KIGALI, Rwanda[SHIFTMEDIA] For the first time since the deterioration and breakdown of relations between Uganda and Rwanda in August 2017, there are signs that Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s visits to Kigali are bearing fruits and that Rwanda’s concerns are finally being taken seriously. In turn, Rwanda has reciprocated on Uganda’s concerns to open the Gatuna border. Although there’s commendable progress, more work needs to be done to ensure that the two countries have made the turn.
On Rwanda’s side, its main concerns were as follows: 1) the free reign of Rwanda National Congress (RNC) operatives in Uganda as they mobilized to destabilize Rwanda 2) the harrasment, arrest and torture of Rwandans in Uganda 3) the sabotage of Rwandan trade passing through Uganda to Mombasa port.
Similarly important, hostile propaganda was used as a method for refusing to address these issues; it was meant to divert attention away from these concerns.
All that changed when General Muhoozi Kainerugaba entered the picture. A series of meetings with President Kagame must have convinced the latter that this time Uganda was serious about normalizing relations.
It was not just his visits to Kigali. Gen. Muhoozi’s words and deeds in relation to Rwanda’s concerns were further proof that this time things could be different.
Muhoozi openly told RNC operatives to find another place to go and that their activities would not be tolerated in Uganda going forward. He told Kayumba Nyamwasa to cease anti-Rwanda activities in Uganda. Not once, not twice: Here. And here. The tweets were not empty threats, either. They were followed by action, including the deportation of an RNC operative to Europe on April 2, 2022. The torture of innocent Rwandans ceased. Hostile propaganda greatly reduced although some blogs continue to operate. For instance, RPF Gakwerere blog remains active and continue with attacks against Rwanda’s leadership, although its lead author Obed Katureebe, an employee of the government of Uganda, has been detained.
Although this progress bodes well in efforts to fully normaize relations, there remains some pending issues to fix. Reports coming from Uganda suggest that many of the RNC operatives have simply gone underground and continue to clandestinely carryout their recruitment drives. They no longer do this in the open with the air of confidence of the full support and facilitatation of the state. Similarly, although Rwandans are no longer tortured, some roadblocks and check points in the country target Rwandans who are arrested, held in cells, and deported to Rwanda despite EAC protocols on free movement of people (Chapter 17, article 104 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community) as well as trilateral agreements (from the coalition of the willing) that provide for a national identity card as a sufficient document to move freely between the countries.
Gen Muhoozi himself said that he had uncovered “a terrible conspiracy amongst some in the security services [of Uganda] that wanted us to go to war with our brothers in Rwanda.” These saboteurs still do not want to see the relations between the two countries return to normal, according to Gen Muhoozi. He warned them and said he would deal with them decisively.
President Kagame must have been convinced that Muhoozi’s efforts were genuine and not lip service given the progress on Rwanda’s concerns. This might be the reason why he reciprocated Muhoozi’s efforts by ordering the opening of the Gatuna border that Uganda had identified as its main concern. His goodwill was also demonstrated in his visit to Kampala that was reported in the media as a visit to Muhoozi’s birthday party but involved bilateral meetings with President Museveni.
This was followed by a delegation of Rwanda’s military intelligence to Kampala led by Brigadier Gen Vincent Nyakarundi in a meeting that was chaired by General Muhoozi.
Therefore, one would have to be blind to say that there is no progress in the relations between Uganda and Rwanda. Nor would one say that we are out of the woods yet. But certainly the work that has been done is laudable and the people of the two countries have started to benefit from it and will benefit more as the pending issues also get addressed. As long as the good will remains, optimism is not uncalled for.
(This article was first published in the New Times)at