The passing sands of time have made the relationship between Rwanda and Uganda difficult. What was hoped to be a short stint of resolvable matters has now morphed into a bigger, deeper and wider face-off.
Each week, fresh revelations have exposed the real play behind curtains in the theatre of relations between what many call ‘brotherly states’.
It has left, for the citizens on both sides, a tonne of questions and for Ugandans mostly, a tonne of unanswered ones.
I want to be able to speak brazenly, in this column, about the stand-off.
And perhaps start there. That calling it a ‘stand-off’ is very reductionist in and of itself. The dictionary reserves ‘stand-off’ for situations in an argument where agreement does not seem possible.
In the Rwanda-Uganda case, the ‘issues’ seem resolvable, both heads of state have confirmed as much, and yet, like a stench that won’t go away, they remain plastered on the cracks of the two countries.
Uganda accuses Rwanda of infiltration of it’s key security agencies. Officials from Uganda haven’t elaborated much on this but what they mean, and this is from my gathering from different sources, is that Rwandan security officials had direct and indirect contact with key strategic security bosses in the Ugandan establishment who often offered information outside of the state established systems. I’m also aware that through routine security reshuffles many of the people whom Uganda had core evidence on for this purpose have since been removed or reassigned.
That first allegation provides ‘basis’ for the second issue of the ‘stand-off’
That of arrested Rwandans.
Uganda maintains that the arrested Rwandans, a number not clear, were ‘infiltrators’ into the Ugandan security establishment. That would place them in the direct line of espionage charges – which haven’t been preferred. It is however the nature of the state, in high profile cases, to take long in arriving at charges or even prosecute them to logical conclusion so the very nature of the state might frustrate talks.
Rwanda however insists the arrested are citizens who were on regular travel to Uganda. In July, the Rwandan government provided a list of 40 people whom they said were in Ugandan detention. Uganda promised and committed to verifying the list. It still, to date, remains a sticking issue.
To note it’s seriousness, Rwanda released a travel advisory warning Rwandans over traveling to Uganda. Rwanda has also closed it’s closest border in Gatuna as an effect of the hostilities.
Rwanda has accused Uganda of meeting with and being linked to groups hostile to the establishment in Kigali – and Rwandan people. These groups are the FDLR & RNC. The meetings, they say, have been so high up as to include the head of state. An allegation that Museveni confirmed in a letter but proceeded to add that the meeting was ‘accidental’ and that in that meeting he declined to support the RNC.
This reason, atleast by press reports of sites linked to the Rwandan establishment has not been believed. It will also hardly get believability. Just like in the same vein, all explanations from Rwanda about infiltration of Uganda’s security will not be believed.
The climate of trust amongst the two heads of state – and now by extension, their officials – has broken down to near irretrievable levels. You could see it in Munyonyo as the two ministers addressed the press after hours of talks.
A public onslaught of propaganda championed through news sites in both Uganda and Rwanda has taken root. Both countries have blocked access to news sites that carry this propaganda in their countries which leaves the primary beneficiary of it as the citizens. Each passing day, more and more citizens get radicalized with partial truths, untruths and even brazen lies.
To fix this will be a tall order but surely, nothing in the long or short run benefits either country by having a hostile atmosphere. My firm belief, as is for many that cannot speak, is that a quick amicable resolution of this conflict is the best outcome amongst all other outcomes and pursuing it, however hard it may look like now, is the most logical and beneficial route to take.