By Alex Muhumuza
Softpower, a website operated by Sarah Kagingo one of the prominent people running the Kampala regime propaganda, has published another outrageous smear against Rwanda. This follows the investment partnership signed between Rwanda and Qatar Airways to operate Bugesera International Airport.
Throughout the article – published this Wednesday under the headline “Rwanda readies to attack Uganda, buys Russian Mi-35 helicopter gunships from sale of airline and airport” – Softpower tries to twist yet another Rwandan investment achievement to try to paint her as “readying for war”.
To anyone with some knowledge of Rwanda, the first clear indication that Softpower is publishing fictions lies in the second paragraph. “The airport formerly known as Kanombe, is located in south-eastern Rwanda, Bugesera District, near the town of Rilima,” says the article. This is laughable on several levels.
Kanombe International Airport is in Kigali City, yet Softpower has decided to place it in Bugesera, Eastern Province!
Secondly, when did Kanombe Airport, become “a former airport”? This is Rwanda’s gateway to the world, now and until Bugesera gets built. Also, when did the countryside of Rilima in Eastern Province become a “town”?
These inaccuracies set the tone for the fictions and outright lies that follow.
Softpower claims it can “authoritatively report that Rwanda has sold the national airline and Bugesera International Airport and used the money to buy military armament from China and Russia to attack Uganda.” There are two serious lies in this particular sentence.
First, the Qatar Airways deal involves taking a 60 percent stake in the yet-to-be-built, US$ 1.3 billion Bugesera airport. “The partnership features three agreements to build, own and operate the facility,” says the MoU between Rwanda and Qatar Airways. It states nowhere that Rwanda has “sold the national airline”. Softpower’s liars look particularly incompetent when it comes to details.
Secondly, even if Rwanda indeed decided to buy military armaments, why would the Ugandan regime immediately jump to the conclusion it is for the purpose of attacking it?
As a Ugandan human rights activist put it in a tweet on the same day of the Softpower article: “a country’s purchase of military ware is their sovereign and legitimate right. Why would one interpret this as an act of war against Uganda, or as readying to attack Uganda?” The lawyer then dismisses Softpower’s smear as “alarmist and war-stalking”.
Many other commentators follow in that vein, denouncing Kagingo’s website as a megaphone for her warmonger employers. In any case, many asked, who is Uganda planning to attack, since it too purchases heavy weaponry and openly boasts about it?
In fact Museveni’s minions regularly and openly boast about moving heavy military equipment close to the Ugandan border and having fighter jets yet they feel free to write smears questioning what a sovereign country does, or doesn’t do with its internal affairs.
Softpower’s depravity moves another gear with claims that the Qatar partnership “is to cover up and hoodwink neighboring countries and the rest of the world as it plans to execute its ‘deadly missions.’” Here the incompetence of Softpower as a vessel of misinformation becomes more apparent. Why would Rwanda use a civilian airport deal as “cover for war”?
It does not say how. However in the next paragraph, one of the reasons for Softpower’s article becomes obvious: the “border issue.”
“Uganda’s relations with Rwanda have been frosty since February when Rwandan authorities blocked several Ugandan cargo trucks from crossing to Rwanda as well as stopping Rwandan citizens from entering into Uganda,” it says in the sixth paragraph. Publication of this piece obviously is because of Rwanda’s decision to issue an advisory to her citizens against crossing to Uganda.
That was on 01 March this year. Ugandan border communities have been denouncing President Museveni when the Rwandan market dried up after that date. When Kigali issued the travel advisory it communicated the reasons: harassment, persecution, abductions, illegal incarceration, detentions incommunicado, and physical or psychological abuse. These crimes had become prevalent against Rwandan citizens travelling to Uganda.
The country’s intelligence and other security forces apparently thought they would perpetrate abuses like that against Rwandans forever and with impunity. When Rwanda did something to protect her people, Uganda began to feel the pinch. When Rwanda slapped a restriction on heavy commercial trucks from Uganda, they felt it even much harder.
Traders especially from the border areas have been accusing Museveni for the whole debacle. “What are you doing to normalize relations with Rwanda so trade can resume?” representatives of the business community of the Kigezi region asked him on 30 July this year at Kabale State Lodge.
He had no answer. As the days went and such questions become more frequent, the Ugandan ruler resorted to tacitly advising law-abiding people to begin smuggling.
“Even if the border is closed, trade will go on, only that it will be through smuggling!” Museveni said in May this year. That was after facing more tough questions prompted by the serious loss of trade with Rwanda.
The situation has gone from bad to worse with Ugandan businesses losing billions of shillings due the inaccessible market. Rwanda’s position is: “there can be no free trade when there is no free movement; when the safety of one’s citizens can’t be assured in another country.”
Softpower’s smears can be read as a reflection of how hard the losses to the Ugandan business community have also impacted Museveni and the regime. “But to attack a civilian airport deal as some fictitious war project is the most ridiculous way to go about it!” said renowned Rwandan Twitter personality Mwene Kalinda.
The website then moves on to resurrect completely debunked lies, like the one that implies all the Rwandan nationals kidnapped or arrested on concocted charges by Ugandan security agencies “are criminals”.
Ugandan lawyers like Eron Kiiza and Anthony Odur of Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates who represent hundreds of unjustly imprisoned Rwandan nationals have shown, repeatedly and with documents, how hundreds of their clients have been locked up with no due process – many in military facilities though they are civilians – and are never accorded trial. They have told how their clients have suffered torture.
Softpower’s instructions however simply are to go berserk on Rwanda. It further writes that, “Rwanda is using ADF (Ugandan rebels) to attack Congolese”.
Or that, “Rwanda has approached the Congolese leadership to allow its military inside Congolese territory in the guise of fighting FDLR and other armed groups”, but that “Rwandan forces have severally been accused of killing indigenous Congolese and provoking unrest”.
In their desperation to slander Rwanda however the Kampala mouthpieces forget themselves in imagining they can dictate to the DRC President which friends he can, or can’t have. It seems Museveni’s delusions of grandeur have seeped down up to the purveyors of his lies!
Secondly the assertion – supported with completely no evidence, therefore a bald-faced lie – that Rwanda “is killing Congolese civilians” actually is reflective of more hurt suffered by Museveni and his minions. That is the absolute routing of all the Ugandan ruler’s proxies in eastern DRC.
His “Rwanda project”, meaning regime change in Kigali, has been dealt crippling blows. His favorite puppet Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC has been clobbered, hundreds of its fighters killed and dozens captured and sent to Kigali to face court martial. The tears of Softpower and its masters reflect this fact.
The “secondary proxies” of Museveni, FDLR, RUD, FLN and others are suffering the same fate as RNC. Many of their commanders have been killed, and hundreds of their foot soldiers have put up their hands and surrendered.
At the end of the day telling lies – whether about an airport; whether about what Rwanda buys for her military; whether about Rwanda’s relations with Congo, or anything else – isn’t going to save Museveni’s “Rwanda project”, any analysis can show.