Last year on December 14, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni made changes in his cabinet and appointed Gen. Kahinda Otafiire as Minister for East African Affairs.
The appointment of this General popularly nicknamed the ‘Drunken Master’ and sometimes ‘Kakwisi’ has not attracted much attention both in the mainstream media.
Gen. Otafiire was the chief political commissar of Museveni’s rebel group NRA throughout the five-year bush war. He has been on Museveni’s side from the bush to government. He is the man that does Museveni’s dirty work and always in a ruthless fashion.
In March last year, when Rwanda closed its border with Uganda, Gen. Otafiire was serving as Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister.
In May, Gen. Otafiire said that Rwanda’s closure of the border was a “backwardness move”.
“This affects our economies and keeps Africans in poverty. Sovereignty in poverty is poverty of sovereignty,” Gen. Otafiire said in May.
Nine months later, Gen. Otafiire’s stance on Rwanda attracted Museveni’s attention as the qualified aide to deal with the Rwandans in the current situation.
Gen. Otafiire’s entry into a regional diplomacy docket comes after Philemon Mateke, Uganda’s Minister of State for Regional Affairs, had been unable to take the heat from Rwanda that exposed him for practically commanding cells of enemies against Rwanda.
Equally, Gen. Otafiire has not stepped in Kigali before and is known for having no kind words for the Kigali regime.
His appointment is a clear indication that the Kampala government has a hostile attitude towards Rwanda.
In a surprise gesture, Uganda on Wednesday released 9 Rwandans who have been languishing in underground cells without light, manned by the dreadful Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
Rwanda describes the move as a positive step toward mending relations, but says more needs to be done.
However, Rwanda would want Uganda to make a bold move and deal with the anti-Rwandan elements operating from Ugandan territory.
For example arresting them or deporting them, recalling passports issued to them.
Gen. Otafiire being a Military man may be tested by how he handles the issue of anti-Rwandan elements and whether his long held perceptions on Rwanda are under the carpet or still same old.
During the release of the 9 Rwandans from the dungeons of CMI, President Museveni was trekking through villages and dishing out brown envelopes of cash worth U$25 to each impoverished elderly citizens; a gesture political analysts say is intended to divert local media from the release of 9 Rwandans.
Considering Col.Dr. Besigye’s analysis of what repeatedly triggers friction between Rwanda and Uganda, one would connect the dots on why Museveni reached for Gen. Otafiire to take over a docket of EAC affairs.
Besigye, also a bush war commander and a former personal doctor to President Museveni, explains; “Because President Paul Kagame was once in the Ugandan army and returned to his motherland Rwanda, Museveni still expected and duly wanted Kagame to pay allegiance to him as his boss and Rwanda be managed by Museveni through Kagame,” Col (rtd) Kizza Besigye said on Mar 4, 2019 after Gatuna border was closed by Rwanda.
“I trained you, promoted you and helped you to go back to Rwanda but remain my son’’, Besigye explained what runs into Museveni’s mind about Kagame, adding that today Museveni takes Uganda as his family and that everyone is his child or grandchild (muzukulu).
From Besigye’s dissection, Kagame is said to have told Museveni that “we have our own country Rwanda and it has to be run by Citizens of Rwanda in a manner they want.” So, in this regard, Besigye explains that Kagame rejected Museveni’s demands.
According to Besigye, Museveni also did not feel well about Rwanda Patriotic Front’s military success in the overthrow of the Mobutu Seseseko’s regime in Kinshasa, former Zaire.
The RPA single handedly combed through the thick jungles of Congo, fought several armies allied to the Zaire army and removed Mobutu, the communist aristocrat.
This has since made Museveni jealous.
Secondly, although Rwanda has her own challenges, the country has managed to score several points in development, yet they began from zero after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi which claimed a million lives.
Therefore, people making comparisons with Museveni who has been in power since 1986, he broadly scores very low points on development and this has also increased his sentiments against Kigali regime.
Besigye also explains that because of these two major issues, Uganda clandestinely launched a grand plan to undermine the security of Rwanda and according to him; this is where the entire stalemate is derived from.
At the moment, Museveni believes it is only Gen. Otafiire capable of engaging Rwandans and undoing Uganda’s damaged image. This General and his boss share a similar view on Rwanda.
During the clashes in Kisangani between Rwanda and Uganda armies, there was a meeting held in Goma city and Gen. Otafiire was part of this meeting.
The two armies were battling for control of Kisangani city and Rwandan army was already in control. Uganda badly wanted it.
“Either you give us Kisangani or we all lose it,” these were the words said by Gen. Otafiire in Goma, the closest he has come to Rwanda.
It is not known whether Gen. Otafiire will ever step on Rwanda soil now that he has been placed in a docket that directly handles the Rwanda-Uganda problem.