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South Africa recalls ambassador to Rwanda

By David McKenzie, CNN
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, here in a file photograph: Relations between South Africa and Rwanda are frosty.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, here in a file photograph: Relations between South Africa and Rwanda are frosty.
  • NEW: Amnesty International is urging Rwanda to hold a fair and free election
  • Diplomatic fallout began after President Paul Kagame's rival was shot in Johannesburg
  • Rwandan authorities have questioned South Africa's ambassador about the incident
  • South Africa: The envoy's recall does not mean an end to diplomatic ties
  • Rwanda
  • Paul Kagame
  • South Africa

(CNN) -- The South African government has recalled its ambassador to Rwanda as diplomatic fallout over a suspected assassination attempt in Johannesburg continues.

"We have recalled the ambassador for consultations," said Saul Kgomotso Molobi, South Africa's chief director for public diplomacy. "But this does not translate into the cutting off of diplomatic ties."

Relations between Kigali and Pretoria have been frosty since Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a critic and rival to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was shot and wounded in Johannesburg in June.

Molobi said Ambassador Gladstone Dumisani Gwadiso was questioned by Rwandan authorities on South Africa's handling of the incident. The ambassador has been recalled to discuss those meetings, Molobi said.

"There have been issues raised by the Rwandan government, some of which relate to the shooting of General Nyamwasa," Molobi said. "We will meet with our ambassador and then we will decide what course to take."

Rwanda has been tense leading up to its general election planned for Monday.

A leader of the opposition Democratic Green Party was found dead near Butare, Rwanda, in July, his head almost severed from his body. The president of the party, Frank Habineza, told CNN that Andre Rwisereka had been receiving death threats since early this year.

"We are very threatened as a party and as individuals," he said.

Journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage was shot dead on June 24 outside his home in Kigali. Amnesty International said Rugambage had been investigating the Nyamwasa's shooting and on the day he died, the tabloid Umuvugizi published a story alleging that Rwandan intelligence officials were linked to Nyamwasa's shooting.

Kagame has been praised for fostering growth and guiding his country to peace after the 1994 genocide there, but he has been criticized by human rights and press freedom groups for silencing dissent.

The Rwandan government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the incidents in Rwanda and South Africa.

Amnesty, a global human rights group, has condemned attacks on politicians and journalists, which it said has inhibited freedom of expression. Amnesty has urged the Rwandan government to ensure that polling is fair and free.

"In recent months killings, arrests and the closure of newspapers and broadcasters has reinforced a climate of fear," said a statement from Amnesty's Africa Programme Deputy Director Tawanda Hondora.

"The Rwandan government must ensure that investigations into the killings are thorough and reinstate closed media outlets."

Agnes Nkusi Uwimana, the editor of the Urubayo newspaper, was arrested in July and charged with "genocide ideology," according to Amnesty. Other journalists have fled the country and as many as 30 media outlets have been banned, Amnesty said.

"No country should be a silent witness to pre-electoral repression," Hondora said. "Speaking out about violations is the best way to ensure that the next Rwandan administration respects human rights."

Kagame is widely expected to be re-elected for a second seven-year term.

Journalist Lillian Leposo contributed to this report