Zuma explains why Rwanda officers won’t return
By Emmanuel Gyezaho & Risdel Kasasira (email the author)Posted Sunday, March 28 2010 at 00:00
Rwanda’s hopes of having two dissident army generals currently in self-imposed exile extradited from South Africa to face trial appear to have taken a fatal blow after President Jacob Zuma said his country is obliged to follow international laws on asylum.
South Africa’s President Zuma confirmed to reporters at the end of his two-day state visit to Uganda on Friday that his country had granted asylum to Col. Patrick Karegeya, former director of Rwanda’s external intelligence office, and temporary asylum to Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamaswa, an envoy to India.
The comments came in the wake of reports in Kigali that another top army officer had been put under house arrest over coup plot claims, allegations which the Rwandan government dismissed as hearsay. Rwanda Defence Forces spokesman Maj. Jill Rutaremara dismissed reports that Land Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Charles Kayonga had been arrested in a failed coup attempt on Wednesday.
Responding to a reporter’s question over whether South Africa would execute arrest warrants for the two exiled army officers, who Rwanda accuses of subversion, President Zuma said: “Certainly, we are going to be guided by what governs the world in regards to refugee status.” “I don’t think we can do anything outside of that,” said Mr Zuma, who admitted, however, that South Africa had not considered the issue of the two exiled officers in light of the arrest warrants. “Once the matter is formally raised, am sure we shall consider it and arrive at the appropriate conclusion,” he said.
International law protects individuals who have been granted asylum and considers that a state has no obligation to surrender an alleged criminal to a foreign state because to be granted sanctuary indicates that the state granting asylum regards the individual as being illegally persecuted by the country they fled from. It appears a complicated matter for officials in Kigali especially in light of the absence of an extradition treaty between Rwanda and South Africa.
Lt. Gen. Nyamaswa escaped from Kigali on February 27 and transited through Kampala to Malaba border post before he fled to South Africa, a development that fuelled accusations that Uganda had aided his escape. Kampala and Kigali have had frosty relations characterised by accusations and counter accusations of both countries aiding each other’s dissidents.