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Monday, March 10, 2014
SOUTH AFRICA TO RWANDA: DON'T TOUCH US ON OUR SOVEREIGNTY!
On Monday, March 10, 2014 6:18 AM,
South Africa to Rwanda: Don’t touch us on our sovereignty!
Simon Allison covers Africa for the Daily Maverick, having cut his teeth reporting from Palestine, Somalia and revolutionary Egypt. He loves news and politics, the more convoluted the better. Despite his natural cynicism and occasionally despairing tone, he is an Afro-optimist, and can’t wait to witness and chronicle the continent’s swift development over the next few decades.
Rwanda and South Africa are still on speaking terms, but only barely – and if Dirco gets its way even this tenuous relationship will be terminated in the next few days. South Africa, finally, has had enough of Rwanda doing its dirty business on South African soil and has expelled three diplomats, with the ambassador to follow shortly. It’s a bold move, but have we thought it through? By SIMON ALLISON.
Relations between South Africa and Rwanda are at an all-time low after South Africa expelled three Rwandan diplomats on Thursday. And relations are about to get even worse.
South Africa, understandably, has had enough of Rwanda doing its dirty business on South African soil. First there was the assassination attempt on the life of Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, the former Rwandan general turned vocal critic of President Paul Kagame’s regime, in 2010. Then, earlier this year, there was the murder in a Sandton hotel room of Patrick Karegeya, the one-time head of Rwandan intelligence, who had fled his country looking for political asylum in South Africa.
After this murder, the Daily Maverick observed: “…with that regime’s track record, and South Africa’s undeniable appeal for Rwandan dissidents and exiles, Karegeya’s murder will not be the last such incident to happen within our borders.”
It wasn’t. The final straw came last week, when armed men broke in Nyamwasa’s Johannesburg home in another apparent assassination attempt (Nyamwasa was not home). This time was different, however. Previously, South Africa has not been able to link definitively the Rwandan government to the incidents, which means no public action could be taken against Rwanda – innocent until proven guilty, and all that.
But last week someone must have messed up. According to diplomatic sources, South Africa’s security forces were able to tie the break-in to three Rwandan diplomats working from their embassy in Pretoria (one Burundian diplomat was also involved, apparently).
The department of international relations (Dirco) wasted no time in taking action, revoking the dodgy diplomats’ credentials and sending them packing. Given their diplomatic immunity, this was the most serious punishment available to Dirco. Given that there were only four diplomats in the Rwandan embassy to start with, Ambassador Victor Karega must be feeling a little lonely.
Rwanda was just as quick to respond, with interest. “We have expelled six South African diplomats in reciprocity and concern at South Africa's harbouring of dissidents responsible for terrorist attacks in Rwanda,” said Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, parroting Rwanda’s official line that South Africa, with its ultra-progressive approach to refugees, provides a safe haven to Rwandan terrorists and genocidaires.
Mushikiwabo may have a point (although not one that justifies extrajudicial, extraterritorial assassination): Neither Nyamwasa or Karega are angels, and are both themselves implicated in the abuses of Kagame’s regime; while there has long been concern that perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide are hiding out among the Rwandan exile community in Johannesburg.
The row will escalate even further. Speaking anonymously, a senior Dirco official told the Daily Maverick that South Africa was planning to sever all diplomatic ties with Rwanda within 72 hours. “SA will not stand by and watch people be killed on our soil by another government, just because we happen to be opposed to a sitting regime,” the official said, adding that the freeze in relations is likely to continue for as long as the “cowboy” Kagame remains in office.
That could be for quite some time. Kagame’s term expires in 2017, and he’s not constitutionally permitted to run again. However, constitutions can be amended, and Kagame has previously floated the idea of a third term.
The rift between Rwanda and South Africa is likely to have implications far beyond their bilateral relationship. As part of the East African Community, Rwanda maintains very close ties with Kenya and Uganda. If sides must be taken – and it certainly looks like that is what South Africa is angling for – both countries would certainly favour their regional neighbour. Kenya wouldn’t need much convincing, anyway, with the current Kenyan administration already unhappy about South Africa’s stubborn commitment to the International Criminal Court (unsurprising, given that it is led by two men on trial at The Hague),
Of more immediate concern is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where South African troops are part of a United Nations force fighting rebels in the eastern provinces on the border with Rwanda. Those rebels are generally assumed to be supported by Rwanda, making the conflict something of a proxy war. At the moment, the rebels are very much on the back foot, having been overwhelmed by the UN force’s superior military power. The next step is to create some kind of lasting peace, addressing the issues which lie at the root of the conflict – an already difficult task, made exponentially more so if two of the protagonists in the conflict are no longer on speaking terms.
In expelling the three Rwandan diplomats, South Africa has taken a firm, principled stand against an outrageous violation of its sovereignty. But our diplomats must be wary: although they are currently enjoying the moral superiority, this situation could reverberate in uncertain and almost certainly unpleasant ways. Making Kagame an outlaw, and Rwanda a pariah state, risks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. DM
South Africa, Rwanda expel diplomats in row over Rwandan exiles
By Pascal Fletcher and Helen Nyambura-Mwaura March 8, 2014 2:52 AM
By Pascal Fletcher and Helen Nyambura-Mwaura
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa expelled three Rwandan diplomats it linked to a raid on an exiled Rwandan general's Johannesburg home, and Rwanda has retaliated by ordering out six South African envoys, officials said on Friday.
The row strained ties between two African states involved in efforts to bring peace to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where South Africa has troops in a U.N. brigade that fought last year against rebels whom U.N. experts said received support from Rwanda. Kigali denied backing the Congolese rebels.
Late on Monday, armed men broke into the Johannesburg home of former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, an exiled critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Nyamwasa, who survived an assassination attempt in Johannesburg in 2010, was not in the house at the time.
A diplomatic source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters that South African security services had tracked the attackers. "It was very clear that they were intelligence personnel attached to the Rwandan embassy," the source added.
Three diplomats from the Rwandan mission in Pretoria were ordered out of the country in 48 hours this week. Kigali's tit-for-tat expulsions followed on Friday.
"We have expelled six S. African diplomats in reciprocity & concern at SA harbouring of dissidents responsible for terrorist attacks in Rwanda," Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a comment on her Twitter account.
South African police have also been investigating the New Year's Eve murder in a posh Johannesburg hotel of another exiled Kagame opponent, former Rwandan spy chief Patrick Karegeya.
Exiled Rwandan opposition members have accused Kagame and his government of being responsible for Karegeya's death and for attacks on Nyamwasa and other overseas-based critics.
They deny Kigali's charges that they are behind "terrorist" attacks in Rwanda.
Kagame and senior Rwandan officials have denied any involvement in the attacks on exiled opponents, but have called them traitors who should not expect forgiveness or pity.
Brian Dube, spokesman for South Africa's State Security Agency, would not comment on the expulsions but confirmed the country's security services had been looking into the attacks against the exiled Rwandans.
The United States in January expressed concern over what it called "politically motivated murders of prominent Rwandan exiles".
David Batenga, a nephew of the slain Rwandan spy chief Karegeya, called for the closure of the Rwandan embassy in South Africa.
"It's not an embassy, it's an operation centre for planning missions to kill innocent civilians," he told Reuters.
Etienne Mutabazi, deputy chairman in South Africa of the opposition Rwanda National Congress, of which Karegeya and Nyamwasa were founding members, said the expulsion of the Rwandan diplomats was "long overdue" and called their activities "criminal".
"Diplomats are here to represent their country, they have immunity, but they should not abuse that immunity," he said.
In January, Kagame, who has won Western praise for rebuilding Rwanda after the 1994 genocide there, defended his nat
ion's right to self-defence against those who "betray" it.
"We didn't do it, but my question is - shouldn't we have done it?" Kagame said at a January 12 prayer breakfast, clearly referring to Karegeya's death but without naming him.
"No one will betray Rwanda and get away with it. Regardless of who you are, there will be consequences," Kagame said.
Karegeya fled to South Africa in 2007 after allegedly plotting a coup against Kagame with Nyamwasa.