By Jackson Mutabazi
Early this month on June 4, 2020, the 4th Adhoc Committee meeting established to monitor progress on the Luanda MoU aimed at normalizing relations between Uganda and Rwanda, took place by video conference. As had happened when the committee met in Munyonyo, Kampala, on December 13, 2019, the meeting ended without agreement on a joint communique. The two countries could not agree on two key points.
The main reason for the failure of the Munyonyo meeting to agree on a communique was Uganda’s insistence that a joint verification mechanism be created to verify Rwanda’s allegations against it. Rwanda insisted the Ad hoc Committee was created to carry out that very purpose: to verify the grievances and to monitor progress in implementing resolutions from the summits of heads of state of the two countries, facilitated by Angola and the DRC.
Since August 21, 2019, when the heads of state signed the MoU as a roadmap for ending the crisis between the two countries, much progress has been registered. For instance, only months earlier on March 5, 2019, Uganda’s foreign minister, Sam Kutesa, had stonewalled, dismissing Rwanda’s grievances. In his press conference, Kutesa had said, “it is false that Uganda hosts any elements fighting Rwanda …Uganda does not and cannot allow anyone to operate from its territory that threatens a neighbor as alleged.” He also dismissed reports from Rwandans missing their loved ones who were languishing in Uganda’s detention facilities, many for months and years without ever being presented to court or their consular representatives and legal counsel ever being given access to them: “It is not true Uganda arrests, tortures, and harrases Rwandans,” Kutesa wrote.
There is progress because Uganda no longer denies Rwanda’s key grievances. For instance, it has reported to Rwanda that it has withdrawn the passport of RNC’s “chief of diplomacy”, Charlotte Mukankusi, and that it has deregistered the Self Worth Initiative (SWI) – an RNC mobilizing outfit – mainly in Banyarwanda communities, especially around refugee camps – run by its Kampala-based operatives, Sulah Nuwamanya and Prossy Bonabana.
Contrary to Kutesa’s initial denials, Kampala has also been releasing hundreds of Rwandans – in batches – who were illegally detained in Uganda, the most recent being two groups of Rwandans totaling 130, sent home only days after the 4th Adhoc Committee meeting, with the first arriving on June 8. When announcing the impending release, Kutesa also acknowledged that his country is still holding another 310 Rwandans, still without access to consular services or legal counsel.
All this progress was made without needing to create a joint verification mechanism. Further, Uganda did not demand for a joint verification mechanism when it was still denying Rwanda’s accusations, which is when it would have made sense to create. It is surprising, therefore, that it is demanding one when it has now de facto admitted to these charges and is in fact implementing decisions related to them. Uganda’s action is proof there is no need for a joint verification mechanism.
By bringing up the joint verification proposal, however, Uganda is merely stalling and buying time to avoid implementing two points of the 21 February Final Communiqué of the 4th Quadripartite Summit Gatuna/Katuna, which provides as follows:
Article 4: “The Summit recommended that the Republic of Uganda should, within one month, verify the allegation of the Republic of Rwanda about action from its territory by forces hostile to the Government of Rwanda. If these allegations are proved, the Ugandan Government will take all measures to stop it, and prevent it from happening again. This action must be verified and confirmed by the Ad-Hoc Ministerial Commission for the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding of Luanda.”
Article 5: “Once this recommendation is fulfilled and reported to the Heads of State, the facilitators will convene within 15 days, a Summit in Gatuna/Katuna for the solemn reopening of borders and subsequent normalisation of the relations between two countries.”
Interestingly, at this month’s virtual Ad-hoc committee meeting on June 4, Uganda’s delegation demanded that the Gatuna border be opened regardless of whether they had satisfied the above conditions, which is as bizarre as their demand for a joint verification team. These are clearly diversionary efforts that show that the absence of any spirit of goodwill and commitment to end the crisis on Uganda’s part.