A week after diplomatic relations between Rwanda and Uganda went cold, there appears to be no concrete explanation as to why the two neighbours are feuding.
On February 28, Authorities in Rwanda issued a notice announcing the partial closure of Katuna border point to complete some construction works.
The Rwanda authorities directed trucks that were headed to Uganda to use the Mirama Hills border post at Ntungamo.
At Mirama Hills, the trucks, too, were denied entry, triggering a diplomatic row that has gone on for five days.
Now what appeared to be a minor skirmish has morphed into a big row, attracting international attention.
Yet beyond the verbal artillery that has been exchanged between officials from Kigali and Kampala and amidst the social media chatter on the matter, somehow, it appears no one knows the real cause (s) of the standoff.
The Nile Post explores some of the reasons that have been put forward so far as the cause of the feud, wondering whether there is truth to some of them.
‘Rebels harbouring claims’
Rwandan officials notably its Foreign Affairs Minister, Richard Sezibera has claimed that Uganda is harbouring elements that are hostile to Kigali.
But Kampala through the minister of Foreign Affairs, Sam Kutesa, has strongly denied the claims and maintained that they cannot harbour elements to destabilise the peace and security of its neighbours.
It has to be noted that both countries have claimed in the past that the other is harbouring rebels to destabilise it. The truth in these claims has not been verified.
Related to the above are claims by Rwanda that some of is citizens have been arrested and tortured in Ugandan cells. In a tweet on March 1, Sezibera said one of the reasons why Kigali was discouraging its citizens from travelling to Uganda were reports that they were being harassed. On its part, Uganda has denied the reports. Ofwono Opondo, the executive director of Media Centre said last week that no Rwandan had been tortured in Uganda. “Uganda remains welcoming to Rwanda nationals,” Ofwono said.
The refusal by the Civil Aviation Authority to grant RwandaAir traffic rights for the Entebbe-London route has also been cited as a cause of the frosty relationship between the two neighbours. Apparently Kigali had requested that its airline be allowed to pick passengers from Entebbe and fly them directly to Britain but this has so far been rejected. Apparently, Uganda which is in the process of reviving its airline want to preserve this route for its airline
Curious case of a businessman
The Observer newspaper reported today that the stand off between the two countries could have been triggered by Uganda’s refusal to handover businessman Tribert Rujugiro, to Kigali. Rujugiro, a wealthy businessman with interests in Uganda and other African countries is alleged to be a funder of groups opposed to Kagame. Uganda, according to the reports, has so far not yielded to the demands and this could have led to the stand off.
Clash of egos, historical factors
Some analysts have pinned the impasse on the egos of the leaders of the two countries. Both President Museveni and President Kagame have sought to play an outsize role as far as influencing matters in the Great lakes region and beyond.
Museveni mentored Kagame but later the Rwanda president sought to be his own man. In the process of asserting his authority, Kagame may have rubbed some people in Kampala the wrong way.
Perhaps the lowest point in the relationship of the two countries happened in the late 1990s when the armies of the two countries clashed twice before in Kisangani, DR Congo.