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Rwandan general is not a refugee and is using SA as a safe haven, centre says

THE Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA has petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal to challenge the refugee status SA granted to Rwandan general Kayumba Nyamwasa, who is wanted by France for war crimes.

Nyamwasa has been accused of committing war crimes in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while serving as a general in the Rwandan Patriotic Army, representatives of the Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC) said. The centre is assisting the migrants consortium in its court case.

In 2010, he fled Rwanda after he fell out of favour with Paul Kagame’s government, to which he had initially belonged. He was granted refugee status a couple of days after an attempt to assassinate him in Johannesburg.

France has requested that he be extradited over these crimes, according to the SALC. The general has been awarded refugee status by SA, despite the Refugees Act holding that suspects of war crimes are not eligible.

The High Court in Pretoria found that Nyamwasa was entitled to refugee status, and refused leave to appeal.

Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi said Nyamwasa fell "squarely within the vulnerable group" protected under the Refugees Act, adding that there was "no doubt" his opposition to the Kagame government made him a target of persecution.

The judge said the conviction of Nyamwasa made in his absence was later discredited.

She added that the International Criminal Court for Rwanda had charged and convicted the persons it identified as having been involved in crimes against humanity in Rwanda.

"In none of the indictments was (Nyamwasa) cited," said Mngqibisa-Thusi.

The consortium on Wednesday approached the Supreme Court of Appeal. "This case is of grave importance as the sanctity of the refugee system is at stake" said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, SALC’s executive director.


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