Rwanda, Uganda agree to verify status of detained nationals

Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe, the State Minister in charge of East African Community (left), chats with Uganda’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa moments before the start of the third meeting of the Ad Hoc Commission on the implementation of the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding between Rwanda and Uganda aimed at normalising bilateral relations, in Kigali on Friday. The two sides agreed to verify the status of nationals detained in both countries ahead of the next Quadripartite Heads of State Summit, at Gatuna border crossing, on February 21./ Emmanuel Kwizera.

The third meeting of the Ad Hoc Commission on the implementation of the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding between Uganda and Rwanda in Kigali ended late Friday night as officials pushed for a breakthrough.

However, much will be determined by what follows next after the just concluded meeting.

Both parties committed to further verify the number and status of nationals detained in each other’s country and to report back through a note verbale in three weeks’ time.

They also committed to protect and respect the human rights of nationals of either party in observance of the rule of law and international humanitarian law and by ensuring due process.

Furthermore, the two nations committed to finalising the Extradition Treaty, which will be signed in the presence of both countries’ leaders when the latter meet on February 21, in the upcoming Quadripartite Summit.

The meeting, that brought together ministers and officials from both countries was a follow up on the Luanda MoU signed by both countries in August last year, committing to resolving their poor relations.

It was also agreed that the Government of Rwanda will formally write to the Government of Uganda by February 15, notifying the latter about some specific issues related to destabilising activities carried out by Rwandan rebel groups from Ugandan territory.

“The Ugandan government undertakes to verify and respond, by February 20, 2020—to some of the most pressing issues capable of immediately being addressed and further investigate and respond to the other issues,” reads part of the joint communique.

Rwandan and Angolan officials wait for their Ugandan counterparts ahead of the Friday meeting. Emmanuel Kwizera.

Subject to the fulfilment of all these undertakings, the Ad Hoc commission recommended to the Quadripartite Summit to consider the issue of the normalization of the activities and mobility of people and goods across the common borders between the two countries.

Both countries also agreed to resume the collaboration between their defence and security organs “in order to improve the mechanisms of exchange of intelligence in the interest of their national security.”

At the start of the meeting, which started late in the afternoon, the head of Rwanda’s delegation, Amb. Olivier Nduhungirehe, the State Minister in Charge of East African Community, stressed seven demands by Rwanda including that Uganda should hold accountable facilitators of RNC and RUD-Urunana networks, including Minister of State Philemon Mateke, Brig Gen Abel Kandiho, Brig Gen Fred Karara, Col CK Asiimwe, Maj Fred Mushambo, Col Kaka Bagyenda and other government officials involved in the same activities.

Another demand was that Kampala disbands the Rwanda National Congress and RUD-Urunana networks in Uganda, arrests and extradites all its members so that they can face justice in Rwanda.

The head of the Ugandan delegation, Sam Kutesa, Uganda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, refuted - as has been the case in previous meetings - evidence from Kigali that Kampala is not only hosting and facilitating armed groups intent on destabilizing Rwanda, but has also detained, illegally, hundreds of innocent Rwandans.

Present were top officials from the facilitating countries - Angola and DR Congo. The latter are led by Manuel Domingos Augusto, Angola’s Minister of External Relations, and Gilbert Kankonde Malamba, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, Security and Customary Affairs of the DR Congo.

The Luanda MoU was inked by President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni.

Its signing was witnessed by the host President João Lourenço, Félix Tshisekedi of DR Congo and Dennis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazaville.

Under the Luanda agreement, Rwanda and Uganda were, among other things, called upon: to protect and respect the rights and freedoms of nationals of the other party residing or transiting in their national territory, and to refrain from engaging in actions that destabilize the other party (or actions perceived to) such as financing, training and infiltration of destabilizing forces.

Rwanda blames Uganda for arbitrarily imprisoning and torturing hundreds of its citizens that are in Uganda’s territory, as well as harbouring armed anti-Rwandan elements.

Since the August 2019 Luanda Agreement, three Quadripartite summits have since been held, the latest of which happened in Angola early February and resolved that Uganda and Rwanda would release nationals of each country held and lists submitted to facilitate the objective.

The next quadripartite Heads od State meeting is meant to take place on February 21, at the Gatuna-Katuna border crossing in northwestern Rwanda.

Friday’s session was the third Ad Hoc commission meeting.

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