By Alex Muhumuza
Last Thursday Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni used the occasion of the budget reading of his country – when the military was allocated Ushs 4.5 trillion; a sum that economists are calling “obscene” – to tout the supposed prowess of his army. “We have been building a lot of capacity,” said the Ugandan ruler.
According to reports in the country’s media Museveni in his speech proclaimed that, “the East African Region has got some issues”, and added that if other East African leaders needed his security help, he “will not hesitate to avail it.” Listeners waited to hear what those “issues” were, but there was no further explanation. What war is going on for which any of the other countries would require Museveni’s help? More to the point, who has asked for that help? There were no answers.
Following the speech, a security analyst said: “this is a leader that has long harbored ambitions of regional hegemony; of being crowned the elder statesman of the region, or even ‘the first president of an East African political federation,’ seasoned observers have long pointed out. But these dreams have not come anywhere near to realization.
The impediments to the Ugandan rulers ambitions are very many and are plain as day though he has failed to acknowledge them. To begin with, of all the countries of the EAC bloc Uganda’s economy isn’t the biggest; it isn’t even the second biggest. But by definition, before any state is recognized as hegemonic, one measure is that it’s economy must be the largest, and by far. And not only that, its military, industry, and other institutions must correspond in size.
But that isn’t enough. A would-be hegemony must also have a top-notch policy of diplomacy, “to win friends and influence foes.” Uganda’s diplomacy is anything but top-notch, most agree. “If your main ideas about foreign policy are sponsoring rebel groups as proxies against neighbors, then you’ve badly failed at diplomacy,” a retired diplomat recently quipped.
All this renders meaningless President Museveni’s attempts to portray his UPDF as “the biggest army”, with “the most capacity”. In fact it only means that other people only are keeping quiet about the capacities of their own militaries. “For sure no one is impressed because they’ve heard the Ugandan president’s proclamations about his army,” laughed a security expert.
Going back to his statements about “Uganda’s readiness to help others out on security”, the supreme irony is that it is Kampala, more than any other capital in the region, that’s always behind schemes to destabilize others – as a retired Rwandan diplomat observed.
To start with, in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda is the main backer of illegal armed groups like RNC, FDLR, or RUD-Urunana – all that have long been committed to a violent, anti-Rwanda agenda. A lot had been written about this, such as the UN Group of Experts on DRC released on 31 December 2018. It was a painstakingly compiled document that among other things showed how Ugandan territory was one of those used by recruitment networks working for the rebel groups.
It showed how Uganda’s intelligence organs were complicit in these activities that also have a contributory effect on overall regional instability. It named the anti-Rwanda rebel entities, under the so-called “P5” grouping, and it named the individual actors. It described the recruitment methodologies – like how Ugandan security agencies lured young Kinyarwanda-speaking men from Ugandan refugee camps with promises of “jobs”, “visas tomorrow Western countries”, and so on, once “the mission” (rebel activity) ended.
Beyond the UN report, Kigali has raised complaints, to Uganda and in other forums about the activities of Kampala of hosting on its territory various groups and individuals – the same RNC of Kayumba Nyamwasa, the genocidal FDLR and RUD-Urunana – and the different ways it facilitates their activities.
“It’s just ironic how the Ugandan leader can claim he wants to assist others with security while he is so busy sowing insecurity!” said our source.
Uganda does this even as it has been issuing verbal assurance that it is “acting to address issues raised by Rwanda” during ongoing Quadripartite talks aimed at re-normalizing relations between the two countries.
Among other things reports from the Ugandan capital indicate that the country’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) houses, and guards the main agents or officials of the anti-Rwanda terrorist groups. These include RNC agents – also on CMI’s payroll – like Sulah Nuwamanya and Prossy Boonabana who have been running a false NGO, Self-Worth Initiative. SWI has been outed as a front for RNC recruitment and mobilization.
Other RNC military agents under CMI protection are Maj. Robert Higiro, Capt. Jean Marie Turabumukiza, Lt. Frank Mushaija, and Lt. Gerald Tindifa, as well as Deo Nyirigira, the Mbarara-based RNC bigwig.
Even then, Museveni can still proclaim that he “cannot allow anyone attempt to destabilize the peace and security of the East African region,” something that prompted a reader to exclaim: wonders never cease!