In his speech at the Leadership Retreat on March 9, 2019, General Paul Kagame explained how Uganda never stopped trying to undermine him since the 1990s.
In this speech Kagame said he was ready to “reveal secrets” about Uganda’s ill-intentions. One of the ”secrets” Kagame revealed was about Seth Sendashonga. It is in this context that Kagame revisited the story about Gérard Prunier, a French critic of the Kagame regime.
According to Kagame, Prunier in his book From Genocide to Continental War”, wrote that he (Prunier) met Sendashonga in Nairobi, Kenya in 1998, in presence of high ranking military officers from Uganda. The Uganda military officers were ready to give Sendashonga all the support he needed to get rid of the Kagame’s regime in Rwanda.
Then Kagame dropped a bombshell of his speech: Prunier ”wrote that this is the reason why Seth Sendashonga died, because he had crossed the line drawn by the Rwandan government”. In other words, Kagame is in total agreement with Prunier that he (Kagame) assassinated Shendashonga because he (Sendashonga) had crossed the line drawn by the Rwanda government.
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Seth Sendashonga (1951 – 16 May 1998) was the Minister of the Interior in the government of national unity in Rwanda, following the military victory of the Rwandan Patriotic Front(RPF) after the 1994 genocide. One of the politically moderate Hutus in the National Unity Cabinet, he became increasingly disenchanted with the RPF and was eventually forced from office in 1995 after criticizing government policies. After surviving a 1996 assassination attempt while in exile in Kenya, he launched a new opposition movement, the Forces de Résistance pour la Démocratie (FRD).
. He was also designated to become a member of the New Transitional Government but this was not to be. The peace agreement was never implemented and in April 1994, President Habyarimana Falcon 50 jet was shot down. Following his death, a military committee led by Colonel Théoneste Bagosora took immediate control of the country and oversaw the killing of between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu.
RPF immediately launched a new offensive and they finally defeated government troops in July 1994. RPF immediately formed a government with Pasteur Bizimungu as the President, Major-General Paul Kagame as the Vice President, Minister of Defence, Faustin Twagiramungu as Prime Minister and Sendashonga as the Minister for Interior.
As Minister for Interior, Sendashonga had serious differences with the now very powerful Kagame. He was uncomfortable with the killings and forced disappearances carried out by some sections of the army. The army had been named the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) to differentiate it from RPF, the political party. Sendashonga wrote to him regarding the issue on several occasions. The Local Defense Forces (LDF) replaced the police after the genocide and were also linked to murders and disappearances.
Sendashonga, exercising his power as minister, disbanded the LDF. At the time, RPF was using the LDF to keep track of what was happening in the rural areas and Kagame wasn’t happy with the decision. Sendashonga was eventually fired along with Twagiramungu. They were both placed under house arrest but were later allowed to leave the country. Sendashonga went into exile in Nairobi in November 1995 where his wife, Dr. Cyriaque Nikuze Sendashonga, was working at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
On 26th February, 1996 someone tried to kill Sendashonga. He was lured to a meeting by a family friend who claimed to be in possession of a document that showed a failed mutiny in the RPA. They met and in the end there was no document. The real reason he was called for the meeting showed itself in the form of two men who shot at him as he walked back to his car. He was wounded but not seriously. A suspect, Francis Mugabo, was arrested nearby by Kenyan police with a pistol, a silencer and thirteen 9mm bullets. He was attempting to dispose of the gun in the toilet of a petrol station when he was apprehended.
He was an attaché in the Rwandan Embassy in Nairobi at the time of his arrest and so the Kenyan government asked for a diplomatic immunity waiver so that he could be charged and tried. Rwanda refused the request and the case hit a dead end. Sendashonga suspected the RPF government was behind his shooting and their reluctance to help by approving the waiver didn’t help.
They were more concerned with the release of Mugabo than assisting in solving the attempted assassination case. Kenya upped the stakes by giving the Rwandans two choices: waive the immunity or we close your embassy in Kenya. You can probably guess by now which one they chose. The Rwandan Embassy was closed and Mugabo, who had been in police custody for months, was expelled along with 4 other diplomats.
The Daily Nation ran a curious editorial after Sendashonga’s assassination attempt. It warned refugees against abusing Kenyan hospitality. It read in part, “Kenyans do not give them succour and sanctuary in order that they may continue their wars here. If they want to kill each other they should go back to their country and do it there.”
Before the attempt on his life, he had planned to travel to Brussels, Belgium to launch a new opposition movement, the Forces de Résistance pour la Démocratie (FRD), with his friend and former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu. They would later launch it in April 1997 after Sendashonga recovered from the wounds he had sustained. Sendashonga received the support of soldiers from the old Rwandan army. He reached out to Tanzania, who agreed to host rebel training camps, and Uganda, through General Salim Saleh, President Yoweri Museveni’s brother.
On 13th May 1998, a taxi driver, Ali Abdul Nasser was approached by David Akiki Kiwanuka who sought to hire killers to eliminate someone. The person in question had apparently swindled his father about US$50 Million. Kiwanuka promised to pay Ksh. 100,000 to whoever carried out the deed. Nasser was shown a picture of the intended victim. He was also apparently taken and shown his house, business premises, a Forex Bureau in Gigiri, and the man himself, as he drove his car in Nairobi. Nasser was a police informer and on 14th May he reported the same to Chief Inspector Daniel Songol Seroney who was with the C.I.D in Nairobi. Seroney tasked two police officers, Corporal Oburu and Constable Ewoi, to accompany Nasser, to the meeting with Kiwanuka, where they would pose as killers for hire.
The police officers met Kiwanuka the same day and accepted the assignment. The killing couldn’t however, proceed before some guns Kiwanuka was expecting from Uganda could arrive. They agreed to meet on 15th May but Kiwanuka didn’t show up. They went back again on 16th May but he was once again a no show.
On 16th May, 1998 at the junction of Limuru and Forest Road in Parklands, two gunmen armed with AK-47 rifles opened fire on a car killing the two men inside. The car, Reg NO. UNEP 108K, belonged to Dr. Cyriaque Nikuze, Sendashonga’s wife. The two dead men were Seth Sendashonga and his driver, Jean-Bosco Nkurubukeye.
The gunmen fled in a car reg NO. KAJ 426Z which they dumped 3 kilometres away. Nimish Shah and Agnes Ngina saw the gunmen hurriedly dumping the car and described them as being very tall. Spent cartridges that were recovered from the scene of the shooting were similar to those found in the abandoned car. Firearm expert Benson Gichuki Nduguga would later confirm that the spent cartridges were fired from an AK-47 assault rifle.
The man Kiwanuka wanted killed had been Sendashonga and when Chief Inspector Seroney received a report of his shooting, he connected the dots and arranged for him to be arrested. He was apprehended on 19th May and a pistol and bullets were found in his house.
He then lead police to Ngara where two other men, Charles Muhanji Wamuthoni and Christopher Lubanga Mlondo, who he named as co-conspirators were arrested. While in police custody, Kiwanuka repeated the story of how his father working as a Director of Immigration in Rwanda, was swindled of US$ 50million by Sendashonga while he was Interior Minister.
The minister later arranged the death of his father and that’s why he took it upon himself to eliminate him. The story deviated from the original as this one now included Wamuthoni and Mlondo, who were apparently the killers that Kiwanuka hired to assassinate Sendashonga. Wamuthoni admitted that he was part of the plot to kill the former minister but denied actually doing it. Mlondo however, denied any involvement. A Charles Butera, once Kiwanuka’s story became public, would surface and confirm that he was indeed the Director of Immigration and had no son called Kiwanuka.
The officer tasked to investigate the twin murders was Inspector John Kathae. He inspected the evidence collected and came to the conclusion that there were political connotations to the killings. He did not believe Kiwanuka’s statement. He decided to change tact and went to interview Kiwanuka’s wife. She revealed a connection between the Rwandan government and Kiwanuka. Alphonse Mbayire, who was the acting Rwandan ambassador to Kenya at the time, was apparently financially supporting their family. Kathae tried to interview Mbayire by requesting for a diplomatic immunity waiver but it didn’t come and that was that.
Despite the case against the three being thin and lacking sufficient evidence, they were charged and taken to trial. The three were acquitted of all charges in 2001. Justice Mbogholi Msagha commented on the lack of compelling evidence against the three men. He also added, “I am convinced the murder was political.”
During the trial, Nikuze testified that she believed her husband had been assassinated on the orders of Rwanda’s then Vice President and Defence Minsiter, and now current president, Paul Kagame. She also claimed that Alphonse Mbayire organized the assassination. Mbayire was immediately recalled back to Rwanda in January 2001 after the accusation. He was shot dead a month later in a bar in Kigali by a young soldier who fired more than twenty bullets at close range into his head. The soldier, despite being identified, was never questioned.
Nikuze also shared that her husband had been scheduled to testify before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the French Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry. Defense lawyer Pascal Besnier later confirmed to ICTR that the former Rwandan interior minister, had agreed to speak in defense of his client Obed Ruzindana, a genocide suspect. Had he testified, he would have been the first current or former member of the RPF to testify before the International Criminal Tribunal. It is thought that his impending appearance at the court and the commission made some people jittery and therefore his elimination was planned. His friend Twagiramungu told AFP, “I’m pointing to the RPF and its government. Professionals were sent to carry out this dirty piece of work.” Other Rwandan exiles agreed with him.
The Rwandan foreign ministry denied any involvement in the killing, with Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana quoted as saying, “The Rwandan government did not order this assassination because Mr Sendashonga was not a problem for us. Rwanda has lost a worthy man and a well-known political figure”.
Sendashonga’s killers were never found. However, assassinations of Rwandan exiles abroad continue. In January 2014, former military intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya was found brutally strangled to death in a Johannesburg hotel room. Former Army Head General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa has survived assassination plots which, according to the South African government and other sources, were orchestrated by Rwandan government agents.Add your comments: Download Our News App Here