Africa

Rwanda sentences dissident exiles to long jail terms

Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa (file photo)
Image caption Lt Gen Nyamwasa used to be a close ally of President Paul Kagame

A military court in Rwanda has sentenced four former top officials who have fallen out with the government to long prison terms.

The men, all in exile, were found guilty of threatening state security and propagating ethnic divisions.

Lt Gen Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who survived an assassination attempt in June, and Maj Theogene Rudasingwa got 24 years and will lose their army rank.

Patrick Karegeya and Gerald Gahima received a sentence of 20 years each.

The guilty verdict means Rwanda's government could seek the extradition of the men who are currently in exile in either the US or South Africa.

However correspondents say it is unlikely that either country would readily agree to such a request.

Rwanda denies any links to the June 2010 shooting of Lt Gen Nyamwasa in Johannesburg.

The Rwandan government believes Lt Gen Nyamwasa was linked to grenade attacks in Kigali earlier last year and has previously tried to secure his extradition.

Like the other men Lt Gen Nyamwasa was once a close ally of Rwandan President Paul Kagame - and has denied the allegations.

Mr Gahima was Rwanda's prosecutor general, Mr Karegeya was director of external intelligence in Rwanda's military, while Maj Rudasingwa was the top official in the president's office.

The BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma in the capital, Kigali, says the men were also found guilty of creating a group of criminals; defaming a head of state and disrupting the freedom of the government.

Mr Kagame led the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel movement which put a stop to the 1994 genocide - and has been president since 2000.

The president, who was overwhelmingly re-elected for a second term with 93% of the vote last August, is viewed by many in the West as one of Africa's more dynamic leaders.

However, critics have raised concerns about his more authoritarian tendencies and the government was accused of harassing the opposition ahead of the elections.

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