Kagame and Ramaphosa sought to accelerate normalization of their relations. Two and half months later, South African authorities declined to prosecute Karegeya assassins. Was this a mere coincidence?

Ramaphosa, Kagame and their foreign ministers in Kigali, Rwanda, March 20, 2018.

By David Himbara

On March 20, 2018, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced during his visit to Rwanda that he and his Rwandan counterpart, General Paul Kagame, were going to urgently normalize their relations. The diplomatic relations had collapsed in 2014 after a series of attempts to murder Kayumba Nyamwasa and Patrick Karegeya’s assassination on the New Year’s Eve of 2013. In Kigali, Rwanda, Ramaphosa reassured Rwandans that they should consider “Rwanda-South Africa issue as a matter resolved.” Ramaphosa added:

“President Kagame and I have decided to put the relations between Rwanda and South Africa on a much better footing…The challenges we have had are going to be resolved…and we have two outstanding ministers of international relations who are going to work on this immediately, bring us solutions…President Kagame and I are going to solve and just sign off what the two ministers are going to put on the table.”

Then, on June 5, 2018, the South African prosecution office sought to terminate the trial of Karegeya assassins because “close links exist between the suspects and the current Rwandan government.” The prosecutor provided more details on why he was abandoning the Karegeya case as follows:

“i. After careful consideration of the available evidence, I decline at this stage, to prosecute in this matter. ii. It appears that all the Rwandan suspects left the country in 2014 and returned to Rwanda. Furthermore close links exist between the suspects and the current Rwandan government.”

Was Ramaphosa’s determination to normalize relationships with Kagame two and half months earlier and the abandonment of the prosecution of Karegeya killers a mere coincidence? Or was the abandonment of prosecuting the Karegeya killers due to political interference necessitated by the Kagame-Ramaphosa determination to normalize relations no matter what? Either way, the independence of South Africa’s justice system has prevailed. The court is demanding the trial of the Karegeya killers — as opposed to holding a mere inquest.