By Barry Claasen
The Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein has granted an order that withdraws the refugee status of a former Rwandan Army Chief of Staff, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa. He will now have to make a fresh application for refugee status in South Africa.
An agreement was reached in the Appeal Court on Wednesday between the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants (CORMSA) and the Litigation Centre as appellants and the Department of Home Affairs as respondent.
The matter was taken to the Appeal Court by the NGO CORMSA who argued that Nyamwasa’s refugee status be withdrawn and reviewed because of claims that he was a party to war crimes.
He should therefore not be granted refugee status as suspected perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity were ineligible.
Nyamwasa fled to South Africa in 2010. He survived an assassination attempt in South Africa.
He was accused of committing war crimes in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The High Court in Pretoria dismissed CORMSA’s application to set aside the South African government’s 2010 decision to grant him refugee status.
Before Justice Azhar Cachalia read out the court’s order, the parties present in court first deliberated for about an hour. Below is the order read out by Justice Azhar Cachalia:
“The decision taken in June 2010 by the ninth respondent to grant Kayumba Nyamwasa refugee status in term of the refugees act is reviewed and set aside.”
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keiog of the Centre of Litigation welcomed the development:
“This matter was brought to protect the integrity of the refugees system in South Africa. It’s important for the refugee system to be there to protect vulnerable individuals and persons fleeing persecution and anybody who is suspected of having committed a war crime should not be offered protection within the system and this is the reason why CORMSA and Southern Africa Litigation centre (SALC) and the Wits Law clinic brought the matter originally.”
The family of Nyamwasa is upset about the allegations and plans to sue. His brother-in-law, Frank Ntwali Nyamwasa attended the court proceedings and had this to say:
“We are going to sue Kaajal in her personal capacity for defamation. She keeps calling the general a war criminal. She will have her day in court where she will have to substantiate her allegations.”
Nyamwasa now has to re-apply for refugee status.
This means the legal process on whether he remains in South Africa or is declared persona-non-grata will restart.
His family also believes that the attempts on his life in the past have been politically motivated.