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Rwanda-South Africa Relations, Hot Potato For Dr. Pandor

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From repeatedly recalling their ambassadors to nearly severing diplomatic ties, South Africa and Rwanda relations could be among the most unpredictable on the continent.

Diplomacy between the two countries collapsed when Dr. Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor was South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, a pivotal docket in the ever collapsing relations between the two nations.

She is now back as new Foreign Affairs Minister at a time when relations are once again thorny, moreover under the same unresolved issues that would have been fixed long ago by her while under Home Affairs.

It is always Rwanda’s hope that for every change of guard at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Pretoria, translates into positive change in the relations between the two countries.

South Africa being the continent’s economic power house remains an important partner Rwanda would want to engage with, but the waters are not stable enough for this to happen.

The latest appointment of Dr. Grace Naledi Mandisa Pandor as South Africa’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, under the new resized government of President Cyril Ramaphosa, offers yet another complex puzzle for Rwanda.

Between 2012-2014 Dr. Pandor was Home Affairs Minister when the relations between Rwanda and South Africa were completely freezing following assassination attempts on Kayumba Nyamwasa, a Rwandan dissident.

As usual, some Rwandan politicians expressed, in a sarcastic manner, their feelings about the character of Dr. Pandor.

“Congratulations Minister Naledi Pandor! Let’s make our relations great again!” said Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe shortly after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new foreign affairs Minister.

Minister Nduhungirehe’s comment is cordial in text and diplomatic, but the reservations are deeply engraved in it.

Dr. Pandor’s position on matters with Rwanda is known, and there is no evidence of change.

Her selection for this docket therefore may not change much in the thorny and bumpy relations between her country and Rwanda.

For example, she has reservations about Rwanda invoking the UN Refugees cessation clause- this has since been another thorn in the relations.

During her tenure as Home Affairs Minister, Pandor said that her government would first conduct its own investigation into existing conditions in Rwanda and consult extensively with the local Rwandan community before making a decision on invoking the cessation clause.

Her office considered listening to Rwandan refugees’ concerns and fears of being returned to Rwanda, and sharing with refugees the government of South Africa’s position around the cessation clause, which it said clearly required to first articulate the reasons for the clause being invoked.

Towards the end of her tenure as Home Affairs Minister in 2014, it is when much of the relations between the two countries collapsed based on recommendations from her ministry, leading to the expulsion of several Rwandan diplomats by Pretoria.

She has been given a principle post at a time South Africa has revived trial inquest into the 2013 murder of Colonel Patrick Karegeya.

The inquest five years since it had stalled is considered a plot to disrupt efforts to repair relations between the two countries.

Rwanda is also concerned by the inability of Rwandans to get South African visas in Kigali, Rwanda.

It is yet to be determined under the new management of Dr. Pandor whether this Visa issue will be addressed in a different manner.

“We don’t deny South Africans visas to travel to our country, but the reverse to South Africa is not the same,” President Paul Kagame said in previous engagements with journalists.

President Ramaphosa in March 2018 said that the problem of Rwandans being denied visas to South Africa would soon become history after holding talks with President Kagame. This is yet to be realized.

Despite reappointing diplomats, South Africa is yet to appoint a visa official to Kigali, meaning that Rwandans still cannot get visas to South Africa.

It is still early to assess how Dr. Pandor will navigate the current concerns by Rwanda about South Africa hosting the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) led by Kayumba Nyamwasa – a terrorist group that has an objective of overthrowing government in Kigali.

This RNC and FDLR issue has been at the centre of failing relations between Rwanda and Uganda – basically according to Rwanda, the current problems are born in South Africa, exported to next door Uganda from where they would extend their tentacles into Rwanda to destabilize peace and security.

Dr. Pandor has a big assignment in leading the reconstruction of ties between the two countries building on several demands that Rwanda has in the last few months communicated to her government.

For example last year, during the the Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Kigali, President Kagame and his South African counterpart President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered Foreign Affairs Ministers to work on normalization of relations between the two countries.

Rwanda is concerned about South Africa accepting distortions propagated by Rwandan detractors based in South Africa, and media platforms associated with them.

Dr Pandor has previosuly served in the south African Government as Minister of Education, Home Affairs and Now Foreign Affairs. She is a senior member of the ruling ANC party

About Dr Pandor

Born in 1953 Dr. Pandor is a strong mobiliser for the Ruling African National Congress Party and mostly honoured as comrade like most senior cadres of the party. She has served as cabinet minister since 2009 in different portfolios.

This new minister is a well-educated politician that acquired a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Education at the University of Pretoria (Tuks).

She holds a Master’s degree in Education policy and practice in multi-racial societies, and another in Linguistics from the applied linguistics perspective.

“I am a teacher by early training and am fascinated by education,” Pandor says, adding she chose education “because it is the discipline I have always had an interest in understanding further.”

Pandor is married to Sharif Joseph Pandor and has four children.

She converted to Islam after she met her husband while studying in Botswana, her in-laws gave her the Islamic name of Nadia. On her religious conversion Pandor said: “My parents said God is God”.

Editor’s note: This article was first published on May 30, 2019

Asia

Afghanistan: Stay Home, Female Kabul Government Workers Told

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The new Taliban mayor of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul has told female municipal employees to stay home unless their jobs cannot be filled by a man.

Hamdullah Nomany said the Taliban “found it necessary to stop women from working for a while”.

It is the latest restriction imposed on Afghanistan’s women by the country’s hard-line new Islamist government.

During their previous rule in the 1990s women were barred from education and the workplace.

After seizing the country last month following the withdrawal of US forces, the Taliban said women’s rights would be respected “within the framework of Islamic law”.

But the Taliban favour a strict interpretation of Islam’s legal system, Sharia law.

Since taking power working women have been told to stay at home until the security situation improves, and Taliban fighters have beaten women protesting against the all-male interim government.

The Islamist group appears to have shut down the women’s affairs ministry and replaced it with a department that once enforced strict religious doctrines.

And this weekend secondary schools reopened, but with only boys and male teachers allowed back into classrooms. The Taliban said it was working on reopening schools for girls.

According to the Kabul mayor about a third of the municipality’s 3,000 employees are women. He said some would carry on working.

“For example, women work in the women’s toilets in the city where men cannot go,” he said.

“But for the positions that others [men] can fill, we have told them [women] to stay at home until the situation is normalised. Their salaries will be paid,” he added.

On Sunday, there were small protests outside the women’s affairs ministry while another group of women held a press conference to demand their rights.

One of those protesting at the ministry said “we do not want this ministry to be removed. The removal of women [means] the removal of human beings.”

In a separate development, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said it had been unable to fulfil its duties since the Taliban’s takeover.

The organisation said in a statement that its buildings, vehicles and computers had all been taken over by the Taliban.

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Politics

Ruto Wants To Reconcile With President Uhuru

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Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has said that he wants to mend fences with his boss as the rift deepens between the two former allies.

However, it should be noted that last year, the two leaders also tried to fix their political differences mediated by the clergy but failed to make any headway.

The union between these two former political allies collapsed on July 22, 2019 following the arrest of Cabinet Secretary to the National Treasury Henry Rotich, who was accused of corruption.

Rotich, who pleaded not guilty, was released on bail the following day. He had been appointed by Kenyatta in 2013 at Ruto’s request.

The Ruto camp has never hidden its distrust for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), an outcome of the March 2018 peace pact between President Uhuru and Raila Odinga – his long-time opposition foe.

The initiative was symbolised by the famous public handshake between the two men – a moment now simply referred to as “The Handshake”.

Ruto’s supporters fear that the rapprochement signals Kenyatta’s plan to renege on a power-sharing and succession pact, under which he would back Ruto for president at the 2022 elections after serving two terms.

The BBI aims to amend the 2010 constitution – which established a presidential system – to create, among other things, a post of prime minister, two deputy prime ministers and a leader of the opposition and increase the number of seats in parliament.

According to President Uhuru, the constitutional review (BBI) is meant to mitigate the current “winner take all” system that has caused post-election conflicts throughout the country’s history.

On May 11, 2021 Parliament approved the bill, which was then to be put to a referendum.

But two days later, a Nairobi court ruled that the process was illegal, stating that such a constitutional review could not be initiated by the president.

With the collapse of the BBI, Ruto seems to have won the fight and thus seems to be ready to reconcile with Uhuru.

However, it remains to be judged by the forthcoming days whether the two will really reconcile. President Uhuru had earlier challenged his deputy to resign if he didn’t approve of the government achievements yet he serves in the same.

Although both President Kenyatta and Ruto have never explained exactly why their relationship fell apart, it is understood they previously exchanged bitter text messages. Some have been read by their allies.

“From the messages that I was shown, the differences between the two are personal and very deep. It will take a miracle for them to be ironed out,” one source said. His opinion was echoed by others.

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Politics

International Community Accused Of Regime Change Maneuvers In South Sudan

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South Sudanese Cabinet Affairs Minister has lambasted the international community, saying the country was lacking genuine friends but only those with the agenda of regime change.

Minister Martin Elia Lomuro (pictured above) pointed to reluctance by key members of the international community to fund the implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement.

“Who says there are friends, perhaps in the region but in the international community, let me put it white and blank, we do are friends? Those that you see are working otherwise. They are for regime change,” said Lomuro.

The minister who is under UN and U.S. sanctions was speaking during an occasion marking the third anniversary of the revitalized 2018 peace agreement on Saturday. The roundtable discussion was organized by UN-owned Radio Miraya.

The cabinet minister said the lack of international support hampered the implementation of the peace agreement particularly the costly security arrangements.

Following the signing of the peace agreement, the Troika countries requested transparency in the management of the oil income before supporting the implementation process.

Peacebuilding Minister Stephen Par Kuol who also participated in the discussion argued that key members of the international community had refused to fund the implementation process because they believe the leadership was “corrupt”. So, these countries have decided to let everything be shouldered by the government.

Kuol further said it was cheaper to fund the implementation of the peace agreement than the humanitarian assistance given by these sam countries on compassionate ground.

“We have tried this (regime change) when we were in the opposition, but it did not work. So, I told these diplomats during our engagement with them to help fund the agreement so that the refugees and internally displaced persons can return to their homes. Instead of working for regime change, I ask them to support this current (transitional) government of the revitalized peace agreement, not the regime”, explained Kuol.

James Solomon Okuk, a senior independent political analyst and a researcher who published a book about the revitalized peace agreement said the accord had fallen below 10 per cent in the implementation of key provisions, especially provisions relating to security arrangement.

(ST)

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