Opinion: Uganda’s Propaganda aims at Rwanda but shoots blanks

Kigali City

On Monday 4 December the website, Soft Power, owned by a lady close to Uganda’s First office published a story titled “Investigation: Rwanda propaganda against Uganda diversionary from police aided illegal repatriation.” Ironically, though the story denounced what it described as “Rwanda’s propaganda,” its content was a mouthful of manufactured lies intended to divert readers from the real truth.

On the whole, the writer went into great pains to show that Uganda is the innocent neighbor that is provoked by an “ungrateful” neighbour, Rwanda. Interestingly, the bitterness that goes as far as reminding Rwanda of the good things Uganda has done for it betrays this cause and, instead, reveals Kampala’s animus state of mind vis-à-vis its neighbour. The central theme of the writer of this intelligence backed propaganda is that Rwanda is running a “secret network within the Uganda Police Force to allegedly repatriate Rwandan fugitives” at the orders of the chief of Uganda Police, IGP Kale Kayihura. It was a piece meant to suck Rwanda into the machinations and intrigues currently running within Uganda’s security organs. But if the writer had done a little homework, he or she would have quickly dispelled the myth of the existence of a secret network. What exists is part of Police diplomacy practiced then world over: bilateral institutional relations. Specifically, the Rwanda-Uganda police relationship is specified in the agreement called, “Combating Terrorism, Drug-Trafficking, Cross Border, Organized and Translational Crimes.” This is the instrument that has been used to repatriate dozens of lawbreakers between the two countries including the much-hyped cases of Joel Mutabazi, on the Rwandan side and Namuyimbwa Shanita aka “Bad Black” on the Ugandan side. There are another 36 people who have been repatriated in a similar manner as Mutabazi and Bad Black. Among these Uganda has asked for and received 26 fugitives compared to 10 that have been repatriated to Rwanda. Moreover, thanks to this framework, a good number of Ugandan and Rwandan girls have been intercepted from traffickers mostly enroute to Asia. Therefore the relation between Uganda and Rwanda Police is purely institutional under a framework that serves interests of the people of both countries. Its not a bedroom agreement between two individuals, as the propaganda article wants to portray it. It gets even more preposterous as the so-called “investigation” turns to Ismael Baguma, a Rwanda’s police attaché to Uganda, who, according to the infamous article, “acts as the conduit” in the kidnappings and is “always in Gen Kayihura’s office.”

Consider this quote from the article: “We have more terrorist threats in Somalia and Kenya than Rwanda but those countries don’t have police attaches deployed in their embassies in Uganda. Why does Rwanda deploy a police attaché to Uganda? What terror threat does Uganda pose to Rwanda to warrant the deployment of Ismael Baguma apart from kidnap of refugees?” Here the authors expose their naivety by deliberately sidestepping facts for the purpose of serving the ultimate intention of driving a negative agenda. When the writer limits matters of law enforcement to “terrorism” the reader is left to wonder about his or her grasp of security matters. A quick google search would have revealed that Uganda has a police attache in Kigali by the names of Assistant Commissioner of Police, Patrick Lawot and that he is more senior in rank than Ismael Baguma who is a Chief Superintendent. Even more, the google search would have led the writer to pictures of Mr. Lawot receiving some items intercepted by the Rwanda Police including moto vehicles (cars and motocycles), laptops, phones, cash in the hundreds of millions, even stolen cows from across the border! – all part of the cooperation framework that the “investigation” missed. But more still, it is standard practice that bilateral arrangements are reciprocated. For instance, Uganda has police attaches deployed in South Sudan (CP Sakiira Moses), Algeria (ACP Baroza), Tanzania, and the DRC (Habyara Fortunate, the former head of PSU). Similarly, police liason officers from Burundi, Italy and other countries are deployed in Kampala. It is, therefore evident, that much as the propaganda in the infamous article was aimed at attacking the name of Kayihura, it was also aimed at undermining and throwing mud at an important existing arrangement that has helped to reduce cross-border crimes in the two countries.

A not so good neighbour Since the writer wished to laud Uganda’s good neighborliness, it has to be fair to take a closer look at that claim. Naturally, a good neighbor cannot, at the same, be the custodian of your enemies. But when one looks at the dealings between Uganda’s security organs and Rwanda’s fugitive army deserters, then one is left questioning the genuineness of this “good neighbor.” Tribert Ayabatwa Rujugiro, once jailed in South Africa and United Kingdom for tax evasion, has gone on record vowing to “bring down” the Kigali administration. It is common knowledge that he’s the chief financier of the terrorist group, Rwanda National Congress (RNC), a terror organization that is responsible for blasting grenades in Kigali, injuring and killing innocent women and children. Rujugiro has business partnerships with senior government officials, including the President’s brother, Salim Saleh; he also enjoys diplomatic/VIP treatment while in Uganda. At the White Castle Hotel, in Arua, onlookers are left astonished at the amount of security detail his son, Richard Rujungiro and cousin Claude Ndatinya, enjoy whenever they go to visit their tobacco business in this town.

Fugitives and rebel recruiters such as Rugema Kayumba, Maj.Habib and Capt Sibo have found sanctuary in Kampala; they work closely with Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Militarily Intelligence (CMI) when recruiting rebels and spreading fabricated propaganda on Rwanda. Is this how a genuine good neighbor behaves? Enter Fake petitions Just last week the Banyarwanda community in Uganda apparently took a petition to parliament denouncing what they called “Rwanda’s harassment” of refugees living there who are in ‘fear of being kidnapped and forcefully repatriated. The petition flopped because it was based on empty lies. But what surprised everyone is that the Uganda Police spokesman confessed that the “refugees were unable to petition parliament due to the absence of Security Minister Lt. Gen Henry Tumukunde,” according to media reports. “Their coming to parliament is awaiting Tumukunde’s return,” said the spokesperson of the police. Again, anyone with knowledge of the workings of parliament knows that parliament is petitioned through the Speaker and not a minister. In his capacity as Minister, Gen. Tumukunde, shouldn’t be anywhere near that petition, at least not until the Speaker receives the petition, forwards it to the subcommittee on security, then the committee, depending on its findings, summons the minister if necessary. Therefore, to delay the petition until “Tumukunde’s return” to parliament is to enjoin him as a party to the petition in some capacity.

Investment between Tribert Rujugiro and Salim Saleh The author alleges that a recent document exposing a business partnership between Saleh and Rujugiro is “falsified.” Indeed, Ligomarch Advocates, Rujugiro’s lawyers, did respond denying that such an agreement between Saleh and Rujugiro exits. But what were they expected to say. The fact is that a purchase agreement between these two individuals exists and is available in Uganda’s registry of companies for anyone interested to verify. As a matter of fact, if further details on this business marriage are needed, we will readily avail them. If the author of the article had done an “investigation” as claimed, he or she at the very least would have told the readers, for purposes of full disclosure, that Rujugiro and Ruth Sebatindira’s family have deep ties that go way back to the time in Burundi when Rujugiro was in Mpimba prison in Burundi. Sebatindira’s father, Mathew Karegesa aka Mutini, a Munyarwanda who served in Iddi Amin’s army but fled to Burundi after Amin’s fall, is the one who helped Rujugiro escape from prison in Bujumbura. As a reward for this rescue, Rujugiro took custody of Karegesa’s children when he (Mitini) died. He paid school fees for Ruth right from secondary school through her masters in the UK. It, therefore, not surprising that Ruth is the managing secretary of Rujugiro’s tobacco business in Uganda, in which Saleh owns 15% shareholding. Rwandan blood liberated Uganda The writer stoops lowest when he says Rwandan leadership is ungrateful to Uganda. The author ostensibly quotes a source thus, “We were shocked to learn that General Kabareebe, under the instructions of his boss, was spreading harmful propaganda against President Museveni. Has Kabareebe forgotten where he came from? Or does he think that Rwandese can easily forget who supported their struggle to return to their motherland when the rest of the world looked on?” Herein lies the crux of the matter. The writer would have contributed much to forging good neighborliness had he/she spend much of his time on this subject. Rwandans are aware that they spent 30 years in Uganda as refugees. This is a fact that will place the hospitality of Ugandans in the annals of history. It is the attitude that is carried by those in power, and their propaganda machines, that undermines this relationship.

Uganda and Rwanda have undertaken liberation struggles. As a matter of fact, Rwandans spilled blood while helping to liberate Uganda and played an integral role in bringing the current leadership to power. And so, the attitude that some Ugandans in power continue to harbour that seeks to perpetually treat Rwandans as subordinates who should remain under tutelage because the former had some role to play in the latter’s struggle is the gist of the problem. As a result, the point the writer wants to draw is that Rwandans are ungrateful on the basis that they have refused perpetual tutelage. This has always been the problem. Some leaders in Uganda have failed to understand that Rwanda is a sovereign state with a sovereign government and not an extension of Uganda. Therefore, to question “has Kabareebe forgotten where he came from” is provocative because it may lead to a similar question: “Has NRM forgotten who fought and brought it to power?”

Jimmy Opis is a Kenya based commentator with keen interest in regional political affairs.

Source: STANDARD MEDIA – KENYA