest warrant for alleged terrorism, including a recent grenade attack in Kigali that a killed two people.

Lt Gen Nyamwasa, a Tutsi who grew up in southern Uganda, had been one of the most powerful members of the Rwandan army, climbing through the ranks in the Ugandan army before becoming the head of military intelligence and then chief of staff. He was known to be a hardliner. Then, suddenly, in 2001 he was marginalized and sent for military training in the United Kingdom. There were rumors of an attempted palace coup, of him being upset over the way President Kagame was running the country. Soon after his training program, he was sent as ambassador to India, allegedly to keep him out of trouble.

And now the Rwandan government is accusing him of terrorism and even complicity with the FDLR. They claim he has joined Colonel Patrick Karegeya – the former head of external intelligence – in South Africa. Who knows what to make of the allegations, but what is certain is that the RPF has much more to worry about from within its own ranks than from the weak and divided opposition parties.

I do not have an exhaustive list, but there are around 50 high ranking RPF members who have defected since they came to power in 1994. “Opportunists,” Kagame has called them, people who were not fit to serve their country. Perhaps. But they include two former prime ministers, at least three former ministers (including ministers of defense and foreign affairs), the speaker of parliament, supreme court justices and several ambassadors. Many of the former RPF heavyweights have been moved to the sidelines or have gone into business.

President Kagame is still going strong, and the signs of discontent within the RPF are still outweighed by the prosperity that the party has brought to many of its members. There is no doubt that tensions are running a little bit higher than usual due to the upcoming presidential elections, set for August 9th.

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