When news media reports emerged that the Uganda government had released nine innocent Rwandan nationals who had been incarcerated in a Ugandan military jail for periods ranging from two to three years without trial, government leaders in Rwanda welcomed the news, with cautious optimism.
They called on Uganda to not only free the remaining Rwandans languishing in jails and safe houses around that country but to also fulfill all their commitments as contained in the Luanda Memorandum signed between the two countries in August 2019, specifically the clause requiring Kampala to end its support for terrorist organizations targeting Rwanda.
Speaking to The New Times after the Rwandan nationals were released, the Minister of State in charge of East African Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe, made it clear that Uganda needs to free the remaining dozens of Rwandans still held there and to end its support to anti-Rwanda armed groups.
Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Uganda, Frank Mugambage emphasized this message during a news conference called by Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Sam Kutesa on January 8, 2020, to announce the release.
A critical constant to all this back and forth that tends to be lost through the deliberate misinformation campaign on the part of the government propaganda media in Uganda is that historically every time the government of Rwanda has put forward these and other similar concerns in relation to Uganda, Kigali has always done it from a high moral ground.
During the news conference Uganda’s Foreign Minister, Sam Kutesa attempted to muddy the waters by insisting that the Rwandans were “not blameless” and that their release was a “political” decision.
Indeed as a lawyer, minister Kutesa should have known that no government or jurisdiction locks up people for three years without trial if it isn’t political.
Only that in this case the victims were innocent foreign nationals with nothing to do with politics.
The minister further intentionally mixes up issues demanding that Rwanda should “reciprocate” the gesture.
There is nothing to reciprocate in this case since Rwanda has not arrested any Ugandan nationals much less tortured them. They are carrying on with their businesses here without anyone bothering them.
Of course, Uganda has, at every turn, sought to create a diversion by constantly attempting to frame the dispute around the decision by the government of Rwanda to advise its nationals against traveling to Uganda where the (CMI) has declared open season on them.
At a news conference held in Kigali on January 8, 2020, Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Vincent Biruta, announced that once the government was satisfied that Uganda has ceased the arrest and torture of innocent Rwandans, the advisory would be removed.
Meanwhile, in Kampala, Rwanda’s envoy Frank Mugambage had, during the media briefing organized by the Foreign Affairs Minister of Uganda, called on the Ugandan authorities to “deal” with the terrorist groups that are funded and supported by Kampala.
As a representative of the government of Rwanda, High Commissioner Mugambage had the requisite moral authority to make the demand.
As I have pointed out in these pages before, this isn’t Rwanda’s first rodeo, confronting such kinds of issues and working with whoever was prepared to help resolve them.
For the last quarter of the century, the country has faced similar challenges and more, largely created by the Uganda government.
Indeed there are ways they were handled which could help chart a way forward if Uganda is serious about finding a sustainable solution.
On July 4, 2001, Uganda government-owned publication - New Vision - run a front-page story: ‘Kigali warns Cols Mande, Kyakabale”, after more than a dozen Uganda army officers fled their country, citing government persecution and crossed into Rwanda.
Quoting from a statement released in Kigali, The New Vision went on to report that the government of Rwanda had accepted the soldiers’ entry on humanitarian grounds.
Indeed a statement by Kigali had reiterated that the defectors from UPDF would be “allowed to stay in the country on condition that they do not engage in any political activities against their country of origin”.
South Africa has made a similar declaration that went into effect beginning January 1, 2020, but clearly, Rwanda showed the way almost 20 years ago.
The Ugandan officers had been emboldened to seek asylum in Rwanda, after a bunch of former Rwandan soldiers, with the connivance of the authorities in Kampala crossed into Uganda where they launched activities to destabilize Rwanda, supported by the CMI and other security agencies in that country.
However, when the UPDF officers defected the shoe was on the other foot and Kampala was compelled to end the support for the Rwandan rogue soldiers and found third countries to take them, exactly as Rwanda had done with Uganda’s own fleeing soldiers.
Rwanda is not hosting any Ugandan groups on its territory targeting their own home country and never has. Even those who attempted to seek refuge here, some two decades ago did not stay long as the government of Rwanda promptly arranged to have them transferred to Europe.
It’s, therefore, time for the government of Uganda to not only bring an end to the support and funding it has provided to the RNC and FDLR, as well as other terrorist groups targeting Rwanda but to also find third countries to relocate their leaders, who have been granted free rein to use its territory to recruit and mobilize elements that have been attacking Rwanda, as happened in early October 2019 in Kinigi, Musanze District where fourteen innocent citizens were killed.