PRETORIA - South African President Thabo Mbeki said last Friday that his government is committed to helping Rwanda in national unity and reconciliation.
Commenting on a question about Rwanda in 1994 and the failure to manage political violence on the continent Mbeki said: “we are guilty for doing nothing in Rwanda while the Genocide was taking place in 1994, by the time it the genocide) began in 1994, we were 21 days to our first multi racial election.”
In a speech to African religious leaders and heads of faith based organizations on the continent in Pretoria, Mbeki said though his country had not tried to stop the 1994 Genocide, South Africa had continued arms sales to Juvenal Habyarimana’s government even when the African National Congress (ANC), the party that currently governs the richest nation in Africa, protested such deals.
Speaking to the press on his arrival from attending the meeting with Mbeki, Sheik Saleh Habimana Rwanda’s Mufti and a Commissioner of the Interfaith based Actions for Peace, said Mbeki guaranteed the clerics that Zimbabwe would not erupt in violence and that the election crisis would soon be resolved.
Interfaith based Actions for peace is an organisation that advocates for establishing strong interfaith networks across the continent that will work together for peace on a permanent basis. Its Commissioners were sworn in by President Paul Kagame in June 2006 at Village Urugwiro in Kigali.
Religious leaders drawn from across Africa were meeting Mbeki in his capacity as the appointed chief mediator between Morgan Tsvangarai and Robert Mugabe in the ongoing efforts to bring stability to Zimbabwe. The March 29th elections have left the country in a fragile situation with fears of violence.
Mbeki added that the ANC which was in opposition in 1994, had protested South Africa’s arms and military deals with the government of juvenal Habyarimana but the South African government then under the leadership of Fredrick De Klerk had insisted that the sale of arms-which would be used in the mass murders of helpless civilians- was business as usual to the minority white administrators.
South Africa was one of the leading arms suppliers to Rwanda in 1994. Last month, a Chinese ship carrying military weapons to Zimbabwe was refused entry in South Africa.
Mbeki added that his government was helping Rwanda’s national unity and reconciliation programmes, however he added: “whatever we do through our embassy by supporting the national unity and reconciliation commission is not enough.” The South African government is among the partners of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission.
Mbeki is the special delegate of the SADC in Zimbabwe’s election debacle that has to this day not solved the puzzle of who between Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tvangarai won the elections.
The clerics are also set to have a meeting between Mugabe and Tvangarai in 10 days time in their continuing endeavours to find peaceful means to solving the election crisis in Zimbabwe to avoid a Kenya-like situation between supporters of both leaders.