By Melodie Mukansonera
As officials of Rwanda and Uganda prepare for today’s (Thursday 4 June) resumption of discussions to resolve strained relations between the two countries, analysts are wondering whether Kampala will begin to make some real implementation of actions agreed upon. These are the terms that followed the 4th Quadripartite Summit that took place at Gatuna/Katuna Common Border on 21 February.
It was agreed that Kampala would investigate serious concerns that Rwanda had raised about Uganda’s complicity in the strained relations, and it was agreed Uganda provide a report in 30 days. However, the global Coronavirus pandemic caused postponement of the next talks, until now. It is agreed that with Covid-19 still raging, the talks can go on virtually, with the facilitation of Angola and DRC as has been the case since August last year.
With Museveni set to deliver his State of Nation address to Ugandans, coincidentally today, Ugandans are also very anxious to know whether their leader will speak out on the crisis that has lasted for three years now, and that “has been biting Ugandan traders and businesses hard,” Kampala-based observers say. Statistics from the Ugandan trade ministry as well as private sector associations have shown how Uganda has registered losses amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars during the impasse.
“The economy was feeling a deep pitch even before the pandemic outbreak. In fact, we’ve been pushing that the issues between Rwanda and Uganda be fast-tracked and we restore relations. However, we keep getting little feedback from the Executive Museveni),” said a senior Ugandan Member of Parliament.
Rwandan Foreign Minister, Vincent Biruta, confirmed to local media that the 4th meeting of the Ad Hoc Commission will resume today via virtual conferencing means. “It is true we are going to meet,” said the minister. Last month, there were reports that Uganda was signaling willingness to address issues that led to the standoff which were outlined in the seven demands Rwanda outlined to Uganda.
First, Kigali demands that Uganda disband anti-Rwanda networks it hosts, including Rwanda National Congress and RUD-Urunana networks in Uganda, and to arrest and extradite all its members to Rwanda to face justice for terrorist acts against Rwandans, including those belonging to RUD-Urunana terror organization. So far Uganda has sent only two two of the four, Kabayija Seleman and Nzabonimpa Fidel, RUD-Urunana assailants responsible for the terrorist attack in Kinigi in October last year.
The leader of the attack, ‘Captain’ Nshimiye alias Gavana, and Mugwaneza Eric are yet to be sent back. Of the very many other individuals involved in anti-Rwanda acts – whether of RNC, RUD-Urunana or FDLR – no one else has been extradited, leading many to wonder, “if Uganda really means what it says.” Secondly, Kampala was asked to refrain from all actions meant to destabilize Rwanda and eliminating all factors that may create such perception. Third is for Kampala to withdraw a Ugandan Passport that was issued by the Ugandan Government to Charlotte Mukankusi. Uganda announced that it had withdrawn the passport in story that appeared in the New Vision.
The fourth condition was to hold accountable facilitators of RNC and RUD-Urunana networks, including Minister of State for Regional Cooperation Philemon Mateke, Uganda Military Intelligence (CMI) chief Maj. Gen. Abel Kandiho, Brig. Gen. Fred Karara, Brig. CK Asiimwe, Maj. Fred Mushambo, Col. Kaka Bagyenda among others. These also are people that have been involved in arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, torture and even deaths of innocent Rwandan citizens.
Demand number five is the repatriation of the body of Emmanuel Mageza, a Rwandan national that was tortured for several months in CMI’s Mbuya Barracks dungeons until he lost his mind. They took him and dumped him at Butabika mental hospital in the Ugandan capital but it was too late for Mageza. He died there, but Rwanda demands that his remains be repatriated for decent burial home. Uganda is also required to provide explanations about the circumstances surrounding Mageza’s death. Additionally, Kampala is required to give clarification about the fate of two other Rwandan citizens, Sendegeya Théogène and Rwembo Mucyo, who were allegedly transferred from CMI to Butabika Hospital but later went missing.
The sixth demand is to allow Julienne Kayirere, a Rwandan national, to be reunited with her child Joana Imanirakiza. The baby was abducted in Uganda by police in the town of Masindi who forcefully separated her from Kayirere. That happened when they illegally arrested Kayirere, on 29 November 2018 in Mubende District.
The seventh Rwandan demand is the unconditionally release all Rwandan citizens illegally detained in Uganda: in the country’s prisons, as well as those detained by CMI or ISO in their headquarters, or in ungazetted places of detention, the so-called safe houses.
A local analyst that has been monitoring trends related to the two countries noted that Rwanda presented substantial evidence to Uganda on its demands and that resulted to withdrawal of Mukankusi’s Ugandan passport and the extradition of two RUD Urunana militia members. “But what has been done by Uganda is a small portion of what is required, and yet we are still hearing reports of more Rwandans being abducted and tortured by CMI,” he added.