For Rwanda - everything but kneeling

On March 9, 2019 President Paul Kagame officially opened the 16th National Leadership retreat that drew over 300 delegates from the public, private sector and beyond.

The President spent much of his opening speech on the current relations between Uganda and Rwanda.

He was candid and detailed.

A key theme of his speech was that his Ugandan counterpart has been determined in his efforts to destabilise Rwanda in economic and security terms, provocation that Kagame said has lacked retaliation because Rwanda’s interests have always been development and stability.

Much of what the President revealed to not only the delegates and the media present, but live on national television was not known to the public.

He divulged specific incidents of provocation against Rwanda, and evidence given to President Museveni only for the latter to ignore it or feign ignorance.

What caught most people by surprise was the President’s revelation that Uganda’s leadership has been undermining Rwanda since 1998.

Rwanda’s former minister for internal security Seth Sendashonga had been preparing an armed rebellion during this period and had gone as far as recruiting fighters, according to a book by French political historian, Gerard Prunier.

Prunier came to learn that the top leadership in Uganda had grown hostile to the new leadership in Rwanda and had begun to entertain thoughts of regime change.

In Sendashonga, they found they could team together to pursue a shared interest, with the French man introducing the two parties in Nairobi, where the former minister lived and was later killed by unknown assailants.

An attentive audience remained captivated.

Similar revelations that point to incessant provocations were revealed.

However, the President insisted that despite this two-decade aggression, he had all along committed to pursuing a peaceful resolution, “I begged many times,” he told the audience.

This was equally revealing.

President Kagame is not known to be a begging man.

Why had he bent backwards to coexist with this hostility from his counterpart across the border, most must have wondered.

His explanation was that he has never seen any interest in reciprocating with hostility. For him, there is nothing to gain from enmity with Uganda.

President Kagame did everything but kneel. In fact, it appears that kneeling is the only thing that is remaining for him to do in this pursuit of peace with his neighbour and former comrade.

However, this he said he won’t be doing.

“You can attempt to destabilise our country, you can do us harm, you can shoot me with a gun and kill me. But there is one thing that is impossible, that can’t happen to me, and I wish, it shouldn’t happen to my country: No one can bring me to my knees. It’s a no-go area. Men and women of my country, you should never accept to be brought to your knees. You are much better than that.”

Someone who preconditions peace on another kneeling does not value peace.

Indeed, the failure of President Museveni to see value in peace brought President Kagame to three options in his relationship with Uganda.

In his own words: “My choice is to be a friendly neighbour, and anyone who chooses that they will never find us wanting on that. We are honest friends and allies with anyone who wants to live with us as friends. The 2nd choice is to let me be, everyone for themselves.

While I don’t prefer that I’d respect your choice. The 3rd is when you decide you don’t like me and keep causing me problems. I’ll create capacity to contain those problems, but it’ll not come from me!”

As insightful as the speech was, the captivated audience seemed most inspired by President Kagame’s capacity to remain steadfast on one thing: for him, peace remains the prize.

The author is a Great Lakes political analyst and media expert.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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