In a strange column in the New Vision newspaper last Saturday, John Nagenda – one of the countless multitudes of advisers of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni – heckles Rwanda to “open the doors!”
Nagenda references the Memorandum of Understanding signed last month between Presidents Kagame and Museveni to resolve strained relations between the two states.
Displaying the biases of the Kampala establishment on the issue – i.e. seeing everything solely in the prism of the alleged closed border, which Rwanda in fact never closed – Museveni’s man says: “please Rwanda, you are the one that closed the boundary. It is now irrelevant why you did so! The matter has been solved by mature nations meeting at the top level!”
As expected, no spokesperson of Museveni’s will tell the truth on what actually has led to the impasse between Kampala and Kigali.
The strangeness of Nagenda’s article lies in his complete omission of background or context on the issue he has chosen to tackle – something that in a way signals he knows his boss’s absolute role in causing the deteriorated relations.
Nagenda is caught in an impossible situation: trying to defend the indefensible.
When Rwanda on March 1, this year issued a strong travel advisory against her citizens crossing to Uganda which was a culmination of several months of Ugandan security agencies mistreating, harassing, and persecuting Rwandans in Uganda.
The most common reasons given for the incessant harassment of Rwandan nationals were, a) “espionage”, b) “illegal entry”, and “illegal weapons possessions”.
This happened to hundreds of Rwandans. Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), and Internal Security Organisation (ISO), with no limit to impunity, habitually abducted, illegally incarcerated in torture dungeons, and held Rwandans incommunicado.
These are verified facts. These are things that have been happening well over two years now. Relatives of Rwandan nationals that have been abducted by Ugandan security agencies – with no word where they’ve been taken – frequently have been seen in the media expressing worry.
There was Rene Rutagungira who was abducted on August 17 by CMI in a bar in the Ugandan capital Kampala.
They just dragged him away, with no arrest warrant, or any other legal procedure.
The businessman’s wife almost lost her health for worry. The public learnt – only through pro-Museveni media – that the Rwandan was charged with “kidnap”.
It later changed to “espionage”. Then it became, “running a spy ring.” Rutagungira – like so many Rwandans abducted in similar ways – was tortured.
They held him incommunicado for several months. Aaron Kiiza, Rutagungira’s lawyer in December 2018 detailed how former security minister Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde personally drove to Makindye Barracks where the Rwandan civilian was detained.
He proceeded to personally inflict torture, repeatedly slapping and kicking Rutagungira.
Another Rwandan, Roger Donne Kayibanda was abducted in January in the Ugandan capital where he was to attend the civil wedding ceremony of his brother.
CMI operatives just grabbed him in the Kisaasi suburb, took him to their headquarters in Mbuya Barracks where he was badly tortured.
It happened to Darius Kayobera and his wife Claudine, too in January, in the Rubaga area where they ran their businesses of beauty spas and health products.
Kayobera and his wife – abducted even when they had three little children, 9, 6 and 3 waiting for them at home – have never been produced in court.
Their family members appealed to the Ugandan military authorities, to the Rwandan High Commission, and to Ugandan civilian authorities for help.
The Ugandan authorities have shown they do not care. The Rwandan High Commission sent notes of request – the notes verbales – to the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry simply ignored the notes. Just like it had ignored so many others.
Rwanda’s position to Kampala always has been: “if indeed the people you are arresting have committed crimes, why do you not try them in court; lend some transparency to the problem?”
That was President Kagame’s question at a leadership retreat much earlier this year.
Uganda just went on contemptuously ignoring the entreaties of Kigali, until the latter said enough was enough, and issued its advisory to its citizens against crossing to Uganda. This was one of the main issues that the MoU signed in Angola was to address.
It specifically said in part: “protect and respect the rights and freedoms of the nationals of the other Party residing or transiting in their national territories.”
Only Uganda has been egregiously abusing the rights of Rwandans. Nagenda mentions nothing of that. He completely omits mention of the fact that ever since signing of the MoU, Kampala has neither released nor tried any of the hundreds of Rwandans illegally detained in his country.
Typical of Kampala’s misinformation strategy, Nagenda wants the public to forget Museveni has obligations to fulfil first.
On “protecting the rights of nationals of the other Party”, Kigali has nothing to be answerable for. Not a single Ugandan is illegally detained anywhere in Rwanda.
Those arrested on suspicion of crimes will be read charges and produced before a court in 48 hours as per the law. The Ugandan High Commission in Kigali will be notified soon afterward.
Kampala’s duplicity in declining to fulfil her part of the deal has meant Kigali not lifting the travel advisory.
Kigali’s restriction of the Gatuna Border Post to heavy Ugandan commercial trucks – to facilitate completion of the One-Stop Border Post – is what Kampala calls “closure of the border”.
All appearances are that the Museveni’s sole interest in signing the Memorandum was to have free movement of Ugandan goods and commerce into Rwanda resume, while doing absolutely nothing to honour his part of the deal, Kigali commentators say.
The Ugandan leader’s other obligation is dismantling Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC networks in Uganda.
It was President Museveni’s decision to adopt RNC as an anti-Rwanda proxy group, united in their mutual goal to destabilize Rwanda that was the first of the main reasons for deteriorated relations.
Rwanda has protested endlessly, through diplomatic channels Kampala’s backing, facilitation and funding of a group sworn to bring violent conflict back to Rwanda.
None other an organisation than the UN Group of Experts on DR Congo has detailed Kampala’s recruitment efforts on the part of RNC and “P5” anti-Rwanda rebel groups. These are facts verified by sources on the ground.
Rwanda, on her part, isn’t in bed with a single anti-Kampala group.
Yet Kampala has not taken one step to end its pro-RNC activities.
No amount of obfuscation from the likes of Nagenda will change the facts.