By Alex Muhumuza
Sections of Ugandan officialdom and media seem more bent than ever on scuttling any normalization of relations between their country and Rwanda.
The latest to add his voice to the chorus of anti-Rwanda propaganda is Uganda’s State Minister for Housing, Chris Baryomunsi. He was quoted in eyalama.com – one of the many blogs to disseminate misinformation about the Rwandan leadership – saying the reason “Kagame closed the border” is because he is “seeking attention!”
Going by these utterances, observers were left wondering whether Baryomunsi is the most childlike of Uganda’s officials, or whether some Kampala regime members have completely lost sight of reality.
Most remarkable about Baryomunsi’s words was that he uttered them at the time his president, as well as Rwanda’s head of state, were scheduled to meet on Sunday in Angola. That was for the latest round of talks on resolving causes of the deteriorated relations, with the leaders of Angola and DRC as facilitators and observers.
What could have prompted Baryomunsi to make such bad faith remarks (whereby in his rhetoric he went ahead to make further incendiary remarks comparing the Rwandan president to European rulers in past centuries who burnt down churches “to seek attention”)?
Observers can link Baryomunsi’s behavior to Uganda’s continued refusal to fulfill its obligations as set out by the August 2019 Memorandum of Understanding signed in Luanda. Kampala was supposed to stop working with negative, anti-Rwanda groups that it has been sheltering, sponsoring and facilitating, as well as to release the hundreds of arbitrarily detained Rwandans.
In fact if one were to talk of the party that’s “burning down things”, if Baryomunsi were not engaged in mere smears and propaganda, he would look no further than his own leadership. Just in the preceding year Rwanda’s team on the Ad Hoc Committee exposed how Philemon Mateke, Uganda’s state minister for regional cooperation, was personally and closely involved in a terrorist attack in Rwanda that killed over a dozen people and injured several others.
This attack in Kinigi District – that occurred last October – was launched from the Ugandan side by terrorists that killed using guns, spears, stones and other crude weapons. Rwandan security forces reacting rapidly however killed 19 of the assailants – of the FDLR RUD-Urunana faction – and captured five others.
Three escaped back to Uganda, were received in a UPDF detachment near the border, and transported to Mbarara’s Makenke Barracks and ultimately to CMI protection.
Talking about this event in the meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee with Ugandan counterparts in Entebbe, Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s state minister in charge of the EAC presented evidence – including that from phone handsets recovered from the scene of the attack, as well as the confessions of the five captured terrorists – pinning Mateke.
“In particular one number was in touch with a Ugandan contact before, and during the attack (in Kinigi); that contact was found to be that of Hon. Philemon Mateke”, Nduhungirehe emphasized.
This is merely one example of the Ugandan side seeking to burn down the house of a neighbor. Yet Baryomunsi and so many others like him seek to completely sweep such damning evidence under the carpet, or to obfuscate even as they smear Rwanda at every turn.
No childish statements by some minor official that a head of state is “seeking fame”, nor the most fierce campaign of misinformation will take away the fact that the causes of the current bad relations originate solely from Uganda, observable facts show.
Everything began with the Ugandan regime’s decision to adopt anti-Rwanda groups – chiefly Kayumba Nyamwasa’s RNC, but also FDLR, FLN and others – as proxies in the mutual aim “to effect regime change in Kigali”. All the torture, persecution, harassment and all kinds of mistreatment of innocent Rwandans began at the instigation of RNC.
They have been looking to forcefully recruit Rwandans (those they cannot persuade with lies, such as a few poor, hungry Kinyarwanda-speaking young people they find in Ugandan refugee camps). They have also tortured so many Rwandans in the hope of gleaning some information from them about affairs in Rwanda, and dumping so many in near death conditions after torturing them in CMI facilities.
This is the issue that prompted Kigali last year to strongly advise her nationals against crossing to Uganda, a move that only happened after all Rwandan diplomatic efforts failed. This is the source of the Ugandan propaganda that “Rwanda has closed the border”.
Neither Baryomunsi, nor Kutesa the foreign minister, nor Brig. Abel Kandiho and all the propaganda tools sponsored by him as head of CMI; none of them can explain how it is possible to arrest so many on accusations of “spying”, or “illegal entry”, or “illegal gun possession”, but never try one of them in court.
Even the nine Rwandans released last month whom Kampala propagandists have been claiming are “criminals”, or “Kigali military agents”, and so on – none was tried, or convicted of anything, yet some languished in Ugandan military dungeons for three years.
The press communiqué following Sunday’s meeting of the heads of state in Luanda in part mentioned the following:
Paragraph 7, article A recommended the release of the nationals of each country. Article B said that both parties must refrain from all factors that may create the perception of supporting, financing, training and infiltration of destabilizing forces in their neighbor’s territory. And C that they must continue to protect and respect the human rights of the national citizens of the other party.
Everyone familiar with diplomacy will know a meeting to resolve issues diplomatically cannot openly pin one party.
But everyone knew which country has been, and is hosting groups trying to cause instability with the neighbor. On so many occasions Uganda has been caught red-handed in such activities.
When for instance RNC officials went to have a meeting early last year with the Ugandan president and the information leaked, he had no choice but to admit it – with the infamous claim that the meeting was “accidental”.
It was the same when proof was presented to Museveni that 46 recruits of RNC – intercepted on the Uganda, Tanzania border on their way to rebel training camps in eastern DRC – were recruited with the help of CMI, which even facilitated them with forged travel documents. The Ugandan leader said he was aware of such recruitment, but that “action would be taken”.
Instead someone “high up” had the fellows released from Mbarara Prison, where they had been temporarily housed to hoodwink the public that they were being punished for terrorism, and they simply continued to their original destination.
Baryomunsi rather that utter petty words about the Rwandan leadership would make play a more constructive role if he tried to dissuade his leadership from such things.
Instead he is busy doing what he accuses others of: trying to attract attention.