Uganda’s foreign affairs minister Sam Kutesa on Friday morning met diplomats accredited to Kampala to specifically brief them on the tensions between his country and Rwanda.
A day earlier, on Thursday, he had addressed a news conference in which he made unsubstantiated allegations that Rwanda was being provocative towards Uganda.
The central message he tries to deliver at both occasions is that the issue between Rwanda and Uganda is a ‘minor hitch’ that should be resolved.
He does not however provide a way forward.
Kutesa outlines concerns tabled by Rwanda as the crux of the problems between the two countries but falls short on providing answers, especially going by his written statement delivered to the diplomats.
We have tried to provide a breakdown on the outstanding problems, the actual situation vis-avis what Kutesa says.
Habouring Rwandan dissidents
He raises the concern that has indeed been brought to their attention by their Rwandan counterparts, that Rwandan dissidents who habour intentions of harming the country, have found a safe haven in Uganda.
On this, he told diplomats that Uganda cannot allow its territory to be used to threaten the security of a neighbouring country, which is far from the truth going by the reality on ground.
To start with, President Museveni himself is on record accepting to have hosted senior leaders of the terror group, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) who during the meeting outlined their negative agenda towards Rwanda and sought his support.
In a letter that President Museveni wrote to President Paul Kagame, his Rwandan counterpart, he accepted to have met three individuals from RNC in two separate meetings.
In one meeting, he met the head of diplomacy for RNC, Charlotte Mukankusi and Eugene-Richard Gasana while on the second instance; he met Tribert Rujugiro, a businessman who, evidence has pointed to his being a major financier of RNC’s subversive activities in Rwanda.
In fact, evidence has been produced to show how Mukankusi was facilitated with a Ugandan passport to be able to traverse the world, mobilizing resources for the outfit.
It does not end there; there have been reports of open recruitment within Uganda of militants to join terror groups that are mobilizing to attack Rwanda and there is concrete evidence to back that up.
An example of this is the busload of 45 youths who were in December 2017 arrested at the Tanzanian border on their way to Burundi from where they would proceed to South Kivu in DR Congo, where an amalgamation of Rwandan terror groups – including RNC – maintains a training base.
These individuals were arrested and arraigned before court and later discreetly released by a magistrate in Mbarara District and no attempt was made to at least deport them to Rwanda.
Another example is the arrest late last year of two high ranking commanders of the so-called FDLR, another terror outfit working in cohorts with RNC.
The duo – FDLR Spokesperson Lt Col. Fils Bazeye Ignace Nkaka alias La Forge Bazeye Fils and deputy intelligence chief Lt Col Jean Pierre Nsekenabo alias Abega Kamala – was arrested at Bunagana as they returned from Kampala.
The meeting, which was chaired by Uganda’a State Minister for Regional Affairs Philemon Mateke, aimed at cementing working relations between RNC and FDLR, according to accounts by the two dissidents, who are currently before courts of law in Rwanda.
None of the examples above, and many more, is disputed by Kutesa during the entire statement to the diplomats, he only chooses to gloss over the entire issue.
Mistreatment of Rwandans
Another problem that Rwanda has raised with their Ugandan counterparts is the continued mistreatment of Rwandan nationals on Ugandan territory.
For the past few years, Rwandans have continued to suffer abduction, torture, and illegal detention without due process.
Close to 1,000 have been illegally deported to Rwanda – many of them after lengthy incarceration by Ugandan security organs in ungazetted areas – while hundreds of others continue to languish in those detention facilities.
Those that have been deported have recounted the suffering, some, like Fidele Gatsinzi, with permanent injuries.
In fact, Gatsinzi’s ordeal further demonstrates how, in tormenting Rwandan nationals by Ugandan security operatives, they work with Rwandan dissidents.
It is this mistreatment of Rwandans that prompted the Government of Rwanda to issue a travel advisory warning nationals against non-essential crossing into Uganda because their safety was not guaranteed.
This decision was taken after numerous engagements between both countries, including at the head of state level where President Kagame, on three occasions raised this with his counterpart to no avail.
By the time of advisory, Ugandan authorities had arrested and kept in cells manned by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) in Uganda hundreds of Rwandans.
Over 190 Rwandans were languishing in different ungazetted facilities in Kisoro, Kabare, Ntungamo, Mbarara and Kibabura among many others, while 986 had been arrested and deported or dumped at border after being tortured to near-death.
Those deported had either paid ransom while others had been robbed of their possessions, with no hope of compensation.
During the briefing to the diplomats, Kutesa, once again, resorts to diversionary tactics on the issue of the Gatuna One Stop Border Post, which is clearly under construction and goes on to push the narrative that Rwanda closed it because of the prevailing issues.
Rwanda has been on record saying that these are two separate issues; Gatuna was partially closed to allow for construction works on the Rwandan side and the works are clearly ongoing at the facility.
This has nothing to do with the issues that Rwanda has raised with her counterparts and according to government officials, the construction works are expected to be completed this month and the facility will be fully open.
Currently, Gatuna is open to light traffic.
The other problem that Rwanda has raised with Uganda is one where, going by the pattern of acts on the Ugandan side, one can only conclude that the latter is economically sabotaging the former.
First of all there has been unnecessary interception of Rwandan cargo transiting through Uganda, with some of the cargo trucks kept for weeks and months, in contravention of international laws, while in other instances, they have simply disappeared with the cargo on board.
This is not only a trade barrier but an economic sabotage against Rwanda.
None of these issues was raised by Kutesa, either during the news conference or during his brief with the diplomats.
During the news conference, Kutesa accused Rwanda of launching a media campaign against Uganda, a direct opposite of the reality.
What he did not tell them media is the fact that Ugandan state media has been giving platform to different dissidents to spread their negative propaganda against Rwanda.
These interviews have been published in New Vision on different dates with individuals such as Tribert Rujugiro, David Himbara, Leah Karegeya and most recently Kayumba Nyamwasa.
Other Ugandan media houses have been publishing stories that border on causing anxiety among the population, including lies that Rwanda had “heavily deployed” alongside the Uganda border among others.
It would therefore have helped much had the Ugandan top diplomat come clean on the real issue between the two countries other than focusing on side-shows, and that is the starting point if a solution was to be devised.