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PART III: Why Is Uganda Provocative, Disrespectful?

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This is a third article in the series expounding on the historical and current dynamics that are relevant to the frosty relationship between Rwanda and Uganda.

We are recollecting moments that help us to expose President Yoweri Museveni’s hostility against Rwanda.

Most people who follow politics of the region know that President Yoweri Museveni has long harboured ambitions of making Rwanda Uganda’s appendage. At the very least, he seeks to dictate to this country what it should and should not do.

Over the years he has recruited like-minded people from inside Rwanda to work with him to frame their country in his image. These are his protégés. But what is so special that they see in Museveni and he sees in them and together they wish to export to Rwanda?

The first place to look at is how the protégés repeat Museveni’s rhetoric. Recently, convicted army officer Kayumba Nyamwasa, whose is on the run in S. South Africa, told a Zambian newspaper that he is fighting to bring “fundamental change” to Rwanda. 

In 1986 during his swearing in, Museveni claimed he had fought to bring about fundamental change to Uganda.

David Himbara, another Rwandan protégé who is on Museveni’s payroll to tarnish the image of his former boss, recently asserted, “Kagame’s inner circle is shrinking.” Presumably, Kagame’s ‘inner circle’ is shrinking while Museveni’s is always expanding? This is the difference between Museveni’s Uganda and Kagame’s Rwanda.

Himbara made a list of retired liberators and framed them as “poor and disgruntled”. His claim is that Kagame has side-lined them or imprisoned them. His purpose is to instigate the public and propagate a bad image of President Kagame as a “bad guy”. 

Here’s what belonging to an “inner circle” means in the contexts of the two countries.

Museveni’s inner circle is above the law, able to divert public resources to personal interests as it wishes. A commercial bank is forcefully taken over and subsequently disappears without a trace; junk helicopters are procured with no one held accountable.

Someone can claim the country’s natural resources as his own, “my oil” and is not ashamed to publicly state that, “I am working for my children and grandchildren.” 

In other words, the country is run like a family kiosk until the time comes to hand it over to the next of kin.

On the contrary, Kagame has never had an inner circle. Moreover, no one has ever claimed to be above the law during his tenure. Some may be close to him by virtue of their responsibilities and the moment these tasks end this closeness comes to an end. 

This is what Himbara calls a shrinking inner circle. 

However, it is also true that some unscrupulous individuals – Himbara being one of them – who somehow found themselves working close to Kagame attempted to masquerade as belonging to some inner circle that in reality never existed; or, they had the ambition of creating an inner circle, only to end up crossing the line and finding themselves where they truly belong – in obscurity.

For Himbara, he fled accountability, and is now sarcastically calling himself a professional refuge, one on a self imposed exile.

These two approaches are at odds and cannot co-exist.

This is why Museveni and his protégés are eager to extend and replicate their preferred inner-circle politics to Rwanda, which is the only way to make sense of Himbara’s sponsored writing. 

For instance, all Ministers – like James Musoni who he refers to in Rwanda are appointed to serve; a Ministry is not a private asset; neither do those appointed to it expect they won’t be assigned to other responsibilities.

Similarly, all senior military officers – the likes of Gen. Jack Nziza – were only “close” to the President by virtue of their appointments and duties. They don’t enjoy this proximity due to personal or familial ties, or because they were members of a supposed inner circle. As a result, they expect to be redeployed – and even retired – as a matter of an inescapable reality: they are serving in a truly professional army that does not belong to an individual and they don’t believe they are forever owed anything special simply because they fought.

Nothing new about Eugène-Richard Gasana

Eugène-Richard Gasana, Rwanda’s former ambassador to the United Nations in New York, also features heavily as Himbara reimagines Rwanda in Museveni’s eyes.

Gasana recently met Museveni on RNC-related movements in and outside Kampala.

Like Patrick Karegeya and Kayumba Nyamwasa before him, Gasana was also recruited when he was in active Rwanda government service. 

Moreover, like Ignace Murwanashyaka, the convicted (by courts in Germany) leader of the FDLR genocide perpetrators, Gasana was also facilitated with a Ugandan passport that has enabled his travel around the world, advocating for the RNC. 

Indeed, it is in this capacity that he, along with Charlotte Mukankusi, who also travels on a Ugandan passport, met President Museveni in Kampala last month.

A reliable source that ran into Gasana in transit at Amsterdam airport during his many travels on behalf of the RNC told this reporter that he was using a Ugandan passport, which was verified with pictures of the actual passport (We welcome a challenge from Ofwono Opondo and Sarah Kagingo to produce the documents. We promise to meet the challenge).

Interestingly, Gasana was ahead of his fellow protégés in one particular aspect: his relatively quick comprehension of the politics of their patron. For instance, when it was time for a new ambassador to take over in New York and he was asked to return home for reassignment, he balked; a sense of entitlement had him thinking that he was irreplaceable in that position. 

And so, he began throwing tantrums before deciding to cut links with his government by ceding to Museveni’s overtures – on behalf of the RNC – that had been in place long before the break of ties with Rwanda.

Since 2016 he has been running errands on behalf of the RNC, an organisation that has declared war on Rwanda and has conducted terrorist operations that have claimed the lives of innocent people in different parts of the country. Despite this record, Gasana has fraudulently managed to acquire U.S. residence permit on the false claim that his life is threatened back home.

However, Gasana should familiarise himself with the case of Jean Leonard Teganya. On April 6, 2019, the federal court in Boston ruled that the 48-year old “attempted to win asylum in the United States by lying.” He faces five years in prison and deportation to Rwanda. 

Similarly, Gasana’s lies to U.S. immigration that he is threatened at home may have been believed; however, his determination to fight his government should make him a person of interest to the authorities and expose him to Teganya’s fate.

Meanwhile, the fact alone that he fights Rwanda was enough for Gasana to enter Museveni’s “inner circle.” It makes sense. This is Museveni’s brand of politics. He needs an inner-circle to survive and Himbara is paid to regurgitate and recycle this narrative.

It is by design that it can’t shrink. On the other hand, saying that Kagame’s inner-circle is shrinking is as nonsensical as it can get.

This idea of shrinking has absolutely zero consequence precisely because Kagame doesn’t operate like their patron.

As Himbara successfully transforms himself in the image that Museveni requires of his protégés, he gets out of touch with the reality inside Rwanda. His view of Kagame’s inner-circle is proof that his transformation is complete. He gets cash as a prize or reward.

Significantly, Himbara is only a microcosm of the transformation that Museveni has in mind for Rwanda, one whose completion he seems committed to.

Even as Museveni preoccupies himself with Kagame, in the former’s mind the ideal transformation of Rwanda does not leave the position of president vacant. He gets to occupy it, along with the one he presently occupies. As such, in his thinking, he could potentially enjoy the status of President of the Greater Uganda, which would include Rwanda. But his fantasy doesn’t end there. 

When Museveni looks at Kayumba Nyamwasa he sees Salim Saleh; in Eugène-Richard Gasana he sees Sam Kuteesa. They form another layer to his “inner-ciinner circle.”

PART II: Why Is Uganda Provocative, Disrespectful?

Special Report

Museveni “Illegally Promoted” New Spy Chief From Major To Colonel in 2013

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Uganda’s new head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) is an officer of concern that the region will carefully want to scrutinize since he has been entrusted with a controversial military agency featuring in incubating trouble between Uganda and the southern neighbour.

Taarifa Investigative Desk has reliably learned that Uganda’s new Spy Chief Maj Gen James Birungi, a well trained tank Armour Fighter was in 2013 illegally promoted from Major to Colonel. This could be a trigger for minders to reset their lens on this new officer who has had stints in the Airforce, Special Forces Command and now the dreaded CMI.

Gen Birungi came into the world in 1973 at Ngoma, current day Nakaseke District. Birungi attended Ibanda Secondary School for O level and Nyakasura School for Advanced level. He later joined Makerere Business School Nakawa, MUBS, where he pursued a degree in Business Administration.

In 1996, James Birungi, a very shy but ambitious young man, was among a group of 11 recruits that joined the Uganda army and underwent a one year basic military training course at Kasenyi in Entebbe.

Birungi was later sent to India for a cadet officers course where he spent a year and graduated as a Second Lieutenant.

On return from India, Birungi’s first deployment was under armoured Brigade, a specialized unit of the UPDF Land Forces with its Headquarters at Kasijjagirwa garrison in Masaka District.

He also undertook different tank courses and was deployed in Kitgum District in 2002. Birungi was commanding tanks and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to escort supplies for soldiers in the Forward Operating Bases.

Birungi was later transferred to Karamoja to fight cattle rustling. From Karamoja, Gen Birungi was sent to Karama at the rank of Major as the Commandant of the training school.

He later joined Presidential Guard Brigade, now SFC in 2008, after attending Junior Staff courses at Gaddafi Barracks (Kimaka), Jinja.

In 2013 Birungi was promoted to Colonel and appointed acting Chief of Staff of the Air Force until he was taken back to SFC as the commander.

Birungi’s promotion from rank of Major to Colonel faulted the law and procedures and this propelled protest from members of the Ugandan parliament.

Opposition MPs led by Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda petitioned the East African Court of Justice, accusing President Yoweri Museveni of faulting procedures while promoting and appointing officers. Birungi’s ranks were not stripped as intended by the MPs and remained a senior officer of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces.

Those who Know Birungi

“He is a free man, mature enough, jolly and God fearing officer,” says Godfrey Ssempijja a resident in Bugonga, Entebbe.

“He is trustworthy but decisive, determined and principled cadre soldier, a friend of the young people and a son to the revolution,” Ibrahim Kitatta says.

Left : Maj Gen James Birungi has been appointed Chief of Military Intelligence

Birungi’s views

While speaking at the graduation party of his colleague, Birungi made some tantalizing remarks that most people just go to school to study, acquire degrees and other academic qualifications but never put into practice the skills they obtain.

“Even if you study to the level of a professor and you don’t implement the skills acquired, your education is meaningless. Some people just go to school just to acquire a degree but they cannot explain what they will do after acquiring it.”

He gave an example of those who have degrees in business management yet they cannot even start a small business.

However, Birungi forgot that he holds a degree in Business Administration and instead of pursuing a career in business he is now in the military. This view will mostly help in understanding how Birungi applies reverse phycology in management of information gathering, processing and eventual application in decision making.

Maj. Gen. James Birungi, a well trained tank Armour Fighter was in 2013 illegally Promoted from Major To Colonel.

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When Rwanda Was Accused Of Stealing Burundi Drums

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Before colonial  interference and eventual drawing of imagined boundaries, Rwanda and Burundi were once one solid nation known as Ruanda-Urundi later Rwanda-Burundi as a colonial territory, once part of German East Africa, which was ruled by Belgium from 1916 to 1962.

The People of Burundi and Rwanda speak a simillar language and practice the same culture and various norms.

Now two independent countries with extremely diverse visions, their recent past relationship  has not been one to boast about. Their militaries repeatedly clash, governments slam doors on each other and trade unending accusations but also surprisingly return to roundtable and mend fences without mediation.

In 2019, Burundi Accused Rwanda Of Stealing Drums Culture And Doing It So Badly.

It all started in 2015 when hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled to Rwanda from brutality of Pierre Nkurunziza’s regime as he was seeking a forced third term in office contrary to constitutional provision leading to a failed coup.

Among those that fled Burundi, included a group of Drummers organised under Himbaza group. In 2019, this group applied to take part in the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi-Kenya.

The group registered as from Rwanda. But when introducing themselves to the audience, they said they were Burundian refugees who had been living in Rwanda since 2015.

Himbaza group Performing at the ‘East Africa Got Talent’ television show in Nairobi

Willy Nyamitwe, a senior advisor and spokesman of Burundi’s former President Nkurunziza, was not amused at all.

“Not Original and not Authentic at all,” he wrote on Twitter, August 19. “These guys should be ashamed for debasing the quality and the cultural originality of Burundi drums in Rwanda,” Nyamitwe said.

However, “Himbaza Drummers” were so good that the judges voted them to the next round.

Organizers of the show, in response said via a statement that they “deeply regret” if any offence has been done by inclusion of the Himbaza drummers.

“Entry to the show was open to anyone who has the legal right to residence in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania irrespective of their nationality. The contestants are legal residents of Rwanda and therefore are legitimate contestants on the show,” said organisers.

Demonstrations against the Government of Rwanda in the Burundian capital were the order of the day, hundreds of Rwandans and their businesses were targeted but Rwanda refused to be provoked.

In 2014 UNESCO registered the ritual dance of the royal drum a Burundian tradition as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity  with hope to preserve and share with the world.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye (right) drumming sacred drums

Rwanda and Burundi currently maintain a closed border and have clashed several times since 2015 but the two sides have been involved in shuttle diplomacy and have announced that anytime the border may reopen.

President Evariste Ndayishimiye who is currently enjoying his annual leave, chose to traverse the country and visit various touristic destinations. He has been seen with his family enjoying boat ride, walking through a forest and most recently he visited Sanctuaire des tambours sacrés de Gishora (Sanctuary of the sacred drums of Gishora) in Gitega province.

He garbbed drum sticks cheerfully spotting the red, white and green national colors of the famous Burundian drummers. Ndayishimiye did not hesitate to harmoniously sketch a few dance steps. He even sang some patriotic songs.

“You who have devoted your life to the drums, I did not barter the zither for the modest sum of 80 francs, I did not throw away my 90 francs for a razor blade, I did not betray my country for 1,000 francs, I did not become a young man, the kind of spendthrift in well-watered parties”.

And the guardians of the sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora loudly proclaim their approval by responding loudly with their cry: “Eeeeh! ”

The sacred drums sanctuary of Gishora: “It houses the Ruciteme and Murimirwa drums, 119 years, and served as a place of refuge for King Mwezi Gisabo when the resistance against the German invasion was organized.”

Ndayishimiye’s visit at the site hosting sacred drums of Gishora may have been a signal to end the Drum politics that had pitted the two countries against each other in 2019 and could pave way for opening a new chapter with Rwanda once accused of stealing these drums.

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Habyarimana Sent Finance Minister’s Wife To Poison Kagame

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In February 1992, a very busy Paul Kagame while commanding Rwanda Patriotic Army rebels, set aside some time to have an exclusive conversation with Sam Mukalazi, a Ugandan journalist at one of the rebel bases at Muvumba in Rwanda.

The war had entered its second year since the former refugees united and armed under Rwanda Patriotic Front/army overran Kagitumba border post on October 1, 1990.

The clashes were intense as heavily armed and well trained government forces, with support of air power, inflicted heavy casualties on rebels.

Kagame told Mukalazi that the rebel movement had suffered major losses and the rebels had lost morale especially influenced by successive deaths of their commanders at the start of the war.

Kagame, who was away on the first day of attack, flew back from the US to replace fallen commander Fred Rwigema who had been killed in action.

During this conversation, Kagame told the journalist that he had vowed to reorganise the rebel group and had begun achieving remarkable success, for example, his efforts had paid off in capturing a vast stretch of several kilometres deep from Kgaitumba to Ruhengeri and was considered the rebel operational zone.

“There is a large portion of this stretch on which the enemy cannot dare step,” Kagame told the journalist.

Commander Kagame boasted that the biggest and most successful battle in 1992 was in Butaro, starting January 23 and continuing for 10 days.

“We attacked enemy defences in Nyamucucu,Kitenge and Butaro and we overrun six of their seven defences,” he said.

He told Mukalazi that these RPA victories on the battlefield had provided strength to the rebels.

However, President Juvenal Habyarimana in Kigali was planning something terrible against rebel leader Kagame.

It should be remembered that 1992 was a busy year for both fighting sides.

The government army was fiercely fighting with the rebels while their political representatives were dressed up in suits for roundtable peace talks in neighbouring Arusha, Tanzania.

Habyarimana had carefully identified a non suspecting person to deliver and administer poison to Kagame. The Kigali regime had on several occasions declared Kagame dead.

“We arrested a woman sent by the Kigali government with some poison meant to finish me off,” Kagame disclosed to Mukalazi with a smile. “Even if I died, the struggle would go on,” Kagame added.

The woman was identified as Eugenia Kaitesi and said to be a wife of the former Rwandan Minister of Finance.

Kaitesi had been arrested in mid 1991 and was still being held by the rebels at the time of the conversation with this journalist.

According to Kagame, the woman assassin had claimed that her assignment was being coordinated by a Rwandan diplomat in Uganda and that if she had succeeded with this assassination mission, she was going to acquire a big mansion in Brussels at the expense of the Rwanda government.

Jean Pierre Claver Kanyarushoki was the  Rwandan ambassador to Uganda and led the Rwanda government delegation to Arusha peace talks in the same year.

The intention of the Habyarimana regime announcing the rebel commander’s death might have been to raise the morale of government demoralised troops that had lost subsequent battles.

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