Rwanda, South Africa mending relations

Tuesday June 07 2016

Rwanda says diplomatic relations with South Africa are on course to fully normalise, but there are still few signs of the progress.

Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo on Tuesday while speaking to journalists said the two countries are working on increasing trade between Kigali and Pretoria.

“Normalisation is a process and includes a number of things. A number of commercial activities between the two countries are ongoing. We have very good trade and investment relations.

“Many South African companies are operating in Rwanda and RwandAir flies to Johannesburg daily. South African officials have been coming to (Rwanda) including a large delegation led by the (South Africa’s) deputy president which came for the World Economic Forum for Africa,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.

The two countries have experienced uneasy relations, which escalated in 2014, leading to the expulsion of diplomats from both Kigali and Pretoria over accusations that Rwanda had violated South Africa’s sovereignty.

Nearly a year ago, both countries agreed to restore relations which saw South Africa reappoint diplomats to its mission in Kigali but Rwanda is yet to reciprocate. However, the minister says the appointments would be announced soon.


“We will be staffing our mission in South Africa,” Ms Mushikiwabo said, adding that there is no question that the two countries are normalising ties.

She however noted that Rwanda awaits the reinstatement of visa services for ordinary Rwandans who seek to travel to South Africa.

Last month, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said bilateral ties with Rwanda were ‘cordial’ and that the two countries were working together to improve economic cooperation.

Mr Ramaphosa, who led a team of South African ministers and businesspeople to the World Economic Forum Africa held in Kigali, said that his country considers Rwanda an economic partner and was ready to address the outstanding visa issues.

Prior to the expulsion of diplomats by both countries, South Africa was one of Rwanda’s biggest trading partners and a common destination for Rwandan students and businesses but with no functional consular services, trade and travel between the two nations dwindled.

Rwanda maintains that Pretoria should stop giving protection to dissidents whom it accuses of engaging in subversive activities. South Africa on the other hand remains reluctant to expel the dissidents from the country.