In his budget address on Thursday, President Museveni sort of issued a ‘come get me’ plea to Burundi and at the same time a stern warning to Uganda’s enemies when he said the country is secure from enemies’ threats and also able to offer help to brotherly nations as far as security is concerned.
The lines within were directly headed out to two sides; Burundi where he has enjoyed cordial relationships with the late Pierre Nkurunziza, whom he helped back to power in 2015, and Rwanda where relations are on an off with Uganda and completely off in Bujumbura.
Nkurunziza passed on suddenly due to heart attack, blowing open the fears of a power struggle within the ruling party and Burundi at large.
His successor, Évariste Ndayishimiye who was not supposed to be in office until August saw the constitutional court on Friday rule that the country’s newly elected leader be rapidly sworn in following Nkurunziza’s sudden death.
Under their constitution, the speaker of the National Assembly, Pascal Nyabenda, was supposed to take over until Ndayishimye’s inauguration. Wasn’t that so much a time for anything to happen?
Indeed, the cabinet held an extraordinary meeting to discuss ‘the management of the situation following the unexpected death of Nkurunziza.”
While the meeting happened, certain officials went to court seeking the declaration of a vacancy post in the presidency, while a strong ‘crisis committee’ sought to take charge of the matters.
However, in its judgment, the court ruled that an interim period “is not necessary”.
The court also ruled that the country must “proceed, as soon as possible, with the swearing-in of the president-elect Evariste Ndayishimiye”.
Ndayishimye was handpicked by the ruling party to replace Nkurunziza, but does he have everyone’s blessing, most especially the countries that border Burundi?
The answer is no.
Nkurunziza wanted someone else to succeed him
Already Nkurunziza had opted to be succeeded by the current speaker Pascal Nyabenda, but party big wigs opted for Ndayishimye and this brings the matter closer to a complication and could swell into a power struggle, now that the man who was holding strings is out of the picture.
Truth be told, Nkurunziza, just like any other leader particularly in Africa, did not hold the power alone whether internally or externally, and worse still, he died before directly handing over.
In his last five years in office, Nkurunziza has been Museveni’s pawn in dealing with Rwanda.
Museveni has enjoyed a tight grip on South Sudan, and Burundi, and previously DRC before the exit of Joseph Kabila and the election of Felix Tshishekedi who has embarked on repairing relations with Rwanda.
In the region, Tanzania and Kenya are the countries that can flipflop on either side depending on the situation, while Burundi, South Sudan remain for the taking. DRC on the other hand is taking different strides.
The bigger aspect of Uganda and Rwanda trouble started in DRC, Museveni to some extent managed to neutralize Joseph Kabila and he had him as an ally, leaving Rwanda in the cold.
Towards the inauguration of Tshishekedi, a rare picture of Museveni, Kabila, and Tshishekedi at State House Entebbe was leaked and eyebrows were raised.
Could Kabila have been offering Tshishekedi as a new ally to Museveni in his absence? yes, However, Tshishekedi turned off the script, after he was wooed by Kagame. The former took a full state visit to Kigali in March 2019 to the shock of many homes and in Uganda.
During the visit, Tshisekedi spoke against rebels at the border of DRC and Rwanda, a song with Kagame added his verse.
“We have to believe him (Tshisekedi). My problems in Rwanda very often end up being problems in the DRC, and vice versa. We can’t address that without cooperation,” Kagame said, and they sealed it with a big handshake.
Things started moving fast, Rwanda was in no time operating their airline to Kinshasha six times a week, something that they had lobbied for with Kabila and failed miserably at it.
Kagame grew wings, closed the border with Uganda, and started clamoring for many things. That is the confidence that comes with the fact that one has received backing on one side.
Amongst Rwanda’s demands and accusations, they want Uganda to stop financing activities on subversion within Rwanda via Burundi.
Rwanda has their intel that Uganda is supporting rebels on the side bordering Burundi and Rwanda with the help on Nkurunziza, who by the way had publicly labeled Rwanda an enemy.
In a letter to Museveni (in his capacity as chairman EAC) in December 2018, Nkurunziza said he does not view Rwanda as a partner but an enemy.
The frosty relationship between Rwanda and Burundi started in May 2015 following a failed coup to unseat Nkurunziza who according to unconfirmed rumors landed in Kampala from Nairobi and returned to Bujumbura with Museveni’s trusted security personnel who restored him to power.
While Burundi accused Rwanda of engineering the coup and Nkurunziza continued to suspect Kagame of plotting to overthrow him, Museveni was brought closer and put in charge of mediations in Burundi.
Burundi has indeed filed multiple reports to the EAC, UN, and AU accusing Rwanda of supporting rebels opposed to Nkurunziza. They claim the rebels are on the border with DRC, whom Rwanda is wooing unceasingly.
Burundi, Uganda’s friend against Rwanda
Burundi has played a significant role in frustrating Rwanda’s actions against Uganda.
While Rwanda closed borders with Uganda, Burundi closed its borders too, causing Rwanda to write to Uganda and Kenya over the same.
Rwanda in retaliation also blocked trucks proceeding to Burundi from Uganda, a move which Bujumbura government claimed was based on ‘ill-motivated interests against the government in Bujumbura.”
“Kigali seeks to deny Burundi essential supplies and suffocate our country into submission,” an official from Burundi told Soft power news.
Therefore, with Nkurunziza out of the picture, matters could harden for president Museveni, should someone else reach Burundi before him.