Rwanda-Uganda relations: An informed analysis: (Part II)

Some of the Rwandans who were irregularly deported by Ugandan security services having been held illegally and tortured in Uganda. File.

In the previous article, I did highlight some destabilising activities by Ugandan ruling elite for over 20 years as someone with informed understanding of issues that have characterised Rwanda-Uganda relations since 1997.  

And despite constant denials against hard evidence, such is bound to be expensive politically, economically as well as their social implications on the relationship between the two countries.


Issues highlighted earlier (harbouring and organising destabilising agents against Rwanda as well as torture and imprisonment of over 1000 Rwandans by Uganda), serious crimes which were brought to the attention of more than 350 top officials, both in Government and private sector during the recent government retreat in Gabiro (9-12th March, 2019) by President Kagame, who gave details of these issues.


As pointed out earlier, the acts of destabilisation of Rwanda by Uganda’s ruling elite where elite means inner circle of President Museveni (Hima ruling class to be precise) - is trended due to a combination of reasons that defy logic and portends to demean a sovereign state despite the trended failure of this strategy for the last 20 years without lessons learnt thereof by such political elite.


Reasons behind this bizarre situation we find ourselves in include:

Control of Rwanda

The liberation of Rwanda by RPA (now RDF) was a long process, that was very expensive in all aspects possible, financial and human. This process began way back in late 1970s before the current Uganda ruling elite was anywhere in the picture.

Nevertheless, Museveni’s bush war of 1980s presented an opportunity for the actualisation of our liberation struggle, a struggle that was to return home millions of Rwandans who were scattered the whole world and were told by the late Habyarimana’s regime that they cannot be allowed to return home for Rwanda was “full’ .

And so thousands of young Rwandans in Uganda were to fight the so-called bush war alongside others from 1980s to 1985 when they dislodged Obote II as well as Rutwa regimes and brought Museveni to power. 

As pointed out in part I of these series, former Ugandan President Obote’s persecution of Rwandans in Uganda energised many young  and determined Rwandans to join the war to oust Obote who was a determined enemy of Rwandans in Uganda.

The fact is, there is no way Museveni would have prevailed against Obote without the support of such a determined force of young Rwandans pushed against the wall by Obote.

As Professor Mahmoud Mandani, in his paper African States, Citizens and War, a case study put it “Baganda peasants, hated Obote, but they were not ready to die fighting him”, despite Obote’s negation of a people...that a good Muganda is a dead one..

And so Rwandan refugees became natural allies in this struggle of survival of last resort. Many young Rwandan fighters died in this struggle, although this is not mentioned anywhere in Uganda for political expedience that cannot mask facts.

And although in is his book: The Mustard Seed, Museveni purports to imply that this was a war fought by himself and his brother Salim Saleh,  reversal facts hold true.

However, a number of these Rwandan fighters were to be elevated to senior positions, including late Fred Rwigema, and now President Paul Kagame (among others) not because this was a favour but rather it was on merit.

When these young Rwandans decided to fight back home in 1990, there is no single Ugandan who joined them to liberate Rwanda.

These young fighters from Uganda were to be joined by their brothers and sisters from Burundi, Republic of Congo (then Zaire), from within Rwanda and from the rest of the world who understood the cause.

By 1993, RPA (now RDF) could no longer be defined as an army made up of fighters from Uganda but rather a mixture from the aforementioned who knew little of the claims of the “contribution” by Uganda to our struggle for liberation.

Ugandan political elite did not realise this development, regardless of the fact that, even if RPA (RDF) remained a predominantly Ugandan born/bred army, control by the Ugandan ruling elite would not have been possible, as this was to be a national army that served national interest. Period!   

Nevertheless, Museveni did provide logistics and weapons not necessarily for pay back as there was no contract to this effect but out of his own volition. Given the foregoing and current trends, however, his contribution was eternal “debt”, never mind one owed by Uganda to Rwanda’s contribution to its liberation. 

And so the narrative that “Museveni helped Banyarwanda” to return home is negated by his minimal contribution to the same.

But the later narrative has defined the relationship between Rwanda and Uganda, where such terms as “…Uganda groomed the entire leadership of Rwanda, Rwandan leadership is ungrateful, rebellious, and disrespect to elders…(read Ugandan political elite) is a common currency among a section of this elite and seems to have been sold to the populace.

And so this elite has held view that Rwanda and her leadership owe a debt of allegiance that should be paid in form of subordination and subjection. When Kigali said no to the insolence of Ugandan political elite who held the view that Rwanda should be run from Kampala, and those who did not oblige should be removed/changed and or make their governance difficult explains the trended destabilisation of Rwanda since 1997 .

Thus, memories of senior RPF cadres are fresh with regard to imposition of Silas Majambere, late Seth Sendashonga and even diversionary attitudes of Pasteur Bizimungu to this effect.

Recruitment of late Karegeya and Kayumba is an open secret among these senior cadres as well, all aimed at creating stooges in Kigali whom this elite could then direct from Kampala. Resistance to these machinations by Rwandan leadership has thus been a boon in the fresh of this elite for far too long.

Ugandan political elite, especially President Museveni, has not come to terms with the effect that Rwanda is a sovereign state with structures that are not run on personal sentiments but rather based on the best interests of our country, and our people, majority of whom have no idea of nor are interested in the purported  “debt”. In fact, if this was to be the case, this strategy would have been a disaster that Rwanda nor Uganda could not afford to underwrite. For Rwandans that returned from Uganda  constitute a modest percentage of our entire population, and as such, could not have imposed such Ugandan demands on others.

Moreover, such a strategy for the sake of argument is a serious contradiction to Rwandan values  (agaciro/dignity/self-respect/ independence) held so dear in our culture that a Rwandan would die fighting to retain the same.

And so when President Kagame told leaders at the National Retreat that he would rather be killed than kneel before anybody, he spoke for all Rwandans and this his statement is loaded.

However, the trended destabilisation machination of Uganda’s ruling elite since 1997 was aimed at not only creating power structures in Kigali managed by stooges of Kampala but also make Rwanda a region of Uganda under the control of the said political elite and not necessarily to develop Rwanda, but rather to serve their political egos and through these their economic interests which underpin their power framework.

And so the current trend that has seen Uganda grouping destabilising rebels from RNC to FDLR, into the so-called P5, which is a project in futility, is part of the trend to create an alternative government that is a stooge to Ugandan political elite.

That the said political elite are working with renegade Kayumba and his associates, who are also working with Uganda’s security agents to mobilise rebels for an evil cause is on the radar of every Rwandan, especially now that these acts have taken on other forms and shape leaving their objective constant (destabilisation of Rwanda).

When Tanzania dislodged Ugandan dictator Ida Amin from power in 19978, they did not harbour this cheap mind-set of influencing events in Uganda. They left Uganda and Ugandans to organise themselves the way they deemed fit.

There was no such childish sentiments as…Tanzania groomed the entire leadership of Uganda, Ugandan leadership is ungrateful, rebellious, and disrespect of elders.. (although they are other reasons behind the behaviour of Uganda’s political elite as will be outlined later). I am not sure that Tanzania even imagined that Museveni would ever be Uganda’s President, for Obote was their man given his socialist tendencies and his close relationship with the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

Assuming that Tanzania did the same to Uganda for in 1978 liberation of Uganda against dictator Id-Amini Dada, one wonders where Uganda would be today. In that particular case, the contribution of Ugandan rebels (of which Museveni was one) to that war was minimal as Tanzania did most of the job.

Given the foregoing, therefore, the best strategy for Ugandan political elite should have been “live and let live”.

To be continued…

Prof. Nshuti Manasseh is an Economist and Financial Expert.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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