In a space of only 536 days, President Paul Kagame has visited Uganda a record four times. On October 1, 2006 Kagame was in Mbarara, western Uganda to grace the Ntare School Old Boys event, where he made a historic speech. The statements in it were characterized by numerous traces of commitment to work towards restoring the Rwanda-Uganda relations to normal.
He was again in Kampala for Rwanda and Burundi’s accession to the East African Community in June 2007. And then in November the same year, the President was in Kampala for four days participating in the Commonwealth Summit.
Now Kagame is Kampala since yesterday to sign a deal which will make the extension of the Eldoret-Kampala oil pipeline to Kigali possible. Of course this has coincided with the inauguration of the magnificent Muammar Gaddafi Mosque in Old Kampala. Also, the construction company responsible for the extension works is Libyan.
A quick look at Kagame’s current presence in Kampala and the other two preceding it gives a must-be-there impression, given the strategic significance to Rwanda of the EAC and the Commonwealth, and then this all important Kampala-Kigali oil pipeline.
However, in these frequent visits, you have to read more if the holistic interpretation is to be derived. The visits are symbolic outcomes of a bilateral relationship that is on a terrific mend. In other words if Rwanda and Uganda were not on good terms, eager to make them even better, all these events would have ended up being less compelling for the head of state to attend.
The reading on the wall is that there is steady progress in the normalization of an originally fabulous relationship, later soiled by sharp disagreements that at one time escalated into clashes between the two countries’ armies inside eastern Congo.
Perhaps it should be said that the two presidents are now handsomely delivering on what they might have promised each other in that two-hour one-on-one morning meeting in Mbarara, later followed on the same day at Ntare by openly pledging restoration of friendship on top of good neighbourliness, to the peoples of both countries.
The gestures that the goodwill can only improve are much welcome. All the signs evidently, gladly, point to a new era.
At the height of the past differences, it was often heard nostalgically from folks that if it was not for the governments, the ordinary citizens would not have had any problem co-existing. The masses wanted to claim they were ahead in measurements of goodwill.
With the latest developments, it seems governments have assumed the position of pace setters and we can only applaud the lead, expecting it to be strong enough foundation for strengthening further the bond.