By Alex Muhumuza
The great, enduring observation of ancient Chinese military general and philosopher Sun Tzu is that the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting. As if using Sun Tzu for a guideline, Rwanda is subduing a very disruptive neighbor, without firing even a pistol. Kigali has fought with only one weapon: the moral high ground.
Uganda’s ruler has been hankering to start a war in Rwanda. Only a child does not know that.
Displaying one of the strangest cases of entitlement ever recorded in relations between states, Museveni, from day one of the current administration in Rwanda, wanted to be the main decision-making authority – calling the shots from Kampala. And as always with the Ugandan ruler, intentions of looting Rwanda were foremost in his mind.
The polite refusal to be turned into a doormat was the catalyst that sparked Museveni’s anti-Rwanda rage. He took it as an affront when told he couldn’t meddle, or loot here! His attitude towards the Kigali leadership was best summed up in his condescending habit of calling fellow leaders: “my boys!” or “those boys in Kigali!”
So when the men in Rwanda stood their ground and told him they were running a separate country and his meddling was unwanted, his ego was badly bruised. How dare they? How dare they disobey the saabalwanyi!” But then things went from bad to worse for him.
The saabalwanyi in fact was badly exposed as not being as tough as he told himself. He was given a bloody nose, three times in a trio of gun battles that he ordered his generals to start.
But instead of applying another valuable adage about war: “a good general knows when he is defeated”, Museveni instead nursed bitterness. He set about plotting a long-term strategy to sponsor armed conflict; to export war from the forests of eastern DRC to Rwanda.
Museveni was in bed with groups he imagines would be the victorious tools to achieve this, to the extent of actively working with those whose members perpetrated genocide in Rwanda.
His thinking has been that all these groups – Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC, in alliance with the different strains of FDLR, or with Rusesabagina’s FLN and so on – would merge into a strong enough, single entity to successfully attack Rwanda. That was what he tasked his minister of state for regional affairs, Philemon Mateke to do: coordinate the activities of RNC and FDLR, “to work as one and maximize their strength”, presumably for a “protracted people’s armed struggle!”
The morally abominable calculus was that a victorious strategy could only be a divisive one that pitted “Hutu” (FDLR), against “Tutsi” (RPF).
He merely brushed aside the fact such divisions no longer exist in Rwanda, thinking he could dredge them up once again. That calculus met its Waterloo in eastern DRC when two of the top FDLR officials: its spokesman LaForge Fils Bazeye, and Theophile Abega its intelligence chief were apprehended at Bunagana, eastern DRC.
That was on 15 December 2018 as they were coming back from a meeting organized by Mateke at the Kampala Serena – the aforementioned strategy session of RNC and FDLR supremos. Under interrogation, they spilled a ton of beans about what Museveni was up to.
Any other person, or more precisely any other general would have realized that at this point his war was completely lost. The more pragmatic leader would then have done the logical thing: dismantle all proxies and make nice with an important neighbor. A simple back of the envelope calculation would have shown that he, or more importantly his country was better served treating Rwanda as an invaluable diplomatic, commercial, and political ally.
But a narcissist’s mind doesn’t work like that. A narcissist is someone that believes everything should rotate about him and his wishes, always. When things don’t go his way the narcissist throws a tantrum, a very petulant one. He must destroy others as a means of self-actualization – just to prove he never was mistaken in the first place!
The Ugandan ruler is a man whom history has long left behind, but his stubbornness – rooted in a badly inflated sense of his own greatness – will never let him see that.
Whenever Museveni sets himself a target to destabilize a country, his head is full of ancient victories over Idi Amin (who in fact was defeated by the troops of Tanzania), and Milton Obote. Whenever Museveni sets out to disrupt a neighbors’ peace to cause another conflict, 1950s Maoist ideas like “protracted armed people’s struggle”, is what he banks on.
Back in the early Eighties Museveni was lucky when he managed to hoodwink a sizable segment of the Ugandan population into believing his rule would be better than Obote’s. This opportunism, aided by the fact the government troops were demoralized and ill-disciplined troops helped Museveni dislodge his nemesis.
Museveni never won any moral victories though. The record of his 34 years in power speaks for itself.
When he mounted the steps of the Ugandan parliament to con people with grandiose pronouncements that “his was not a mere change of guards; but a fundamental change”, an astronomically high self-regard seemed to ooze from his pores. He fancied himself another Bismarck or Napoleon.
That still was very much his mentality when men of the Rwandese Patriotic Front defected to liberate their country. They prevailed under almost impossible odds, and circumstances. Yet even then when Museveni looked at their victory he still was blind to just how lucky he was to have had them in his ranks as he won his own military victories.
The liberators of Rwanda on their part insisted on mutual respect in dealings between the two states, going forward. So Museveni reacted the way he did.
He had long cultivated Nyamwasa – even when the latter still was an officer of the Rwandan army – who had revealed himself from the start as a willing, would-be Vidkun Quisling in Kigali. That didn’t go according to plan, when Nyamwasa’s traitorous designs were foiled, and he fled, with the help of Museveni’s intelligence agencies.
The rest is history; the kind that has brought us to the current impasse – with Uganda in despair, hurting from the fact trade with Rwanda has ceased, whining incessantly about “border closure”, even as the Museveni’s plans of destabilizing Rwanda now are in tatters.
His proxies have suffered irreversible, highly demoralizing defeats in DRC. Nyamwasa’s RNC in particular is wracked by internal wrangles. Every day brings bad news for Museveni – such as during the meeting of the Ad-hoc Committee on implementation of the Angola Memorandum of understanding, when the duplicity of his regime; its direct complicity in activities to destabilize Rwanda was laid bare so that even the Angolan and Congolese observers saw it themselves.
Rwanda indeed has been an exemplary student of Sun Tzu: defeat the enemy with no military confrontations. It did this right from the start by taking the moral high ground, secure in the knowledge that truth and righteousness were on its side and would prevail.
When the Kampala regime openly cavorted, sponsored, and facilitated anti-Rwanda groups – to the extent RNC seemed to be running certain operations of Ugandan Military Intelligence (CMI) – Kigali did no retaliatory thing. It harbored not a single anti-Uganda group. It only protested to Uganda using diplomatic channels.
The same happened even when Ugandan security agencies embarked on a campaign of persecution and harassment of innocent Rwandan citizens.
Kigali knew the reasons for such behavior: to force the able-bodied into joining RNC rebels; to torture others in hopes of gleaning some information about Rwanda; or to mistreat so many it could force Kigali to retaliate with the same criminality against innocent Ugandans. The principle here was that if you wrestle with a pig, you both get dirty and no one will tell the difference.
But Rwanda was far above, on the moral high ground. It respected the rights of Ugandans. Even those that committed a crime enjoyed all due legal process, and their High Commission was allowed to visit any it requested – a far different case from CMI’s habit of abducting Rwandans, torturing them, or jailing them incommunicado for years.
Rwanda remained on its high ground even when Kampala put together a collection of websites, blogs and social media accounts to wage an anti-Rwanda propaganda war of outright lies, smears and virulent misinformation.
Any media observer will realize the Rwandan media only ever responds to set the record straight; to inform about what truly is happening on any issue; to generally lay out the truth for all to see.
All the provocations and bellicosity has come from the Ugandan regime, which has ended up hurting itself while achieving nothing of what it set out to do.