For the last quarter of the century, efforts by the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni to subjugate Rwanda and run it as his vassal state have been in plain sight for anyone who has bothered to look.
However, the firm stand by the Government and the people of Rwanda against this modern-day imperialism, on the part of the Ugandan president has led to such levels of frustration; he is now prepared to work with whoever he thinks can help him bring the people of Rwanda to their knees.
It is an attitude that is increasingly assuming dangerous proportions as the Uganda government publicly teams up with known non-state actors and terrorist organisations, including the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), in the vain hope that Museveni might someday realise his imperial dreams.
He has not only publicly admitted that he personally hosted the RNC’s political leaders, including Eugène-Richard Gasana and Charlotte Mukankusi, Uganda government’s premier mouthpiece, New Vision and its affiliates have gladly carried anti-Rwanda propaganda interviews with top RNC leaders, including Kayumba Nyamwasa and David Himbara.
Indeed news outlets under the government control have been mobilised to adopt an anti-Rwanda editorial line.
Private media houses in Kampala have equally been coerced to fall in line and have no option but to comply given how often the National Resistance Movement government (NRM) has often shut many of them down at any hint of independent and unbiased reporting.
Way before President Museveni’s frustration boiled over to a point where he has now decided to support and sponsor genocidal forces working to destabilise Rwanda, the Ugandan leader had tried other means that didn’t exactly go his way.
This obsession with the domination of Rwanda by any means possible has often left him looking ridiculous among fellow African Heads of State, owing largely to the fact that most of the time he couldn’t contain the impulse.
This has particularly earned him public condemnation and mockery among his peers, often in instances where he has sought to portray himself as the leader of Rwanda.
It is a behavior that manifested itself in the 1990s in the aftermath of the Genocide against the Tutsi at a time when the people and the government of Rwanda were working to rebuild the country.
It shocked many foreign observers when President Museveni went a notch higher and started to claim some of what Rwanda was doing and accomplishing, as his own work and success.
When it didn’t go his way, he became enraged and resorted to undermining Rwanda, all the while portraying himself as a friend.
Towards the end of 1999, a major Ugandan media house published a news story detailing how President Museveni panicked after receiving intelligence reports that Rwandan troops were poised to take Kinshasa.
He immediately schemed how to con the world into believing that his own forces had captured Kinshasa and toppled longtime dictator, Mobutu Seseko.
Museveni’s offer turned down
He went on to reveal to then Rwandan Vice President and Minister of Defence, Paul Kagame, that he (Museveni) had three battalions which had sufficient time to rest after rotation from the front-line in (South) Sudan, where they were supporting the SPLA against the Khartoum government.
He was offering this force to join the Rwandan troops as they pushed towards the capital city of the then Zaire. He was told that the point at which the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) had advanced, they didn’t need any foreign support.
When it dawned on him that his ploy to have his army match on Kinshasa as liberators, the Ugandan president became furious, only setting himself up for further embarrassment.
Even after his failure to muscle his way into the liberation effort for Zaire, Museveni chose to portray himself as the military genius who managed to bring down the powerful dictator’s regime, a feat that many had failed to achieve over the years.
As it often happens, soon the truth caught up with him when a clear picture of how the campaign to liberate Zaire was conducted emerged.
Inquisitive reporters got to work and soon discovered that President Museveni and his army had nothing to do with the removal of Mubutu.
They learned from western intelligence sources that the planning and execution of the war to liberate the people of Zaire had solely been accomplished by the Rwandan troops.
Predictably, this set in motion some kind of race as to which media outlet would first get the true story.
On July 9, 1997, the Washington Post delivered, with a news headline titled: Rwandans Led Revolt in Congo, by John Pomfret, after he had successfully landed an interview with then Vice President and Minister of Defence, Paul Kagame.
“Rwanda’s defence minister, Paul Kagame, has acknowledged for the first time his country’s key role in the overthrow of President Mobutu Seseko in neighbouring Congo, saying that the Rwandan government planned and directed the rebellion that toppled the longtime dictator and Rwandan troops and officers led the rebel forces”, John Pomfret wrote.
The then Vice President went on to disclose how the world had seriously doubted Rwanda’s capacity to take on the dictator, “There were not many people who thought that Mobutu was very weak. They thought of Mobutu as a big monster who wouldn’t be defeated,” he reflected.
The interview touched a raw nerve with those who had sought to present themselves as Congo’s liberators.
President Museveni couldn’t contain his rage given that he had worked hard telling whoever cared to listen that his army had removed Mobutu from power.
He then convinced then Congolese President Laurent Kabila that the interview was a hostile act meant to undermine his (Kabila’s) nascent regime.
In an unrelated development, soon regional Heads of State held a summit in Kinshasa which had been planned earlier to express support and solidarity with the new government.
While Rwanda was duly represented, Museveni in the most arrogant move plotted with Kabila and hatched a plan to “summon” the Vice President of Rwanda to “explain” to the summit his decision to “disrespect” Kabila, by giving the interview to the Washington Post.
A private jet was dispatched to Kigali in quick order, but the plot unraveled when the plane flew back without the intended passenger.
However, the embarrassment in Kinshasa did nothing to put an end to Museveni’s deluded colonial ambitions on Rwanda.
In 1998, during one of the Heads of State summit held in Victoria Falls, Zambia to find a sustainable solution to the fighting that had pitied FDLR fighters and Kabila’s army against RPA troops, a war that had drawn in a number of regional armies, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, blasted Museveni and called him out when the Ugandan President claimed, during one of the sessions, that his soldiers had just engaged a unit of Zimbabwean troops in the town of Goma in Eastern DR Congo.
Mugabe made it clear to the Heads of State gathered in the room that, indeed, Museveni was posturing since the Zimbabweans had never encountered any Ugandan soldiers in any of the battles.
“There is no Ugandan military presence in Eastern Congo; it is the Rwandans fighting the war,” the Zimbabwean leader told Museveni. Indeed Mugabe knew what he was talking about. Only some weeks earlier, he had lost large numbers of soldiers and substantial quantities of equipment, including two new helicopters in a single battle against Rwandan troops.
Sizeable numbers were taken prisoner with their top commanders, among them one Col. Funi, who was captured in the encounter. Later, Rwanda handed back the Zimbabweans with all their equipment to the Government in Harare.
Undeterred, during yet another summit in Tripoli, Libya in 1999 with DR Congo top on the agenda, a meeting that Rwanda had declined to attend owing to Muammar Gaddafi’s scheming and how he had convened it, Museveni declared in the middle of the proceedings, that he was representing Rwanda.
An irritated leader from the Horn of Africa, who had seen this movie before stepped out and called Kigali.
President Museveni froze in his seat when the message relayed back to the summit was that Rwanda is a sovereign state and can only be represented by its leaders.
It’s a long and troubling catalog of documented events clearly depicting a deluded obsession, which is now playing out in the public and could easily threaten regional stability if President Museveni does not wake up and smell the coffee.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.