South Africa Sends ‘Stern’ Warning After Rwandans Expelled

South Africa issued a “stern warning” that it won’t tolerate violence after expelling several diplomats from Rwanda for alleged illegal acts following the murder and attempted murder of opponents of the East African nation’s government.

The Rwandan officials and one Burundian diplomat have been declared “persona non grata,” Justice Minister Jeff Radebe told reporters in Cape Town today, providing the first official comments from the government since the standoff began last week.

“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,” he said.

South Africa asked the Rwandan officials to leave the country on March 7, three days after an attempt was made to kill exiled former Rwandan army General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa in Johannesburg. On Jan. 1, Rwanda’s former head of intelligence, Patrick Karegeya, 53, was found dead on a bed in a hotel room in Johannesburg’s affluent Sandton area.

Vincent Karega, Rwanda’s high commissioner to South Africa, said he’s unable to respond to Radebe’s comments when called on his mobile phone today. Karega was one of the diplomats expelled by South Africa, Johannesburg-based EyeWitnessNews reported on March 7.

Rwanda responded last week by ejecting six South African diplomats. Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo accused South Africa of harboring dissidents responsible for terrorist attacks in Rwanda.

Good diplomatic relations are “better served by South Africa addressing illegal activities of protected Rwandan fugitives on their soil,” she said on Twitter. “South Africa expelling law-abiding Rwandan diplomats was simply wrong and Rwanda has every right to reciprocate.”

South Africa is maintaining diplomatic relations with Rwanda, Radebe said.

Burundi Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabriel Kabuto said today the government doesn’t plan to take reciprocal measures to expel South African diplomats and is seeking to maintain good relations with the continent’s biggest economy.

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