Rwanda hits out at SA

2011-07-30 14:49

Rwandan justice minister Tharcisse Karugarama this week lashed out at the South African government for dragging its feet on the extradition of former Rwandan general Faustin Nyamwasa, after Nyamwasa was found guilty in Kigali in absentia for crimes of terrorism.

Karugarama said South Africa had allowed Nyamwasa to “have his asylum turn into a political platform against his own country”.

According to Karugarama, Rwanda’s experience of “forgiveness” since the genocide in 1994 would ensure that Nyamwasa would not have to fear for his life when he comes back.

In South Africa a court case is under way in which six men are accused of trying to kill Nyamwasa, who was shot outside his house in Atholl, Johannesburg.

There are allegations that prominent figures in the administration of Rwandan president Paul Kagame were involved in the alleged hit.

Karugarama also lamented the effect that Nyamwasa’s situation had had on the relations between South Africa and Rwanda.

Both countries withdrew their ambassadors last year and have not installed new ones.

“How can you compromise the relationship between two countries for one person,” Karugarama asked journalists in his ministerial office in Kigali.

“Nobody is so important that they can compromise the relationship between 60 million people,” he
said, referring to the combined population of South Africa and Rwanda.

Nyamwasa’s case, as well as that of jailed opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, was seen by observers as an example of the political space becoming smaller in Rwanda, where Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) had been in power since after the 1994 genocide.

When Ingabire, leader of the United Democratic Forces, a political party that wanted to unseat Kagame, arrived in Kigali in January last year, she was promptly put in jail on charges of funding terrorism and “pronouncing on genocide ideology”.

Ingabire visited a genocide memorial and publicly raised questions about why the memorial only focused on Hutu killings of Tutsis and not the other way around.

According to Karugama, Ingabire was “an obscure person who lived in the Netherlands”, and whose mother took part in the genocide.

“This is not the kind of alternative leadership you want.”

Anastase Shyaka, head of the Rwanda governance advisory council, said the opposition in Rwanda could not function properly because it was not “mature enough” to engage government effectively.

Only in 2006 did the laws change to allow opposition political parties to operate at local level.

Shyaka said this was necessary as the country was polarised after the 1994 genocide and the government did not want to fuel further polarisation.

“The opposition don’t have the maturity to look at issues and policies and engage government on it. Studies show that opposition parties are not vibrant enough because they are not mature and have structural shortcomings.”

Shyaka said opposition party leaders like Ingabire made statements that “created fear for both rulers and the communities”.

“How would we manage immature political party leaders who are incapable of regulating themselves?

“The opposition leaders don’t inspire hope, they inspire fear,” Shyaka said.

Despite these remarks, he claimed a multiparty state was still the ideal in Rwanda.

“I can’t agree with those saying multipartyism is a luxury Rwanda cannot afford, but if you have
no substance it is no use,” Shyaka said. 

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