Taarifa Rwanda

When Museveni and Kagame Meet, Our Theories Become Useless

The English have a saying that there is no smoke without fire. And Africans have an equally interesting proverb that, every fire will always stop burning at some point.

We can use the two to facilitate us to draw lines along what has been happening between Uganda and Rwanda, for the past years.

When the armies of both Rwanda and Uganda first clashed in DRC for four days in August 1999 in Kisangani and repeating the fighting on May 5 in 2001, a lot of theories were fronted by several experts across the globe.

During this entire period from 1999 to 2001, several experts and observers and self-styled commentators on the Great Lakes Region had claimed that the depth of animosity between the two leaders was irreconcilable and impossible to fix.

Later, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda met in London and issued a joint statement that they had, “agreed to investigate and resolve all outstanding complaints against each other.”

After the London meeting, the expert narrative suddenly became useless and the differences between the two leaders remained a matter only the two leaders understood.

And just few years from the Kisangani incidence, Uganda and Rwanda in November 2004 were once again brewing into some nasty direction.

The two countries severed diplomatic relations and engaged in war talk placing everyone on tenterhooks.

This time the self-styled experts and readers of the minds of the two presidents were at it again saying that they had foreseen that the bad blood between the two neighbours was a time bomb that would explode anytime.

Uganda expelled Rwandan diplomat Jimmy Uwizye, accusing him of using his diplomatic status in covert operations for the Rwandan army.

Rwanda retaliated by expelling Uganda’s First Secretary John Cliff Birungi from Kigali explaining that the action (expulsion) followed concrete evidence that Uganda was “facilitating insurgency against Rwanda.”

Meanwhile, two days before this fracas, President Kagame had warned of raiding Interahamwe militia bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

By then the UN Security Council reacted by saying it was rushing additional troops to the Eastern DRC, warning Rwanda against any action that it could undermine regional peace.

Although these movie-like incidences seemed not yet over, another one happened in a very seemingly simple, yet complex.

Uganda President Museveni hosts President Paul Kagame at State House Entebbe recently in March

It was in 2005 and Museveni was expected to arrive in Kigali through Kigali International Airport to attend a meeting for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.Instead, Museveni drove in a very long and extravagant convoy through Gatuna border.

Immigration and security officials on the Rwandan side complained that Museveni’s delegation was too big and 60 members in the delegation were not on the list sent earlier to the Rwandan protocol.

This prompted the Rwandan border security to allow in only half of the convoy.

Museveni’s elite security detail were reeling with anger as they narrated the ordeal, describing it as embarrassing.

In fact Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kuteesa described the incident as “silly and infantile”.

Rwanda, as a habit, reacted not.

But it seems Uganda was not about to stop its behaviour of arm-twisting Rwanda.

Uganda recalled its First Secretary in June 2005.

Rwanda reciprocated and called Gerald Mbanda in July 2005. At that time Dr. Charles Murigande was the Foreign Affairs Minister.

Almost one-year later, in April 2006, Rwanda silently gave 48 hours to Arthur Katsigazi First Secretary at Uganda embassy to leave the country.

Experts again warned that this was the climax of an eminent war between the two countries.

And media in Uganda was awash with claims that Rwanda had expelled the First Secretary at the Ugandan mission in Kigali.

“I don’t know about the expulsion, Rwanda has not expelled Katsigazi, and even if it is true that he is leaving, it might be Uganda’s ploy for them to get rid of our First Secretary to Kampala, John Ngarambe,” Dr Murigande told The New Times then.

“Uganda asked us about any of its envoys they could withdraw, and (sic) we frankly mentioned Katsigazi…Uganda never honored the agreement, Katsigazi was not recalled,” Murigande said then.

This diplomatic spat between the two countries had been the most sensitive.

The tension hanged in the air, too loud that it drew a virtual red line that none among the tow dared to cross.

Although the relations between Kampala and Kigali remained tense from then, something unusual happened and once again sent opinions of self-styled observers and experts into a trash bin.

In 2011, President Kagame and his family spent their Christmas holiday in Uganda at the invitation of President Museveni.

Confusion engulfed the experts. The jovial visit melted all sorts of conclusions.

However, this didn’t end without an incidence. A physician on the Rwandan delegation reported that some vital items had been stolen from his room including documents and some electronics, which were believed to have belonged to President Kagame.

Nevertheless, the decision by President Kagame and his family to celebrate Christmas from Uganda was viewed as a further indication of improving relations between Kampala and Kigali.

Kagames’ visit also came three months after President Museveni, his daughter Natasha Karugire and Janet had paid a cordial four-day state visit to Kigali.

After all these brotherly visits, it all looked clear for everyone that the two neighbours would never fall in the ditches of friction again.

A conclusion had been made, that the hatchet had been buried.

No, experts were gullible.

It seems to be a recurrent quagmire.

Museveni’s recent overhaul of the leadership of his security outfits over allegations that they had been infiltrated by Kigali, was a vindication of yet another diplomatic squabble.

The dimensions were different, but more chilling.

President Kagame (l) hosts his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni and daughter Natasha Karugire at Lake Muhazi

Despite Uganda having planted dozens of propaganda websites to mask the row, accusing Rwanda of having infiltrated its security organs, whacky as it is, the fly stood firm on the wall for everyone to see.

Uganda failed to explain the kidnappings and torturing of innocent Rwandans by Ugandan security forces.

Uganda could not also give an explanation to the existence and open operations of the Rwanda National Congress’s (which has declared to overthrow Rwanda’s government) rebel wing on Uganda’s soil, with the help of its security agencies.

That was not all. Uganda deliberately sabotaged Rwanda’s economic ambitions by halting major joint infrastructure projects.

Museveni hobnobbing with France was even more telling, considering that France has a natural hostility towards Kagame’s government.

With France peeping into Rwanda’s back door from Eastern Uganda, Kigali believed that indeed “the gods must be crazy.”

Relations between the two countries suddenly froze.

In March 2018, as Kigali had carefully prepared to host the African Continental Free Trade Area Treaty meeting, President Museveni chose to cancel attendance.

According to Uganda’s Monitor, this friction resulted from refusal by Rwanda’s security agencies to cooperate with Museveni’s advance security team, which had been in the country a week earlier.

That Ugandan advance team arrived in Kigali on March 12, but up to March 18 had not been told the hotel Museveni was going to reside in and which vehicles he was going to use during the summit period.

Uganda alleged that this was the reason for the cancellation of Museveni’s trip.

Rwanda said this was rubbish, but by the magnitude of the situation, the experts were not short of concocted theories.

No sooner had the theorists penned their art, than Kagame flew with a delegation to meet Museveni to hold discussions a few days after the AU summit.

Both leaders expressed gratitude to each other.

Museveni was tasked to explain the harassment against Rwandans in Uganda. “I think there needs close cooperation between intelligence services,” he said.

“There is no fundamental conflict between Rwanda and Uganda,” Museveni said during a joint presser.

The body language of the two leaders during the joint press conference showed they all felt at home with each other and indeed President Kagame concurred with Museveni that there is no problem between the two countries.

Those who had hesitated travelling between the two countries blew the dirt on their passports and caught the next flight.

Business is now back to normalcy, however what was discussed behind closed doors remains privy to the two Presidents.

We can only feast on theories.

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