By Alex Muhumuza
The Luanda MoU to resolve the Uganda-Rwanda crisis was entered on on the basis that there was enough evidence to support Rwanda’s accusations against Uganda. Uganda’s admission that indeed there were grounds for Rwanda’s grievances – harassment of Rwandans in Uganda and support of the RNC – actually signified some form of progress towards resolving the crisis. A commission was established to resolve these grievances. However, Uganda now seems to be backtracking to its pre-MoU position of blanket denial and cold faced stonewalling in relation to the very accusations it had acknowledged and agreed to work towards resolving.
On Saturday, December 21, 2019, The East African reported that “Uganda insists it does not know the existence of such groups and adds that its security agencies have never targeted innocent Rwandans,” in reference to the support of the RNC and other groups that have declared armed rebellion against the government of Rwanda, and the arrest and detention of innocent Rwandans in Uganda, respectively.
The extent of Uganda’s backsliding shows in the contrast between its position at the September 16 Kigali ad-hoc committee meeting and the subsequent December 13 return leg in Kampala. The first meeting showed that while substantial evidence pinned Uganda, it had a degree of goodwill, including asking for a list of Rwandans in detention so that they might be freed.
But a change of heart happened between the first and second meeting, particularly in regards to the goodwill towards the MoU. By the Kampala meeting those fragile shot of goodwill had evaporated. Sources inside the Kampala meeting of December 13 say that Uganda was not responding in substance on any of the evidence that Rwanda was presenting.
Everyone on the Ugandan team, except Kutesa, remained silent and seemingly overwhelmed by the mountain of evidence that could not be denied. On his part, Kutesa could only deny without elaborating on the basis for his blanket denials, the source inside the meeting reveals.
One way to show that things had changed for worse was that, despite the list that was drafted for Uganda, which was acknowledged in the joint communique of the September 16 meeting, the detained Rwandans remained in custody. They still do. Even more, Uganda now denies holding them.
DRC and Angola, still hopeful that Uganda was a genuine actor in efforts geared at implementing the MoU, asked that the evidence that Rwanda had presented warranted a demonstration of goodwill on the part of Uganda by identifying and removing from the country known members of the RNC.
“In their wisdom, the facilitators proposed to the Ugandan delegation to expel, from their territory, known leaders and members of the RNC and other armed groups, as an important confidence-building measure,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, who led Rwanda’s delegation to the Kampala meeting tweeted shortly after returning to Kigali, adding that Uganda had “refused” the facilitators offer.
This refusal was, to the surprise of all, followed by the denials. In Uganda’s thinking, if it admits to the presence of the RNC, it would have to “demonstrate goodwill” by asking them to leave the country. Which is what Angola asked for.
On the other hand, if Uganda does not acknowledge their presence on its soil then it can “refuse” any requests to remove them because it can’t remove people who don’t exist. However, Uganda forgets that everyone has moved past the denials; even itself it had done the same prior to its recent change of heart. Where everyone is, and Uganda once was and should be, is about what to do with the fact that it is supporting the RNC and that it’s operatives are active on Uganda’s soil.
Remarkably, Uganda is now also denying that its security agencies have ever targeted Rwandans in Uganda. Again, everyone has moved beyond this and wants to know how the still illegally detained Rwandans can be returned safely to their country. In fact, Uganda’s decision to release some of them and dump them at the border in the wee hours of the night, when no one is watching, is proof against its denial that it has never held Rwandans.
The East African reports that “Deal or Not? It’s Now Up to Kagame, Museveni.” Well, clearly there is no deal because Uganda has decided to stonewall the MoU and now we are back to square one, the no deal situation before the heads of state met in Luanda, Angola, to sign the MoU.
But it’s one thing to lack good faith; it’s quite another to make a mockery of everyone involved in concluding the MoU – Rwanda, DRC, and Angola. As Angola was requesting for good faith, Museveni showed bad faith by reappointing Philemon Mateke to cabinet despite the fact that he featured heavily as someone who has been actively coordinating – albeit on Museveni’s behest – the anti-Rwanda rebels, including his recent contacts with the assailants who killed 14 innocent civilians in Kinigi, Rwanda, this October. Mateke was also the convener of a coordination meeting between the RNC and FDLR in Uganda on December 14-15, according to top FDLR officials, La Forge Fils Bazehe (its spokesperson) and Lt Col Theophile Abega (it’s chief of intelligence) who were intercepted at Bunagana border point that separates Uganda and the DRC on their way from that Kampala meeting in which Mateke had invited them for a “special message from President Museveni,” they said in their confessions and in court.
Museveni’s own advisor, Andrew Mwenda, also agrees that Museveni is not interested in resolving the crisis. While appearing on NBS TV, Mwenda observed that Museveni’s appointment of Gen Otafire “means President Museveni was sending a message to Rwanda and I am sure President Kagame got the message. If he wanted to mend relations with Rwanda, he would make appointments that in a way appease them.”
But no one is asking Museveni to appease Rwanda; all he is asked to do is to implement the Luanda MoU that he signed up to. But if, like Mwenda says, Museveni doesn’t want to mend relations with Rwanda, he is not just sending a message to Kagame; he is also sending a message to Felix Tshisekedi of DRC and Joao Lourenco of Angola. They, too, heard and got the message.