KAMPALA – A high-level Rwandan delegation was in Kampala Friday for another round of bilateral talks over the current standoff between the two neighbours, under a framework known as the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The Rwandan delegation, led by the State Minister for East African Community, Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe arrived in the Ugandan around noon for the one-day meeting.
The meeting was still ongoing by the time we went to press.
The Rwandan delegation also included Cabinet ministers Johnston Busingye (Justice), Prof. Anastase Shyaka (Local Government) Patrick Nyamvumba (Internal Security).
Others on the delegation were Secretary-General of the National Intelligence and Security Services, Joseph Nzabamwita, the High Commissioner of Rwanda to Uganda, Frank Mugambage and Diyana Gitera the Director General in charge of Africa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The meeting, which was held in the Kampala suburb of Munyonyo, was also attended by ministerial delegations from Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo as facilitators.
“This dialogue is taking place in the context of African conflict-settlement mechanisms conducted under a tree,” said Gilbert Kakonde Malambe, DR Congo’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Interior, Security and Customary Affairs who headed the Congolese delegation.
He called on Rwanda and Uganda to discuss matters that have strained their relations over the last few years with greater openness.
He underlined his country’s commitment to support the two countries to overcome their differences under the Luanda framework, adding, “The primary responsibility rests with our two brothers.”
Malambe said Rwanda-Uganda talks should not be like “any other endless meetings” that yield no concrete results.
On his part, Angola’s Minister for External Relations Manuel Domingos Augusto, said both Rwanda and Uganda demonstrated political will to normalise relations during the first meeting in Kigali in September, urging both sides to go use this round of talks to find lasting solutions to the current standoff.
“That showed to the world that in the spirit of African brotherhood and solidarity Africans can find solutions to any disputes that may emerge between them by peaceful means through dialogue,” he said.
It is the second meeting in just less than three months after both sides met in Kigali on September 16, a month after the two countries’ Presidents inked a deal in Luanda seeking to bring an end to the stand-off that has worsened in the past two years.
The meetings of the Joint Ad Hoc Commission on the implementation of the Luanda MoU are meant to review progress made since President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni signed the agreement in August.
The second meeting was initially scheduled to take place a month after the first round of bilateral talks in Kigali in September but was postponed on two occasions.
During the first round of ministerial-level talks, Rwanda outlined its grievances, including the fact that many of its nationals were being illegally arrested and tortured in Uganda with no due process.
It was agreed that Rwanda shares with Uganda the list of the people in question and the latter acts on it ahead of the second meeting in Kampala.
Relations between the two countries have been frosty over the last few years but things got worse in 2017 after it became clear that Ugandan leaders were openly backing armed groups that seek to destabilise Rwanda.
A December 2018 UN Group of Experts report confirmed that Rwandan armed groups operating in eastern DR Congo were receiving recruits and supplies from Uganda.
Subsequently, Kigali broke the silence in March this year publically accusing Uganda of facilitating recruitment of armed Rwandan groups, illegally arresting and torturing Rwandan nationals, and committing economic sabotage against Rwandan exports.
While Kampala denied all this, many Rwandans continued to disappear in Uganda and those who were finally released and dumped at the border with Rwanda have told of harrowing tales of torture and attempts to recruit them into armed Rwandan groups.
Some victims like Silas Hategekimana would later die from conditions linked to torture injuries, while hundreds of others are believed to be languishing in different torture chambers mostly run by Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
As Ugandan authorities intensified crackdown on innocent Rwandans, the government in March issued a travel advisory warning citizens against travel to Uganda.
Mutual trust needed
Dr Eric Ndushabandi, Professor of Political Science (International Relations and Foreign Policy Analysis) at University of Rwanda, expressed confidence that the talks will eventually result into a breakthrough.
“From the onset, I never believed that the two countries would get involved in an open confrontation because of our deep history of friendship and cooperation,” he said, adding however that he expects concrete outcomes from the Kampala.
Ndushabandi, who also serves as director for local think tank, the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace, further said: “There is a need to restore mutual trust and confidence, we need to see progress at all levels, people need to feel secure to go to Uganda, and issues of rebel support need to be resolved.”
Since the first meeting in Kigali in September Uganda has released dozens of Rwandans but arrested many others as well.Follow https://twitter.com/JMunyaneza