By Jean Gatera
Citing the Luanda MoU, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative to the Great Lakes Region, Huang Xia, has expressed optimism about resolution of the Rwanda-Uganda standoff. Huang said this in an interview in the East African newspaper of May 19, 2020 during which he said there had been progress.
But a crucial question many are asking is: where has the UN’s voice been for the past three years?
Rwanda-Uganda relations have been on a downward spiral since 2017. Abductions, illegal detentions, and torture of Rwandans in Uganda have been a regular occurrence, whereby thousands of Rwandans have suffered untold abuse at the hands of Ugandan security agencies. These oftentimes work with anti-Rwanda terrorist groups based in Uganda, it is no secret.
Thousands of innocent Rwandans have suffered imprisonment and torture, and many victims have testified to being coerced to join anti-Rwanda groups as their only way out of to save themselves from torture. Many have been asked to confess to trumped-up charges. Many that could manage to buy their freedom, or that were nearing death as a result of appalling physical abuse have consistently been dumped at border posts, robbed of all their properties.
Even UN staff members of Rwandan citizenship were not spared despite their diplomatic immunity and privileges. Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, CMI, on the 13th of June 2019 abducted Bihoyiki Francis, a staff member of the UN at Kyaka Refugee Camp and Musinga Antoine based at Entebbe a few days later. The UN body kept silent at the blatant violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic immunity and privileges.
A leaked UN emails reveals that the world body decided, “as a precautionary measure to avoid any transport of Rwandan troops, police or civilians, as well as transport of equipment owned by Rwanda through Uganda. This includes also the participation of any Rwandan civilian or uniformed personnel in training activities in Uganda, in particular the regional service centre in Entebbe.” The UN issued a travel advisory.
All these crimes against the Rwandans by the Ugandan security organs are in contravention of numerous international conventions such as the 1984 UN convention against torture and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Fundamentally, by hosting anti-Rwanda militia and plotting to destabilize Rwanda, Uganda violated the principles of non-interference, respect for sovereignty and 1994 Declaration on Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism.
The situation became so dangerous for Rwandans living in Uganda that Rwanda issued a travel advisory strongly warned Rwandans against travel to Uganda as the government couldn’t guarantee their safety once across the border.
Angola and DR Congo took the initiative to begin mediation, to try to thaw relations between Kampala and Kigali. It led to the signing of the Luanda Memorandum of Understanding last year in the Angolan capital.
According to a retired diplomat who spoke to this website, an evaluation of the Luanda MoU would be more accurate and meaningful if the United Nations Great Lakes Office stepped up to be proactive in denouncing human rights violations against Rwandans, as well as the existence of anti-Rwanda terrorist militias in Uganda.
“Otherwise one would say they came to the party a little too late,” the diplomat quipped.