As Rwanda and Ugandan officials prepare to meet in an attempt to resolve the current standoff between the two nations, political analysts and members of the business community have weighed in on the matter.
Officials from both countries are set to meet in Kigali on Monday next week as a follow up on the Memorandum of Understanding signed by both countries in Luanda, Angola last month.
Observers argue that the two countries must do whatever it takes and bury the hatchet as they both have nothing to gain from poor relations.
Marie-Immaculée Ingabire, the Chairperson of Transparency International Rwanda, said she has no doubt Rwandan and Ugandan citizens share similar expectations ahead of the meeting.
“My expectations are, and they are expectations of all the citizens of both countries, that our leaders and representatives should follow through on the Luanda agreement. They should think about the citizens. All we want is for relations to normalise again and Rwandans and Ugandans visit each other without any fear,” she said.
They [leaders] should recall they endorsed the regional integration agenda, Ingabire said.
“In all these groupings, the welfare of citizens is always a priority. Both parties should meet without any kind of hypocrisy and if any feels that perhaps something was missing in the agreement, let it be added but we expect a good outcome.”
In last month’s agreement, President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart President Yoweri Museveni committed to normalising relations.
Dr Charity Wibabara, a lawyer and visiting lecturer at the University of Rwanda’s Centre for Conflict Management, observed that conflict is part and parcel of society.
She said: “That’s why in Latin they say that Ubi societas ibi jus, literary implying that where there is society, there is a need for laws and regulations.”
But in as much as the conflict is normal, she explained, it should not be protracted because when it takes too long, the interests of both countries are jeopardised in terms of free movement of people and goods, development and so on.
“That is why we are hoping that in this meeting both countries are going to pay attention to the interests of citizens,” she added.
Fred Seka, the Chairperson of the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), who also heads the Rwanda Freight Forwarders Association (RWAFFA), said that what they are looking forward to is the resolution of issues.
“As a business community, we will be happy to see a good flow of cross-border trade between the two countries happen in a safe environment. This benefits the economies of both countries.”
It is high time, he said, the countries got their relations back on track.
Monday’s meeting, Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe, Minister of State in charge of the East African Community who will lead the Rwandan delegation, said, will look into the implementation of the Luanda MoU in its entirety.
Uganda’s delegation will be led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sam Kuteesa.
Jackie Batamuliza, a social worker who is a member of the Rwandan community in Uganda, said that it is extremely unfortunate that “we are in this position given our history of brotherhood.”
She said: “The question is, why postpone the reconstruction of this relationship regardless of what the price might be? I think the longer we take in these differences the more expensive it might become to reconstruct.”
The commitments in the agreement include; respecting the sovereignty of each other’s and the neighbouring countries; and refraining from actions conducive to destabilisation or subversion in the territory of the other party and neighbouring countries, thereby eliminating all factors that may give such perception, as well as acts such as the financing, training and infiltration of destabilising forces.
Kigali accuses Kampala of arbitrarily arresting and torturing hundreds of Rwandans over the past few years. Uganda has also been linked with armed groups that seek to destabilise Rwanda.