Home News S.Africa in ‘stern’ warning to Rwanda after attacks

S.Africa in ‘stern’ warning to Rwanda after attacks

Published on 12/03/2014

South Africa Wednesday warned it would not be used as a battleground to settle political scores by foreign nations after it expelled Rwandan diplomats suspected of masterminding attacks on dissidents.

“As the South African government, we want to send a very stern warning to anybody anywhere in the world that our country will not be used as a springboard to do illegal activities,” Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told reporters.

Last week, Pretoria expelled three Rwandan diplomats and one from Burundi after the botched assassination of an exiled opponent of Rwanda’s strongman Paul Kagame on its soil.

Radebe said the government had declared the envoys “persona non grata”, adding they had “violated their diplomatic privileges.”

In retaliation, Rwanda expelled six South African diplomats.

“Any individual or groups of people who abuse our human rights dispensation… will face the full might of the law,” added Radebe.

A group of armed men raided the Johannesburg house of ex-army general Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa last week, according to the opposition Rwanda National Congress. He and his wife were not at home.

Nyamwasa has already survived two assassination attempts.

Diplomatic relations between South Africa and Rwanda have been strained since Kigali’s former intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya, who was also exiled in South Africa, was found strangled to death in a luxury Johannesburg hotel on New Year’s Day.

– ‘Legitimate’ warning –

Rwanda’s ambassador to South Africa, Vincent Karega, refused to comment on the allegations raised by Pretoria “until I see the contents of the accusations.”

But he accepted South Africa’s warning as “legitimate”.

“No country wants to see other countries or bodies from outside acting on their behalf, in their country without agreeing on it,” he told AFP by phone from Kigali.

After Nyamwasa was shot and wounded in 2010, Pretoria described the attack as an assassination attempt by foreign “security operatives” and recalled its ambassador to Rwanda.

Six men — three Rwandans and three Tanzanians — are on trial accused of trying to kill him.

Nyamwasa, who was a member of Kagame’s inner circle, fled to South Africa in 2010 after falling out with the Kigali administration and was granted refugee status.

South Africa is home to numerous Rwandan dissidents, a bitter bone of contention between the two countries.

After Karegeya’s killing, Kagame’s response to accusations his government was behind the hits, was ambiguous yet hawkish.

“Anyone who betrays our cause or wishes our people ill will fall victim,” said Kagame early this year.

Despite the diplomatic tiff, South African government insists relations with Rwanda remain unbroken.

“There are good diplomatic relations between South Africa and Rwanda and those still remain intact,” said Radebe.

But the Rwandan ambassador pointed to “very big problems” that still need to be ironed out between the two countries.

He said however he was “optimistic that after the talks we will definitely find good ground.”

President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday also tried to downplay the row.

“Even the most advanced and oldest democracies in the world, they fight on the question of diplomats that misbehave in their countries,” he said.