Observers and experts of the Great Lakes regional political trends, as well as people of Rwanda, are beginning to feel a sense of déjà vu, as the Uganda government continues to violate the Luanda Agreement signed by Presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni in Luanda, Angola in August this year.
In contravention of the accord, Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) has doubled down, arresting and torturing and locking up innocent Rwandans, as well as providing unabated financial and military support to the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) genocidal organisations, working to cause bloodshed in Rwanda.
On 12 November 2001, Ugandan newspaper Daily Monitor published a news headline that left no doubt as to who, the adult in the room was “No need to apologize, Kagame tells Museveni” read the headline.
President Paul Kagame’s magnanimity and ultimate gracefulness was a reaction to Yoweri Museveni’s self-inflicted humiliation, as former United Kingdom International Development Minister, Clare Short chastised the Ugandan president for his 28 August 2001 letter to the British minister, openly asking her “for and additional US $139 million on top of approximately US $ 113million in existing aid” as Museveni prepared to attack Rwanda.
In a clear case of an aggressor projecting his own intentions on his intended victim, President Museveni told Ms Clare Short, in the letter that she needed to come to his rescue, falsely claiming that Rwanda with “an army of 100,000 compared to his own 40,000 was planning an aggression” against his country and therefore needed immediate British financial intervention to help him balance forces with what he projected as a superior Rwandan military.
Museveni, for some reason, had convinced himself that the letter and its toxic contents was going to remain his little secret with the British politician of Irish descent. However, as it turned out the Ugandan ruler had another thing coming.
Ms Clare Short was as transparent as they come. She quickly invited Presidents Kagame and Museveni to London for talks facilitated by the British government to figure out what exactly was Museveni’s problem.
For the Ugandan President who has always worn his Pan-African credentials on his sleeves, seeking to portray himself as the most revolutionary leader the African continent has ever known, disclosing the contents of his letter to third parties, much less to a fellow African leader he had irredeemably bad mouthed to a representative of the very European power that colonized his own country for over a century, it was a nightmare come true.
Ms Short went one better. She availed copies of the letter to all the members of the delegations representing both Uganda and Rwanda, as well as her own aides present in the meeting, at which point she turned to Museveni and said “this is a bad letter Mr President”.
His attempts to resist open discussion of the letter and its contents were met with disgust on the part of Ms Short, who demanded that he, instead, apologize to President Kagame.
According to a report released by the International Crisis Group (ICG) on December 21, 2001, “The 28 August letter was also an embarrassment for Museveni, who attempted to avoid discussing its precise contents and wording before being forced to offer an apology to Kagame after Minister Short pushed it in front of him”.
Museveni, in his quest to undermine Rwanda and its leadership whom he had referred to as “politically bankrupt” in the letter, had reduced himself to a mid-twenty century African school boy running to report to a colonial headmistress after a school yard fight, only that in this case Museveni had made the whole thing up.
Indeed, during the London talks, the British mediators had come to the conclusion that President Museveni’s allegations against Rwanda were falsehoods meant to divert attention from his aggressive designs against the country.
Consequently, it was agreed that both leaders “cooperate on the handling of armed opposition groups and to negotiate a bilateral extradition treaty”. As it turns out, Museveni during the intervening years, has not honored any part of what he pledged to, in London.
The Ugandan president has, instead become more brazen with an anti-Rwanda stance. Almost two decades down the road he hasn’t relented.
His government and security services with the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) in the lead role has been actively funding and openly supporting terrorist groups bent on causing bloodshed in Rwanda, prominent among them, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) led by Kayumba Nyamwasa, as well as the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), an organization whose membership largely draws from among groups responsible for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and those individuals motivated by the genocide ideology.
Museveni erased any doubt that may have existed about his determination to destabilize Rwanda when he, in March this year, publicly admitted that he has been meeting RNC leaders, including their top diplomats namely, Eugene Gasana and Charlotte Mukankusi.
As the public in both Rwanda and Uganda awaited the implementation of the agreement signed by the Heads of State of the two countries in Luanda, Angola, if the rhetoric being advanced by Ugandan government leaders and the media in that country is anything to go by, the actions by the regime in Kampala will also disappoint efforts on the part of the mediators for the Agreement to succeed.
The Accord covers a range of issues and grievances that have adversely affected relations between the two neighbors, including the clause pertaining to one of the critical concerns for the government of Rwanda.
The undertaking to “refrain from actions conducive to destabilization or subversion in the territory of the other party (and) acts such as financing, training and infiltration of destabilizing forces”, would go a long way in easing the tensions.
However, right from the time the Agreement was signed, Uganda government officials and their propaganda outlets have circled the wagons, rallying around a carefully crafted narrative that has sought to portray the conflict as nothing but a border issue.
Indeed the border became an issue when Uganda’s CMI, launched its campaign targeting Rwandan nationals, travelling to or transiting through the country.
CMI and Internal Security Organisation have been arresting and detaining without trial, as well as torturing large numbers of innocent Rwandans, atrocities which have resulted in multiple documented deaths.
By targeting them for persecution, therefore, the Uganda government effectively shut its doors on Rwandans.
Rwanda on the other hand did what every responsible government does; it put out an advisory cautioning its citizens against travelling to a country where they would certainly be victimized by the government.
The Luanda Agreement was a good place to start and the Uganda government should work to implement it, rather than undermine it at every turn.