South Africa - stern warning to Rwanda

2014-03-12 17:02
Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa (Themba Hadebe, AP)

Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa (Themba Hadebe, AP)

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Johannesburg - South Africa on 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.

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.

A group of armed men raided the Johannesburg house of ex-army general Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa last week "looking for him", according to the opposition Rwanda National Congress.

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 Johannesburg luxury hotel on New Year's Day.

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 admitted there "are very big problems" that need to be ironed out between the two countries.

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 where he is taking his annual leave.

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

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 point of bitter dispute between the two countries.

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