Rwandan President Paul Kagame said on Monday that the number of “fugitives” based in South Africa had significantly decreased over the years.
“I can tell you that there are very few people now in South Africa who we want extradited back here to be part of the healing and reconciliation process. It is not a secret. South Africa has been notified about the presence of these people within its borders,” he said.
Kagame was speaking a day after the country commemorated the 25th anniversary of a genocide that killed almost a million Tutsis. He acknowledged that diplomatic relations with Pretoria were not at their best right now, but refused to blame this on the presence of those wanted in Kigali.
He said political differences were at the centre of the tensions.
“Rwanda and South Africa’s relations could certainly be better, and I believe that with time we will find each other. The problem is politics. It requires that we talk and understand each other,” he said.
Although playing down the tension, ordinary citizens appear to have become collateral damage in the squabble.
One Rwandan journalist said he recently missed out on a media course in Joburg after failing to get a visa.
“It is so difficult to get a South African visa if you are from here. I don’t know why South Africa does not want to give us visas,” said the journalist, who refused to be named.
Kagame acknowledged that he was aware of the problems Rwandans faced when they applied for a South African visa.
“The question of visas recently came up and has been raised with the South African president. He has promised to resolve it, and I believe that will be done,” said Kagame.
The Rwandan president said the issue with South Africa was not a lost cause.
“There will come a time when we can relate well. I am hopeful that that time will come soon. In fact, these problems are not known by ordinary people here or in South Africa.
“Take a walk in the streets of Kigali or Joburg, people will tell you these countries do not have a problem with each other.”
Addressing about 50 international journalists, Kagame again repeated that his country had been in a fragile state since the bloody genocide 25 years ago.
“The threats against our stability are not new but have been with us for the past 25 years. The only difference is that our enemies must know that we are now better prepared to deal with them,” he said.
Although not naming any country, just last month, Rwanda accused its neighbour Uganda of harbouring its dissidents.
Uganda immediately hit back and claimed Rwanda has planted spies in its security structures.
Online website African Arguments (AA) recently captured a war of words between Kagame and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
“You can attempt to destabilise our country, you can do us harm, you can shoot me with a gun and kill me. But there is one thing that is impossible. No one can bring me to my knees,” AA quotes Kagame as saying.
It says Museveni fired back saying: “Those who want to destabilise our country do not know our capacity. It is very big. Once we mobilise, you can’t survive.”
There was hope for a peaceful resolution on Sunday when Uganda’s foreign minister attended the 25-year anniversary of the commemoration of the genocide against Tutsis.