CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South Africa delivered a diplomatic slap to Rwanda on Wednesday, saying it would not tolerate attacks on its soil against exiled Rwandan opposition members, actions which Pretoria has linked to expelled diplomats from Rwanda’s embassy.
Rwanda’s ambassador said Pretoria had shown no proof of Kigali’s involvement in the attacks.
Three Rwandan diplomats and a diplomat from Burundi were ordered out by Pretoria last week after South African security services linked them to a raid by gunmen against the Johannesburg home of an exiled Rwandan general and critic of President Paul Kagame.
In retaliation, the Rwandan government expelled six South African diplomats, accusing Pretoria of sheltering individuals whom it linked to “terrorist acts” in Rwanda.
“As the South African government, we want to send a very stern warning to anybody, anywhere in the world, that our country will not be used as a springboard to do illegal activities,” Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told a news briefing.
He said South Africa had evidence that the expelled diplomats had violated their diplomatic status by being associated with “illegal activities that have taken place where there were attempted murders, including a murder”.
Rwandan High Commissioner to Pretoria, Vincent Karega, speaking from Kigali, said Rwanda had been presented with no evidence linking its personnel to the attack. “If there is any proof of Rwanda doing such a thing, we can react, but as far as we are concerned we haven’t seen any proof.”
The row has strained ties between two African states involved in efforts to bring peace to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where South Africa has troops in a U.N. brigade that fought last year against rebels whom U.N. experts said received support from Rwanda.
Kigali denied backing the Congolese rebels.
Additional reporting by Ed Cropley in Johannesburg; Writing by Pascal Fletcher