Men who tried to kill former Rwandan general get eight years each
A South African court has issued a stern warning to those who hunt down foreign nationals who have sought refuge in the country.
The warning was made in the case of four men convicted of attempting to murder former Rwandan army general Faustin Nyamwasa.
On Wednesday the Kagiso Regional Court sentenced the men to an effective jail term of eight years each.
Magistrate Stanley Mkhari said that Amman Uriwani and Sady Abdou from Rwanda and Hassan Nduli Sady and Dendengo Sefu of Tanzania were not the main culprits in the matter.
"You were supposed to appear with people who paid you to commit the act."
He also told the men that South Africa was not a battleground for criminals and those who were granted asylum permits or refugee status must not abuse it.
"Law abiding citizens are sick and tired of attacks on foreign nationals for political purposes," Mkhari said.
In sentencing the men, Mkhari took into account that they were in custody for four years while the case was being finalised and that they were first time offenders.
He also sentenced the men to five years each on a count of possession of an unlicensed firearm and to three years each for possession of ammunition. The sentences will run concurrently with the main sentence for attempted murder.
Nyamwasa, who was Rwanda’s ambassador to India until February 2010, fled to South Africa after falling out with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
He was shot by Sefu outside the driveway of his home in Johannesburg in June 2010.
Nyamwasa’s driver, Richard Bachisa, who was with Nyamwasa when he was shot and who was charged together with the men, was acquitted last month after the court found that the state failed to prove he collaborated in Nyamwasa’s attack.
Also acquitted was Rwandan businessman Pascal Kanyandekwe, believed to be mastermind of the plan.
Nyamwasa has maintained that orders to kill him came from the highest office in Rwanda. He had also claimed the Rwandan government assassinated former intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya and boasted about it. Karegeya was found strangled in a hotel room on January 1 this year.
Speaking after the sentencing, Nyamwasa expressed satisfaction at the sentences and said he knew - and the court confirmed - that the attack was politically motivated.
After his escape to South Africa, Rwanda wanted Nyamwasa repatriated to serve a 24-year prison sentence after a military court tried him in absentia in 2011 on charges of desertion, defamation and threatening state security. The South African government turned down the request in 2012.
When he convicted the men, Mkhari said the attempted murder of Nyamwasa was politically motivated and emanated from a certain group of people in Rwanda.
Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams asked court to impose a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment to deter others who planned to do the same.
“The court must set an example and show its displeasure that foreign nationals who sought refuge in this country cannot be hunted down in their new-found home or safe haven," Abrahams said.