Rwanda, South Africa set up team to restore relations

Monday July 12 2021

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda met on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Kigali on March 20, 2018. PHOTO | RWANDA PRESIDENCY


Diplomats and intelligence chiefs from Rwanda and South Africa held their first bilateral meeting in Kigali, a fortnight ago during which Foreign Affairs ministers of both countries set up a technical committee that is expected to come up with a roadmap to restore relations.

On June 6 and 7, a technical committee of top officials from both countries held a closed-door meeting in Kigali to iron out the long-standing differences, after which they are expected to produce and present a progress report to their respective Foreign ministers.

"The Rwanda-South Africa technical committee, established by the two ministers of foreign affairs a couple of weeks ago, has just concluded a productive two-day meeting in Kigali," Rwanda's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation tweeted last week.

There is no definite date set yet for the minister’s meeting. According to a source who attended the meeting — attended by ambassadors, immigration and intelligence chiefs — both countries had demands and expectations.

Top of its list of demands, Rwanda wants South Africa to reinstate visa services for ordinary Rwandans, which have been suspended since March 2014.

President Cyril Ramaphosa had in 2018 said that this issue would be resolved “quickly". Three years later, nothing has changed.


“President Ramaphosa made that statement when he was only a year into power, so there is a chance that he did not fully understand what the entire problem between Rwanda and South Africa was,’’ Matambo Kaunda, a political analyst and International affairs researcher at the University of Johannesburg told The EastAfrican.

Rwanda also wants assurance that Rwandans exiled in South Africa are banned from engaging in political and rebel activities against Rwanda, the source said.

Rwanda has previously accused the South African government of lack of will to prevent dissidents on its soil from engaging in political or armed activity.

This demand is supported by a United Nations report in 2019 which suggested that Kayumba Nyamwasa — a former ally of President Paul Kagame — was recruiting fighters for his rebel outfit called P5, as well as getting ammunition from Burundi, Uganda and DR Congo.

“This is actually the genesis of all the chaos between the two states. It appears as though South Africa has been taken hostage by Kayumba Nyamwasa who is a fugitive and founder of the terrorist group,” John Ruku-Rwabyoma, a Rwandan member of parliament, told The EastAfrican.