Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame was conspicuously absent from Jacob Zuma’s inauguration as South Africa’s president at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Zuma will be sworn in as state president for the second term.
Kagame attended Zuma’s inauguration in 2009 and former president Thabo Mbeki’s one in 2004, but relations between South Africa and Rwanda have turned sour under Zuma’s leadership.
Spokesperson for department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) Clayson Monyela said Kagame could not attend the inauguration because he is hosting a conference in his country.
“His deputy is here. He was invited, but is hosting a conference with Central African Republic and Gabon,” Monyela said. Rwanda had until May 23 been hosting the African Development Bank annual meetings in the capital Kigali.
Kagame then travelled to Libreville, Gabon, to attend the New York Forum Africa, to discuss Africa’s economic and business issues. South Africa however failed to mention Rwanda when government issued a list of countries it said would be represented at the level of head of state and government such as “president, prime minister or royalty”.
Earlier this year South Africa expelled three Rwandan diplomats after linking them to acts of threatening the lives of exiled Rwandans, the latest being an “attempted hit” on former Rwandan army chief Faustin Nyamwasa at his Johannesburg home. Rwanda responded by expelling six South African diplomats from Kigali.
In the good days Kagame attended inaugurations of South African presidents and in 2009 said in a media statement released by his office that Rwanda looked forward to “continued co-operation with South Africa and to strengthening the partnerships in education, health and capacity building, land management, police and defence”.
Also at Saturday’s inauguration, Zambia was represented by its vice-president Guy Scott, who last year famously said Zuma was like former apartheid leader FW de Klerk and that South Africans were “backward”. International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the countries attending the inauguration would celebrate with South Africa as the country marks 20 years of freedom and democracy.