Wednesday, 29 June 2011 11:41 by RNA Reporter
Kigali: When the first prosecution witness took to the stand, he pleaded with the media and everybody in the packed Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court that they should never reveal his names or even describe him because he feared for his life. All the accused also said they did not want to be named. Based on reports and eye witnesses, RNA is naming all the men who were charged.
Six men were charged with attempted murder and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, as part of the case in which more than 10 people are charged in connection with the attempted assassination of Rwanda’s ex-army chief Kayumba Nyamwasa.
The six charged include Nyamwasa's driver, Richard Bachisa. According to prosecution, Bachisa was paid to reveal the movements of his boss. On that fateful day in June last year, the assassin stopped Nyamwasa’s car as he arrived home, then asked the driver to open the window.
The next thing happening were bullets. He then moved to the other side where Nyamwasa was seated, but the gun failed as Nyamwasa fought off the assassin. All this time, Nyamwasa’s wife was just screaming, and nobody around came to help. The assassin fled.
The trial has just started after it had stalled for months, caught up in never-ending bail applications, appeals and postponements. But it did not last long.
It is not clear who planned the failed assassination because the details are yet to come out in court. But what was revealed yesterday was that as Nyamwasa lay unconscious in hospital, another group of assassins were deployed to finish him off.
The alleged ringleader is Pascal Kanyandekwe, 30. He is the only person who actually appeared in court on Tuesday, and is even charged with an additional corruption charge for allegedly trying to bribe police officers with $1 million (approx. Rwf 603million) when he was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport.
The others accused in the bunch are Amani Uriwani; Hassann Mohammedi Nduli; Sady Abdou; and the alleged gunman, Hemedi Denengo Sefu.
All pleaded not guilty in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court. But in a case requiring three different interpreters – French, Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda – proceedings disintegrated when the first witness took the stand.
The witness in the stand was Kalisa Mubarak, who owns a hair salon in Johannesburg. Kalisa described an encounter with Uriwani in his salon just days before the attack. He knew the accused from their youth in Rwanda. He had even helped organise accommodation for Uriwani when he moved to South Africa.
But the court official translating Mubarak’s narrative seemed to be having difficulties putting his long-winded answers into English. Solutions proposed by the magistrate and attorneys dissolved into a bizarre game of broken telephone, with Mubarak’s answers translated first from Kinyarwanda to French, then French to English, then English to Kiswahili.
It also emerged that the person translating Mubarak had a Burundian accent, so he often mentioned different things than had been said by the witness. The magistrate eventually gave up.
“This isn’t working,” he told the assembled pack of lawyers.
Arrangements for an alternative Kinyarwanda translator were then made. The case continues Wednesday.
It also emerged yesterday in the Magistrate's Court that the Rwandan government had appointed a lawyer, GP van der Merwe, to monitor the trial to ensure its name was not tarnished.
Prosecutor Shaun Abrahams asked the court to conceal the identity of his first witness, who is in a protection programme. The judge did not rule on this plea.
Abrahams said the witness was "afraid of persons aligned with the accused, and he is afraid of persons aligned to the Rwandan government".
The man appeared on the verge of tears as he explained that his wife and three children were with him in the witness protection programme.
Abrahams asked specifically that counsel for the Rwandan government "not disclose the name or identity of the witness to the Rwandan government".
Van der Merwe replied that this was a request for an "absurd order" and that the "government of Rwanda is not, in any event, implicated in this [case]". The judge did not also rule on this request. The case continues. (End)