Rwanda-Uganda relations through lens of The East African

The East African newspaper, normally the region’s most respected weekly, has written a baffling editorial with an equally baffling title –  “Kagame and Museveni must step carefully”.

But all objective facts on the ground indicate the only person that is doing any “stepping” is Museveni, whether carefully or not. We shall get back to those objective facts in a moment.

But all objective facts on the ground indicate the only person that is doing any “stepping” is Museveni, whether carefully or not. We shall get back to those objective facts in a moment.

The writer has to stretch back to the very unfortunate confrontations of Kisangani, two decades back, in an attempt to maintain some impression that there is “equal hostility” between Uganda and Rwanda. There isn’t.

When the paper says, “Uganda is acting to crack down on perceived Rwandan moles,” it is only lending credence to a Kampala narrative of alleged “Rwandan spying” that’s supported neither with fact nor with evidence. This brings us back to the objective facts why the only party in the wrong regarding soured relations between the two countries in Kampala.

Kampala is supporting a rebel group, Rwanda National Congress (RNC) that has openly declared war on Rwanda. It has been established that Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) actively helps RNC in its recruitment activities in refugee camps or other areas of Uganda where there are Rwandan populations.

On 11 December 2017, a group of 46 young Rwandans was intercepted at the Kikagati border post between Uganda and Tanzania. The young men were found by immigration authorities to be carrying forged Ugandan papers. They had first stated they were headed to Burundi as part of a church fellowship group, but upon questioning confessed they were en-route to RNC training camps in DRC. Further questioning revealed it was CMI that had facilitated them with their fake papers. According to news reports, Ugandan immigration authorities alerted the Uganda Border Police, which arrested them.

Media reported how President Museveni during a joint press conference with his Rwandan counterpart said, “When I met President Kagame in Addis Ababa he gave me some facts which I followed up. A group of Banyarwanda was being recruited through Tanzania and Burundi to go to Congo. They said they were going for church work, but when they were interrogated, it was found the work was not exactly religious. It was something else!”

That “something else” was terrorism. The 46 men ended up in court facing charges of terrorism as (former) Police Spokesman Emilian Kayima confirmed to the media. “The 46 men were moving with forged documents and identifications that point to acts of terrorism,” Kayima said.

President Museveni’s admission of the presence of such a group must have been out of serious embarrassment at being shown all the evidence by his Rwandan counterpart.

One thing that shows beyond reasonable doubt that the highest Ugandan authorities were complicit is that on 25 June last year, the magistrate court in Mbarara released 39 of the RNC recruits from prison. Rarely does it happen anywhere for suspects in a case as serious as terrorism to spend only a few months in prison, and be released without trial. The individuals reportedly continued to their original destination in RNC training camps.

It has been reported how top RNC officials – such as David Himbara its chief propagandist, Tribert Rujugiro the group’s chief financier and others – when in Kampala get VIP treatment befitting visiting high-level dignitaries. When Ben Rutabana, the “head of capacity development” of RNC visited in July last year as a “guest” of Kaka Bagyenda – Director of Uganda’s Internal Security Organisation (ISO) – one Jack Erasmus Nsangiranabo, a second lieutenant was assigned as his personal chaperone. Rutabana was on a mission to inspect how RNC’s recruitment activities were progressing.

Kigali on its part does not consort with a single anti-Uganda group or individual, which is why it is truly baffling for The East African to claim, “Support for enemy forces has featured prominently in the latest standoff between the two countries.”

On 14 to 15 December last year, high-level RNC and FDLR (for those who do not know, the latter is an offshoot of the extremist military and militias that perpetrated the Genocide against the Tutsi in 94) representatives met in Kampala at Museveni’s invitation. The meeting took place at the Kampala Serena under the coordination of Philemon Mateke, Uganda’s Minister of State for Regional Affairs. The objective was how to deepen working modalities between FDLR and RNC. But the very day they were crossing back into Congo, 15 December, the Congolese authorities arrested two FDLR officials at Bunagana border and flew them to Kinshasa. It has since been established that these people, La Forge Fils Bazeye the terrorist group’s spokesman and Theophile Abega its intelligence chief, spilled a lot of information on Uganda’s working with the terror groups. All these are objective truths.

Kampala has also has been proven, in a report by the UN Group of Experts on DRC, of recruiting for, and supporting anti-Rwanda elements based in South Africa and the DRC. That report is consistent with all the FDLR and RNC movements in Kampala, DRC or Burundi and elsewhere.

Finally, it comes as a complete shock to any Rwandan to read in The East African’s editorial that, “So far the dispute has largely remained at the top, with ordinary citizens able to go about their lives with little interruption.” Let the person that wrote that thing inform himself about the countless Rwandan passengers in buses and cars who have been brutally arrested and held incommunicado. Let the writer know what happens to a Rwandan in Uganda that refuses to be recruited into RNC. CMI or ISO operatives will plant a gun on him, then arrest, imprison and torture him on concocted charges of “illegal weapons possession”.

That is what happened on 26 May last year to Emmanuel Rwamucyo, a Mbarara-based Rwandan businessman and his friend Augustin Rutayisire who had accompanied Rwamucyo to a bank. According to family members, they had gone to deposit money for a loan payment when CMI arrested them and claimed it had found them in possession of a firearm. This begs the question: which civilian carries a gun into a bank in broad daylight? The same thing has happened to several other Rwandans in public places like restaurants, bus parks or bars. In all cases, there will be no proper court trial for one to defend him or herself. If there is any pretense at justice, Rwandan civilians will find themselves before a Ugandan military court martial. Countless Rwandans’ properties have been confiscated and stolen, and those that happen to have a business will find it ruined. A Rwandan that’s only minding her affairs may find herself arrested by CMI or ISO operatives on information provided by RNC, doing what pleases Uganda.

Regular news readers have almost daily learned of illegal deportations of Rwandans traveling to Uganda, most of whom have to suffer illegal imprisonment first – all in utter disregard of EAC laws on freedom of movement of citizens of a member state in any of the member countries. Right now, there are hundreds of Rwandans incarcerated in Ugandan prisons on charges of “illegal entry”, or “staying illegally in Uganda”, and similar charges that cannot stand if Common Market laws were properly applied.

On the other hand in any event that a Ugandan is arrested in Rwanda for a crime, that person is accorded due process and his rights are respected. The Police will read him or her the charges, while steps will immediately be taken to inform the Uganda High Commission in Kigali, and the suspect will be allowed consular visits.

Those are the true, verifiable facts of relations between Uganda and Rwanda.

The East African has done its readers a serious disservice with its piece of false equivalency while avoiding the real story: Ugandan aggressive behavior against a neighbor that has done the responsible thing and firmly desisted from each and all such behavior.

Source: Virunga Post  

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