Rwanda-SA ties: Kigali has the duty to promote its own interests

I’m sure the Rwanda government can do the same though painstakingly.


RE: “SA should lift travel restrictions on Rwandans” (The New Times, October 5). You have to read and inform yourself on the genesis of the problem, especially in the Rwandan case. That said, the Kenyan government has negotiated a bilateral agreement with South Africa to relax a lot of the oppressive visa rules for students, diplomats and frequent businessmen. The effort bore fruit.

I’m sure the Rwanda government can do the same though painstakingly.


Why bother? My point is not dependent on the why the South African government makes it hard for Rwandans to visit, do business or study in that country. The point I made and maintain is that there are numerous alternative sources for what we might want to acquire from South Africa. Rwanda, therefore, shouldn’t accept the role of supplicant in this matter; diplomatic relations are usually based on mutual gain and interests.

If the South African government wishes to downgrade our relationship to the lowest possible, preferring to hobnob with dissidents who have sworn to bring down our government, that is entirely Pretoria’s choice.

Kigali’s actions vis-à-vis the breadth, depth and extent of our bilateral relationship must be informed by Pretoria’s own choices regarding that relationship. Our own posture needs to generally mirror theirs, except when, in a specific instance, we judge our own interest requires that we do not have to reciprocate to avoid cutting off our nose to spite our face. In other words, the application of the usually zero-sum game (reciprocity) of diplomacy in our bilateral relationship with South Africa should be informed by how we see it as serving our interests, not by any kind of emotionalism.

Otherwise, putting our country in a supplicant’s role in order to try to appease Pretoria’s inflated sense of Big Brother importance on the African continent so that they might ease visa restrictions on would-be Rwandan travelers to that country does not strike me as one of those issues of such national import that we should derogate on the usual principles of interstate relations.

There really are so many satisfactory alternatives to South Africa in such areas as trade, education, health, and tourism that such an effort does not seem to be justified.

Mwene Kalinda


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