By Alex Muhumuza
The Memorandum of Understanding has been signed in Luanda, Angola to much euphoria. Presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni yesterday signed the document – codenamed “Friendship Agreement” – to resolve the current bad relations between Kampala and Kigali. There was a burst of optimism all over the social media commentariat.
It sounds as if there is a new dawn on the horizon. Yet knowing President Museveni, one would be advised to celebrate the news with caution.
The clauses and paragraphs of the memorandum amongst other things say: respect the sovereignty of each other’s and of the neighboring countries. Refrain from actions conducive to destabilization or subversion in the territory of the other party, and neighboring countries, thereby eliminating all factors that may create such perception, as well as that of acts such as the financing, training and infiltration of destabilizing forces. Protect and respect the rights and freedoms of the nationals of the other party residing or transiting in their national territories, in accordance with the law of that country.
If one stopped right there, it is very obvious who the document is talking about: it is the leadership of Uganda, and its security forces.
“Refrain from actions conducive to destabilization or subversion in the territory of the other party, and neighboring countries…”
Only President Museveni and his government have been doing something like that in this region. No one else has, the record shows.
It is Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, CMI that has been facilitating, funding, and actively aiding in the recruitment of fighters for Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC – a group sworn to bringing armed conflict back to Rwanda. The government of Rwanda, through diplomatic channels has repeatedly complained about the activities of RNC in Uganda, but the Ugandan authorities have only ever ignored Rwanda’s concerns.
The UN Group of Experts on DRC late last year released a report on groups based in DRC bent on destabilizing Rwanda under the umbrella name “P5”. The senior partners of the group are RNC and FDLR.
The report detailed the recruitment methods of “P5” and it emerged Uganda was a focal point of recruitment for the group. Even well before release of the report, most consumers of news had learnt of a group of 46 recruits of RNC that Ugandan immigration intercepted at Kikagati at the Uganda, Tanzania border. That was in December 2017.
They arrested those 46 fellows, the prosecutor charged them with terrorism, and remanded them in Mbarara Prison. But barely three months later, someone from “a high office” had them released. That is something highly unusual, releasing people a country’s own police had identified as terror suspects. CMI clearly had its own agenda.
These are people that President Kagame had told President Museveni about, which the latter alluded to in a joint press conference with his Rwandan counterpart. Questioned by journalists, Museveni said he indeed knew of the 46 young men. “President Kagame told me about them; they claimed they were going for bible work, but upon questioning it was found the work was of a different nature,” said the Ugandan ruler.
The RNC terrorist group has businesses, such as a tobacco-processing firm in Uganda’s West Nile region, owned by Tribert Rujugiro the chief financier of RNC.
Is President Museveni, or his brother Salem Saleh going to stop such businesses? Only time will tell. The fact remains that whenever Rujugiro, his sons or any other big RNC fish such as Benjamin Rutabana, David Himbara are in Kampala they are treated with protocol worthy visiting dignitaries.
All these are clear signs that Kampala has been fully engaged in subversion against Rwanda – something that Kigali never reciprocated in any way.
RNC has resident officials in Kampala whose main task is to wage an anti-Rwanda propaganda war waged with smears and slanders they publish, but never with an iota of proof.
A Kampala website like ChimpReports will have zero qualms claiming “Rwandan troops crossed to Kisoro looking for food and drinks”, or – as when someone in Kisoro was assassinated – that it was “Rwandan soldiers” that did it, and similar irresponsible allegations. That however is nothing compared to the full-pages, or center-spreads that New Vision, Uganda’s state newspaper gives RNC bigwigs like Nyamwasa, Leah Karegeya, Himbara and others to pour vitriol on the Rwandan leadership.
All that – including issuing passports to RNC bigwigs like Charlotte Mukankusi, or coordinating meetings between RNC and FDLR the better to fight Rwanda – are unmistakable ways Kampala has been working to destabilize a neighbor. Will Museveni begin dismantling or putting to an immediate end to his sponsorship of RNC and the entire mechanism that enables the group in his country? That has to be seen to be believed.
“Protect and respect the rights and freedoms of the nationals of the other party residing or transiting in their national territories, in accordance with the law of that country,” says the Memorandum.
Only the security agencies of Kampala are in the habit of harassing, illegally arresting, jailing and torturing the nations of a neighbor state. No equivalent lawlessness has Kigali inflicted upon citizens of Uganda. Even when authorities in Rwanda arrest a Ugandan, they ensure it is done with an arrest warrant, and with proof the suspect has engaged in crime. Even then, the Ugandan embassy in Kigali is notified, well in time.
That is in utter contrast to the behavior of CMI and ISO in regards to Rwandan nationals. Innocent citizens of Rwanda, people that know absolutely nothing about politics, have suffered hell at the hands of CMI, ISO and other Ugandan security authorities. They get pulled off buses and thrown in jail on never-proven charges of “illegal entry”, or “spying”. They get abducted in public places and thrown into CMI’s torture dungeons. Many are dumped at the border posts after being subjected to inhuman treatment, and some come out looking like ghosts. Many are imprisoned with no trial.
President Kagame earlier this year at a leadership retreat asked how it was possible to arrest hundreds of people – the Rwandans Uganda had arrested – yet there never is a transparent court process to establish the guilt or innocence. “But why not?” he asked. “Why not give them a chance to defend themselves?”
That’s a question relevant to the cases of Rene Rutagungira, Emmanuel Rwamucyo, Augustin Rutayisire, Darius Kayobera, his wife Claudine, and so many Rwandan citizens illegally detained, and held incommunicado by Ugandan authorities, some of them over two years. These are clear injustices perpetrated by Uganda in contravention of EAC Common Market laws.
Are President Museveni and his administration going to tackle these issues in sincere, committed ways?
Is Museveni going to take his duties as a head of state, with responsibilities to foster good, diplomatic relations with other states, more seriously going forward?
Is the MOU going to make the Ugandan leadership better partners for citizens of the region?
The MOU can be celebrated, but cautiously or with a pinch of salt.