A Rwandan diplomat paid for information about an exiled Rwandan general who was shot and wounded in South Africa, a refugee from the central African country said Friday, adding the envoy portrayed the general as an opponent.
Prosecutors had called the refugee, Ally Murongoyi Rwayegura, to testify in the trial in the June 2010 shooting of Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa. But a lawyer representing Rwanda's government said a second party should not be allowed to testify about what the diplomat allegedly said or did. The lawyer persuaded a judge on Friday not to allow Rwayegura's testimony, which prosecutor Shaun Abrahams said would have helped to establish a motive for the shooting.
Such testimony also would have brought politics into the diplomatically sensitive case. For now, prosecutors will not say whether they believe the Rwandan government is involved.
The Rwandan government has denied involvement in shooting Nyamwasa, who has become a sharp critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame since coming to South Africa in 2010.
Didier Rutembesa, a diplomat at the Rwandan High Commission, and Yolande Makolo, Kagame's press secretary, said Friday their government would not comment on a case in progress. Rutembesa is not the diplomat Rwayegura named.
Rwayegura, who lost his family in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, said he came to South Africa as a teenage refugee in 1998 because he feared that as an orphan he would face pressure to enlist in the army. He said he doesn't have time for politics, but described Rwanda under Kagame as unfree, and said that while many say Kagame ended the genocide when his rebel army entered Kigali, he believes the credit belongs to Nyamwasa.
Dissidents, Nyamwasa among them, have accused Kagame of crushing dissent and democracy after helping to end the genocide that left more than 500,000 people dead. Kagame was re-elected in 2010, months after Nyamwasa was shot. Freedom House noted a "severe crackdown on opposition politicians, journalists and civil society activists in the run-up to a deeply flawed August 2010 presidential election."
Rwayegura said a high-ranking diplomat, Claude Nikobisanzwe, knew he was close to Nyamwasa's family, and called him after the general was shot. Prosecutors have spoken of other attempts on the general, before and after the shooting.
Rwayegura said Nikobisanzwe wanted to know whether Nyamwasa was expected to recover, and wanted information on where he traveled and with whom, and on the movements of the general's wife and children.
Embassy officials said Friday that Nikobisanzwe was unavailable. He did not immediately respond to a phone message.
Rwayegura said he took money from Nikobisanzwe in exchange for information, but would not say how much. He said he secretly cleared any information he passed on with South African police and with a relative of the general, to ensure he was not endangering the general.
Nikobisanzwe "told me that the general was against the government," Rwayegura said. "He told me that he was instructed by his bosses to gather any information that he came across" about Nyamwasa.
South African prosecutors have said key witnesses are under police protection because they fear Rwanda's government. Rwayegura said he had refused such protection because he feared it would keep him from working. But asked if he believed his life was in danger because he was willing to testify, he said, "200 percent."
In Sweden earlier this month, a person close to the Swedish government told The Associated Press a Rwandan diplomat had been expelled because he had engaged in "refugee espionage." Last year, police in Britain warned some Rwandans living there that their lives were in danger after the men criticized Kagame's government.
Last year, after a Rwandan journalist who was a frequent critic of his government was shot and killed in Uganda, Human Rights Watch urged Uganda's government to protect Rwandan journalists and other critics of Rwanda's government living in Uganda.
Rwanda's government has denied any involvement in the mysterious deaths of Kagame's critics over the years. Rwayegura, the refugee kept from testifying Friday, said the trial in South Africa could mean the truth will be known.
"Back home, I cannot sit and talk to you as a journalist," he said. "Right now in the Rwandan community, we don't know who is who, we don't know who to trust."