Four men convicted of trying to kill an exiled critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame in South Africa were each jailed for eight years on Monday, though the magistrate said they were not the main culprits.
Former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa survived being shot in the stomach as he was being driven into his Johannesburg home in 2010, the same year he fled Rwanda after falling out with former ally Kagame.
Rwanda has regularly denied any involvement. But after armed men broke into Nyamwasa’s home this year, South African Justice Minister Jeff Radebe warned Kigali that “our country will not be used as a springboard to do illegal activities”.
The two Rwandans and two Tanzanians found guilty of shooting Nyamwasa smiled in apparent relief after the eight-year sentence, less than the minimum 15 years prosecutors had asked for.
Magistrate Stanley Mkhari told the men: “You are not the main culprits in this matter. It is my view that you are supposed to appear before me with all the people who made money available and also the people who paid to commit the offences.”
He said he was taking into account the fact that the four – Amani Uriwane and Sady Abdou from Rwanda and Hassan Mohammedi Nduli and Hemedi Dendengo Sefu from Tanzania – had been in custody since the shooting.
“The effective term of imprisonment is eight years for each accused,” he said.
Nyamwasa told journalists afterwards he was happy with the sentences, but said he and many other exiled Rwandans around the world still felt unsafe.
“There is fear for the lives of very many Rwandans, those that have taken asylum here in South Africa, those that have taken asylum in many other parts of the world, and even more, those that have remained in the country, her told journalists.”
In March, armed men broke into Nyamwasa’s empty home, just months after another exiled Rwandan and former Rwandan spy chief was found strangled in an upmarket Johannesburg hotel room.
South Africa expelled three Rwandan diplomats over the raid at Nyamwasa’s house. Kigali, which said South Africa had produced no evidence it was involved, reciprocated by throwing out six.
Kigali has rubbished allegations by Nyamwasa and others that it was involved, but has accused Pretoria of harbouring “dissidents responsible for terrorist attacks in Rwanda”.