The bilateral and diplomatic relations between Rwanda and S. Africa has been put for a long time despite the recent hiccups that saw diplomatic turbulence that is being handled through diplomacy and other possible means.The Rwanda ambassador to South Africa, H.E VINCENT KAREGA talks to IGIHE about the relationship between the two countries, the fugitives based in S. Africa and how Rwanda views their existence as well what the future holds. Excerpts.
Q: Can you briefly tell us the current relationship between Rwanda and Southern Africa countries?
A: Rwanda and all southern African countries enjoy cordial bilateral and multilateral relations through African Union and the forum called tripartite mechanism among SADC, EAC and COMESA and also ICGLR_SADC. Mutual exchange of officials and business visits occur among all of them on issues related to peace keeping in Africa, business, China Africa Summit, Interpol cooperation, individual companies visits and tourists and investors activities back and forth. However, between South Africa and Rwanda, relations encountered some turbulences related to the presence and activities of Rwandan dissidents called RNC.
Diplomats on both sides were recalled and bilateral activities reduced. A process of harmonization over the frosty relations is underway and we hope to see a full fledged normalization and definitely new heights leading to more investments and cooperation.
Despite all of that Rwanda coffee is sold in almost all South African coffee shops, some produce and garments from Rwanda are also being tried on the South African market. Rwandans have invested in housing and storage facilities, medical clinics in South Africa and some are lecturers in universities and professionals in various fields or ordinary migrant labour. We also have a community of university students in South Africa. South Africa investments in Rwanda are in Telecommunication and ICT, Cement plant, insurance, Consultancy, landscaping and real estates.
Rwandans in Botswana are professional medical doctors, traders and other professionals similar to Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, and Malawi. At the same time in Southern Africa we have few Rwandans who are asylum seekers and very hostile to Rwanda preaching the genocidal ideology, providing support to FDLR and running a propaganda machinery that Kigali regime is hunting them using their fellow immigrants who keep ties with their motherland Rwanda as a strategy to sustain their case for asylum and destabilize members of Diaspora so that they fear to be identified with Rwanda government and join them for rebellion.
These groups are made up of culprits of genocide, their sympathizers and family members, misinformed youth born abroad in families preaching ethnic hatred. Together with them are the recent disgruntled RPF members including General Kayumba Nyamwasa and allies. He also reles on these pro FDLR members to run their propaganda and intimidation actions against others using lies and manipulation of domestic media and in some cases local officials hoping to build a solid base that can change regime in Kigali in their favor as a short cut to election they cannot dare participate in.
Amazingly most of their games lack proper backing and maturity to be able to challenge the landslide progress in Rwanda and the choices of over 90% of Rwandans. On a positive note, about 1000 former illegal immigrants some former RNC members have decided to return back to Rwanda in the last 3 years and few of them are back in this region for economic reasons but keep constructive relations with Rwanda.
Q: Recently Thirteen Rwandans who were living in Zambia were flown back home after losing property and their savings during Lusaka’s xenophobic attacks in April. What were the real issues?
A: The reason why 13 Rwandans immigrants were victims of xhenophobic attacks in Zambia are various. Elections fever coupled with rumours about witchcrafts and victimisation of foreigners not only Rwandans. Zambia hosts many refugees from Rwanda mostly those who resisted to return to Rwanda after the refuge Camps in former Zaire and actual DRC were dismantled. Some among them remain loyal to the genocide ideology of Habyarimana regime, some are direct or indirect culprits of genocide and others continue to positively reconnect with Rwanda and free themselves from false fear caused by FDLR propaganda and demonisation of Kigali government. Programmes like “Come and see, go and Tell”, online information and Rwanda online media are positively changing perceptions.
Back to the attacks, it is also important to note that they were not blessed by the Zambian Government; it regretted the incidents and restored order. However it is important to call upon Rwandans in petty trade in foreign countries to learn to put together their capital and brains so as to invest in big retail business , housing, agriculture, tourism selling Rwandan products abroad but also learn to joint venture with local people so as to avoid rising into Rwanda islands in foreign countries and be perceived to bring no value but take over subsistence business from the local poor. It is possible to act big as real investors if Rwandans abroad do away with ethnic and FDLR politics by embracing the current policies in Rwanda: We are Rwandans "Ndi umunyarwanda" and cooperative movements that boost petty traders into big and structured business.
Old politics in pubs and within Rwandan communities is one big thing that impede them from working together and trusting each other. Rwanda government is not anti refugees or people who in the past were so much associated with past regimes and genocide. Under reconciliation programmes, truth and forgiveness through Gacaca, the government of Rwanda has made thousands of culprits move on with life.
Over 11,000 FDLR members have been repatriated and reintegrated. Some ex-FAR soldiers and high level officers have, too, been reintegrated in the Rwandan Defense Forces and serving the nation with patriotism. More than 95% of all Rwandan refugees 1959, 1973 and new case load of 1990,1994 refugees and Gacaca fugitives have safely returned home and they are part of the Rwanda transformation and hope story of today.
Rwanda, more than many African countries, has seen its professionals quitting high jobs in America, Europe, Asia and other parts of Africa to contribute to new Rwanda Transformation in government jobs or private sector. Genocide cases have been handled diligently in courts like Mugesera and other extradited cases not guillotined as by FDLR propaganda.
And remember 37% of alleged genocide culprits in Gacaca were found innocent due to lack of substantive evidence. Rumours that any Hutu returning home either guilty or innocent will be charged with genocide case or killed on arrival is utter nonsense and contrary to Kagame’s Administration policy of unity, reconciliation and moving forward.
Q: In the recent past, some Rwandans accused of committing crimes, like Kayumba Nyamwasa and others have left their country for South Africa. Why do you think they consider that country as a safe haven?
A: The likes of Kayumba who committed crimes in Rwanda and packaged themselves as opposition under threat in South Africa just took advantage of a country which most of its current leaders were refugees, discriminated and pushed out because of their claims to have equal rights. Since they are in power they are very much committed to protect other political refugees under threat in their country using the Vienna convention plus their own human right charter.
Kayumba being protected in South Africa does not mean South Africa is a safe haven for criminals from other countries. The only unfortunate thing is him being taken as a political victim by his own story. Kayumba being a high ranking soldier and intelligence officer, senior diplomat during RPF struggle and during 16 years of RPF rule in Rwanda could not in any way hold these positions of trust from RPF and be at the same time a powerful critic of the same regime. Nobody ever asked him. Since when did he ever become a dissent voice in Rwanda or did he resign from RPF to stage up opposition and then being persecuted.
Where he is now he positioned himself as someone who at any occasion challenged RPF ideology and politics and nobody listened but RPF persecuted him and he had no other choice than saving his life by running.
But as a member of political bureau in Rwanda in the old days in 1995 to 1998 in RPF; and an official attending all policy retreats including self criticism ones, I have never heard Kayumba challenging anything he was known for being quiet behaving like a disciplined soldier letting politicians and technocrats debate. Even in military retreats his so called vocal criticisms are unknown; he was known instead for underground intrigues, nepotism, embezzlement, fast acquisition of land, houses, properties using his position, dividing officers to rule them and self aggrandizement in the most smooth and silent way.
The only time he spoke in the retreat it was during entertainment time when he highlighted his few encounters in India with Buffalo milk when he moved there as the Rwandan Ambassador.
The story the man sells out today of a tuff opponent to Kagame ill policies is just a joke to those who are in the know. Amazingly the Secretary General of his party Gihana Kennedy who also claims similar persecutions in seeking for Asylum is a former RPF foot soldier who was demobilized and illegally came to South Africa years before Kayumba.
He declared himself as a Burundian refugee, but, amazingly was in n search of greener pastures. All did not work well as he became homeless. Former Ambassador Colonel Karemera gave him the Rwanda Embassy boys quarter for shelter and temporary job as security guard at the Embassy out of pity. Kennedy registered for university with personal assistance from Rwanda Embassy Staff and diasopra good Samaritans such as Esperance Kagubare. When Kayumba came to South Africa he registered him in his newly created party in South Africa.
Today Kennedy also claims he escaped Rwanda persecution for his political opinions. Escaping persecution from Rwanda into a Rwandan Embassy is such an amazing story. But in media and Immigration in South African he is treated as a victim of political persecution in Rwanda according to his own affidavit.
Frank Ntwari brother in Law of Kayumba is another imposter as opposition figure abroad. Currently he is the coordinator of RNC Africa.
One may think they have thousands of members or so but you will be amazed that their biggest congress had never filled up a classroom. This young man was sent to South African on Rwanda Government Scholarship; he was too young living in Kayumba’s family as an adopted child to oppose the government Kayumba was working for. As a student, he was a regular visitor to the Embassy of Rwanda in Pretoria to collect his stipends and tuition fees. When Kayumba fled Rwanda just after one disciplinary interrogation on his wrong doings in the exercise of his duties as a senior cadre in the RPF secretariat, Franck Ntwari also declared himself as a persecuted politician for being a vocal activist against bad politics in Rwanda! Come on! Nobody on earth has ever heard or seen any audio or video of their political activism in Rwanda that led them to be persecuted. It is fiction, manipulation and frustrations.
Time is proving these imposters are liars completely disconnected politically with the people of Rwanda. Kagame’s administration is all inclusive, transformative, transparent and results-oriented. South Africa is their safe haven or not time is telling; though some circles and opinion leaders have bought in their story.
Q: The problem of Rwandan fugitives in South Africa has worsened relations between the two countries and led to expelling a number of diplomats on both sides. What are you trying to do and fix the situation?
South African visa ban to Rwandans since the diplomatic crisis in march 2014 is still on and the frustrations of Rwandans who have no political business but looking to attend to their friends, business partners, doctors and universities even regional and international events held in South Africa have been expressing their frustration and asking why Rwanda continues to give visas to South Africans.
As I said before the two countries at many occasions and at high levels have agreed to normalise relations and resolve this visa matter as well. When? Definitely when the South African Side decides to do so as it is all in their power and policy choices to open doors or close them to Rwandans.
On the Rwandan side we could not launch on one hand all Africa Visa as a policy on arrival minus South Africa then it will not make sense. We have interests in open visa policy. We cannot be influenced by a one bilateral ban. Instead we must deal with the causes of the ban and find solutions no matter how long it takes than impeding on our strategic policy.
Q: There have been rumors of plots and killings against Rwandans in Southern of Africa. Recently, Louis Baziga escaped the killing which was organized by his fellow Rwandans. And some years back, Theogene Turatsinze was found dead. What do you think are the reasons behind such tragedies?
Plots of Rwandans immigrants in Southern Africa of sabotaging or killing fellow immigrants do exist and cases have been identified mainly in Malawi and Mozambique and even Zambia and recently aborted attempts in Swaziland. Through blogs of Kayumba’s RNC and the remnants among refugees of FDLR flag bearers who are in close collaboration are targeting refugees who are successful in business and resist to join their negative forces.
They want to force adhesion to RNC/FDLR by force. They run a campaign around immigrants who are wealthy and visit Rwanda and invest there as spy and killer of RPF targeting FDLR/RNC members in Southern Africa and attribute their business success to financial grants by RPF in Rwanda. This propaganda creates insecurity among those suspects of genocide fearing to go back home and those dissidents fearing anything and anybody even though really nobody cares about their mere so called political agenda built on a tiny network of criminals and uneducated people.
Those with nothing to lose and living with fear to be caught by Rwanda government engage in killing plots and as soon as someone dies they run fast to media to say Rwanda government is killing people abroad. Remember in Maputo where Turatsinze Theogene was a successful business man and regular visitor to Kigali owning property in Rwanda and sitting on RDB board. After mysteriously killing him and dumping him in the sea RNC declared that Government of Rwanda killed him for disclosing secrets to IMF on mismanagement of BRD he managed for more than 3 years. How could he be visiting Rwanda and investing in Rwanda if he was the state enemy.
IMF and Rating agencies continue to rate Rwanda financial sector including BRD at High rate of B+ ; so what was the effect of so called Theogene spilling beans on BRD to IMF and being killed by Rwanda Government. A similar game took away the life of the Head of Rwanda Diaspora in Malawi also a regular visitor to Rwanda with no issue with government. When these desparate radicals kill them they immediately say Kigali did so, . The similar campaign in Europe RNC faking fiction in London for being targeted by death squads from Rwanda.
A very RNC agenda counting on Aid cut and ICC as a shortcut to power. Amazingly a similar scenario to Theogene case targeted Louis Baziga recently, a prominent business man in Maputo. He was called by a paid killer who ended up disclosing the plan and saving him. The major Rwandan culprit is in jail and facing the case. His other immigrants associates have disappeared from Mozambique when they learnt their friend is arrested and naming his collaborators.
According to the plot, after Louis’ planned death they were going to say Kigali Government killed him to steal his property in Rwanda. That is how cheap or hopeless this FDLR/RNC mafia works.
The good news is that from the failed plot on Louis death in Maputo, gave an insight about their evil. In my various messages to these immigrants I always call upon them to take advantage of hospitality from host countries, behave and respect local laws and culture and to focus on their businesses while making their country of origin proud and respected. I warned them that if they become the source of their own insecurity on foreign land, both the good and bad ones will be deported as unwanted immigrants. I told them several times that Rwanda is not a small state or a mafia state to send death squads to meaningless people in destitute situations.
All genocide perpetrators and other criminals can be better tracked through Interpol and bilateral relations with other countries not through civilian merchants spying on colleagues. But they prefer to follow the lies and propaganda of their RNC/FDLR masters. It is amazing to read their fictional stories on me the Ambassador going to places like Durban to organise and fund killers against refugees. They used my picture on a high table with a South African Minister during a Mandela day commemoration. So childish!
They as well used my picture at Cape Town airport near another passenger waiting for luggage on a conveyer belt and they said the guy near me was a killer I went to recruit. How can he be recruited in the luggage hall as a meeting point? Incredible politics! My message to Rwandan immigrants in Southern Africa is to be critical of the propaganda and be able to always find out the truth. We are in the era of information technology; always compare different sources of information and be progressive and forward looking.
Q: Rwandan fugitives in South Africa do not hide their intentions to the Government of Rwanda including attack to the country through their party, RNC. Do you know the position of South African government which is hosting them on their land? And what do you think is the RNC status in South Africa?
RNC stated in 2012 through the news paper City Press in Pretoria that they will carry out a coup in Rwanda supported by the world; a coup like the one on Kadhafi in Libya. The response from the South African government was a warning letter to them against making such pronouncements on a friendly state from South African soil.
Since then they changed the strategy and opened an online Radio called Itahuka. All the pronouncements they can’t up in open media are channeled through this itahuka online radio that they say is based in Washington but the majors runners are RNC fellows based in South Africa. The content is so week and hopeless that the so called Radio is a born dead like all other RNC strategies. South Africa also have an eye on their activities to ensure they are not harmful to Rwanda but it is a difficult task as they have their own country’s priorities and may not be able to assess the harm a kinyarwanda word or propaganda can do.
At the end of the day Rwanda does not expect so much from UN or other countries to help contain the poisonous RNC/FDLR ideology and war plans. Within its borders Rwandan resilience and capability to defend its territory are not doubted even by these so called" opposition "abroad. Their Status in South Africa is just like any other local media or NGO saying whatever they wish against whoever they want but the large section of researchers and investigative journalists, business intelligence people and many policy makers know where Rwanda comes from and where it is. They don’t take RNC views as a true source of information except in some few corners of less critical/analytical people.
Q: So let’s talk about Rwanda’s economic performance. Today Rwanda is a place that the business community considers as stable for investment.. On other hand, South Africa has a big economy in Africa. How can Rwanda benefit from their experience? Can we expect major business investments from South Africans to Rwanda in the near future?
I remain optimistic that the conducive business environment in Rwanda and the Pan-Africanist move towards a better and stronger Africa a value that both Rwanda and South Africa cherish will once again enhance business and cooperation. As Rwanda enters high end creative products, industrialisation, embark on profit yielding big projects such as airport, Olympic city, Silicon Valley, Special Economic free Zones, Energy, Water ,railway and real estate projects, South Africa is a market for Rwanda agriculture and art products, holiday and cultural products. Rwanda is a safe opportunity for industrialists ,financiers and property developers including engineering and other consultancy services. It is in our mutual interests to look into strategic ways of working together in a win-win fashion and for sure this is happening already.