By David Himbara
Rwanda’s General Paul Kagame gave a revealing interview to South Africa’s newspaper, The Star. The newspaper shared its conversation with Kagame in an article titled ”SA and Rwanda in dirty fallout”, published on March 18, 2019. The Star cites Kagame warning South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa of dire consequences if he does not normalize relations with Rwanda:
”Rwandan President Paul Kagame has thrown down the gauntlet on South Africa and warned that if Pretoria does not rein in its top officials to mend relations between the two counties, there is a risk of a further fallout that could also cause political instability in the Great Lakes region.”
The Star further says that Kagame blames South Africa and Uganda for regional instability because the two countries are linked to Kagame’s political foes exiled in South Africa. In other words, Rwanda’s troubles hail from South Africa and Uganda.
Regarding the normalization of relations between Rwanda and South Africa, Kagame cannot grasp why Ramaphosa is cooperative while the rest of his government is not. As explained by The Star:
“A frustrated Kagame said although he seemed to enjoy cordial relations with President Cyril Ramaphosa, it appeared that top South African officials were using their control and influence in government systems to block efforts to fix the broken relations between the two countries.”
Kagame is especially upset by the inability of Rwandans to get South African visas in Kigali, Rwanda. “We don’t deny South Africans visas to travel to our country, but the reverse to South Africa is not the same,” Kagame told The Star. Here, Kagame has conveniently forgotten that at the centre of what The Star calls ”the dirty diplomatic tussle” are three issues — (1) the 2013 murder of the former Rwandan intelligence chief, Patrick Karegeya, in South Africa; (2) South Africa’s expulsion of Rwandan diplomats and Kagame’s expulsion of six South African diplomats in a tit-for-tat standoff; and (3) the ongoing South African judiciary inquest into Karegeya’s murder in Johannesburg.
Evidently, Kagame imagines that other governments operate as his own dictatorship in which he determines everything. The Rwandan ruler imagines that Ramaphosa can singlehandedly normalize relations with Rwanda. Kagame does not seem to realize that that South Africa is a country of laws and institutions that are not controlled by the head of state. Crucially, Kagame forgets that he is the one who in 2014 expelled six South African diplomats thereby shooting himself. It was not South Africa that closed its visa office in Rwanda. Kagame did.