Rwanda has reiterated its stance on the source of the dispute with Uganda at the Monday meeting where both countries are trying to firm up a deal to normalise relations.
Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda's Minister of State in charge of the East African Community told the delegates meeting in Kigali that concerns that hinder bilateral relations and good neighbourliness have persisted.
Those concerns, he said, include the active support provided (by Uganda) to elements hostile to Rwanda, the arbitrary, detention and torture of innocent Rwandans in Uganda and acts of economic sabotage.
The one-day meeting is a follow up on last month’s Memorandum of Understanding which was signed in Luanda, Angola in which Rwanda and Uganda agreed to normalise relations.
The Luanda agreement was signed on August 21 and is considered by Kigali to be an important tool for sustainable peace and security in the region.
Nduhungirehe said the two countries share historical ties that should normally build a strong strategic alliance.
Nduhungirehe is leading the Rwandan delegation while the Ugandans are led by Foreign Minister Sam Kuteesa.
The Luanda agreement is the culmination of a process that started in Kinshasa, in May this year and continued in Luanda in July under the facilitation of the leaders of Angola and DR Congo.
The ongoing process follows other rounds of bilateral engagements between Kigali and Kampala, at the level of Heads of intelligence services, Attoney Generals, Ministers of Foreign Affairs as well as Heads of State.
“It should be our collective commitment that the Luanda MoU will be the final and decisive process that will bring back normalcy, trust and confidence between our two sisterly countries,” Nduhungirehe said.
Nduhungirehe urged his counterparts to see the ongoing process as “a new opportunity and momentum for normal relations and good neighbourliness” between the two nations.
Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kuteesa, equally appreciated the efforts of Angola and DR Congo in bringing Rwanda and Uganda together.
He noted that the Luanda agreement underlines the spirit of Pan Africanism, which Uganda considers as a critical bedrock of regional integration efforts and equally vital for economic and social progress.
In his opening remarks before the closed session, Kuteesa was not categoric on what exactly Uganda’s concerns were, but he said Kampala’s expectations are that the meeting can agree on parameters and specific timelines for the implementation of the Luanda agreement.
“Our approach today should be viewed as part of an important process and not an event. The peoples of our two countries, more than anybody else, are anxious and need to see progress. Therefore, we should consider immediate steps to normalise relations.”
Kutesa said Kampala is committed to peaceful and friendly coexistence with Kigali.
“It is our expectation that this meeting will launch the process of normalisation of relations in a tangible way. We also expect that we can agree on parameters and specific timelines for implementation of this memorandum of understanding. Going forward, it is essential that every effort is made to de-escalate the build-up of tension between our two countries.”
The two countries’ delegations are joined by high-level facilitators from Angola and DR Congo, which are both playing a pivotal role to help Rwanda and Uganda reach an agreement.
Entire world watching
Manuel Domingos Augusto, Angola’s Minister of External Relations, said that organising the meeting demonstrated the political will and full willingness of the two leaders to implement what they agreed to in Luanda.
“This is a very positive sign and is also proof that we all believe that we can find African solutions for African problems,” he said. “It is indeed with this spirit that Angola remains available and committed in this process and we will be doing everything possible to make sure that our brothers from Uganda and Rwanda can get together on finding solutions for the different issues that now they face in their bilateral relations.”
He added: “We know the importance of these two countries for the peace and stability of our region but also of our continent.”
He said that the entire world was watching what is going on today in Kigali.
“After Luanda Memorandum of Understanding, the whole world was contacting us; authorities from different continents were referring to that historic meeting.”
Gilbert Kankonde Malamba, DR Congo’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Security and Customary Affairs, stated that from the time his President [Félix Tshisekedi] took over in Kinshasa in January, the Congolese leader made it his duty to see a climate of peace in the entire region.
As African tradition demands, he said, it is not possible to see a neighbour’s on fire and you do not intervene.
Reiterating Augusto’s comments on the need to find African solutions to African problems, the Congolese official stressed that his wish is that the ongoing meeting finds effective solutions to issues at hand.
Over the last couple of weeks, Uganda has illegally arrested, detained and controversially expelled dozens of Rwandans, while a Rwandan torture victim succumbed to his injuries days after his arrival to Rwanda following weeks of torture in Ugandan military cells.
Subsequently, the Rwandan government last week wrote to Uganda urging "criminal investigation" into Silas Hategekimana's following a request from the bereaved family lawyers.