LITIGATION by a consortium of human rights groups to overturn the asylum status of an alleged fugitive from justice, Rwandan Lt- Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, was yesterday described as “absurd” by a close ally.
Johannesburg-based Southern African Litigation Centre and the Consortium of Refugees and Migrants Rights SA last week filed papers in the high court to overturn a decision by the Department of Home Affairs granting refugee status to Lt-Gen Nyamwasa.
In January Lt-Gen Nyamwasa was sentenced to life imprisonment by Rwanda’s military court on charges of terrorism.
Last year he was granted asylum in SA despite claims that he was a war criminal. The decision outraged human rights groups, which argued he played an active role in events that led to the genocide in Rwanda 17 years ago.
Rwanda, Spain and France have issued warrants for his arrest to stand trial on these and other charges. The case is also believed to have tested relations between SA and Rwanda which are said to be frosty. Officials in Kigali have accused Lt-Gen Nyamwasa of spying for the South African government. In 2009, the general survived a failed assassination attempt by suspected foreign intelligence operatives.
Lt-Gen Nyamwasa’s close ally and Rwanda’s former chief of external security, who also lives in SA, yesterday defended his refugee status.
“Just saw it (the court application), it’s rather absurd as they are dealing with a situation they have no clue about. He (Lt-Gen Nyamwasa) will certainly fight it,” Col Patrick Karegeya said.
Col Karegeya is also wanted in Rwanda for allegedly committing various crimes including corruption and money laundering.
The Presidency and the departments of home affairs, justice and international relations were cited as respondents to the court application.
“We had hoped the South African authorities would act … without involving the courts but they have so far failed to accede to our demand,” Alan Wallis, a lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, said yesterday.
Department of Justice spokesman Tlali Tlali said SA had yet to decide on the extradition application by the three countries.
Department of International Relations spokesman Clayson Monyela said consultations were still under way with SA’s envoy to Rwanda, Dumisani Gwadiso, who was recalled from his position 10 months ago.