Sat. Jan 25th, 2020

Impasse in Rwanda-Uganda talks might deepen cracks in regional security

Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of East African Community Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe and Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Analysts further contend that failure to reach a lasting solution to the growing conflict will undermine the capacity of Africa to solve their own problems through dialogue and peaceful means. Besides, it [impasse] will foil EAC integration and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) ratified by both countries. They argue that impasse impedes the movement of people and goods.   

By George Kalisa

Talks between Rwanda and Uganda by the Ad Hoc Commission on the implementation of the Luanda bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed under the mediation of the Heads of State of Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) João Lourenço and Félix Tshisekedi reached unprecedented impasse on December14 in Uganda’s capital Kampala.

Delegations led by Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of East African Community Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe and Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa failed to make a compromise on the most contentious issues at the centre of the broken diplomatic relations and escalating tensions.

Rwanda categorically blames Uganda of indifference in the implementation of the Luanda MoU and the Kigali Communiqué as it continues to commit the very violations that caused the collapse of relations between the two countries even after signing the pack.  

No common ground was reached on the key issues that spurred hostilities and escalation of tension between the two East African countries after eight hours of a closed-door meeting. The single option left for two sides was to refer the matter to the Heads of State Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame.  

“More than 7 hours of a deep, open, frank but cordial discussion between #Uganda & #Rwanda. No agreement on a solution to the most contentious issues (Uganda’s support to armed groups & illegal detention of Rwandans in Uganda). We agreed to refer the matter to our Heads of State,” said Nduhungirehe in a tweet.

Rwanda’s delegation at the Kampala Ad Hoc meeting on the implementation of the August2019 Luanda pact (PHOTO/Courtesy)

The Luanda pact signed on August21 by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame is meant to secure a ceasefire at the border between the two countries.

The two African leaders, Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame while addressing the media in Luanda had expressed the interest to intensify cooperation towards pacifying and normalising the relations between the two nations

The spirit of the July 2019 quadripartite Summit that was a forerunner to mediation efforts by both Angola and DRC was to prioritise the settlement of differences between the neighboring countries through peaceful means, conventional channels and in the spirit of the African brotherhood and solidarity.

Now the stalemate in the talks, political pundits say, may jeopardize this spirit unless the mediators and the two Heads of State, Museveni and Kagame move fast to break it.

Analysts further contend that failure to reach a lasting solution to the growing conflict will undermine the capacity of Africa to solve their own problems through dialogue and peaceful means. Besides, it will foil EAC integration and the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) ratified by both countries. They argue that impasse impedes the movement of people and goods.    

Background of the Luanda bilateral MoU

More than two years now, Rwanda and Uganda have been accusing each other of carrying out actions that threaten their security and sovereignty, including espionage, sabotage, political and economic instability.  

Rwanda says that it has repeatedly exposed material evidence implicating Uganda in serious violations of human rights of her nationals on Uganda’s territory and of late the attack on Rwanda’s territory. Uganda denies all the accusations.  

The closure of the common border between Uganda and Rwanda was thus aimed to protecting its citizens from human rights abuses by Uganda’s military agencies like the Chief of Military Intelligence (CMI), adds Rwanda.

Over the years of hostilities, hundreds of Rwandan nationals have experienced arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions in safe houses, torture and deportations, according to the startling revelations compiled by the Rwandan authorities, prompting Rwanda to pursue solutions through diplomatic channels but to no avail.

Early this year, high profile leaders of Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) reportedly held meetings in Kampala under the coordination of Mateke. But, the Congolese Army intercepted them at the Bunagana border that separates Uganda and DRC as they tried to sneak into Africa’s mineral rich country.

Ignace Nkaka aka Laforge Bazeye Fils, FDLR Spokesperson and Lt. Col. Nsekanabo Jean Pierre alias Abega Kamala, the Chief of Intelligence were later extradited to Rwanda by DRC authorities.  

A UN report, also, hinted on Uganda as giving support to the P5 which operates in Eastern DRC and led by Rwandan dissident Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa.  

Unresolved issues behind Rwanda’s concern

During the Kampala talks Nduhungirehe raised pertinent issues to which Uganda had paid a dead ear and acted with indifference including facilitation of armed and terrorist groups that seek to distabilise his country’s security, citing the October attack launched by RUD-Urunana, which implicates Uganda’s State Minister for Regional Cooperation, Philemon Mateke.

Mateke snubbed the Kampala Ad Hoc meeting. The October3-4 attack on Rwanda’s territory to which the Ugandan minister is allegedly linked was launched from Eastern DRC in close proximity to the Volcanoes National Park and the Ugandan border.

“Support to armed groups attempting to wreak terror on Rwanda, and illegal detention of Rwandans in Uganda has not ceased,” said Nduhungirehe.

“Operatives and leaders of these groups continue to receive facilitation and safe passage in Uganda,” added Nduhungirehe, “we have discussed and we have provided information, we have provided names. We have also addressed the issue of Rwandans who are arbitrarily arrested and illegally detained and also tortured in this country”.

High profile delegates from Rwanda, Uganda, DRC and Angola at the Kampala meeting (PHOTO/Courtesy)

Uganda says her security is a priority

Responding to some of the tabled issues by Rwanda, Kutesa said at the presser held at the end of the talks that Rwandans were either arrested or deported for carrying out illegal activities and claimed that they had attempted to infiltrate his country’s security. He said that Uganda will never support forces to destabilize neighbours, including Rwanda.

“Issues like attempts to infiltrate our security agencies, issues like the closure of the border by Rwanda. We also talked about Rwandans who have been arrested here for illegal activities and some of them deported. For Uganda, clearly, we shall never support any force destabilizes or intends to destabilize our neighbors including Rwanda,” said Kutesa.

On September 16, 2019 both sides had expressed commitment to implement the Luanda MoU.

“As neighbours and partners of EAC, we share a common vision of peace, security and economic integration and we are bound by protocols we have signed especially the protocol on peace and security, and the common market protocol which provides free movement of people, goods and services and capital,” said Nduhungirehe.

“The MoU underlines the scale of Pan Africanism and is vital to our social economic development. Our two countries have long historic socio-economic and cultural ties and the closure of borders has disrupted communities, separated families and disrupted trade and movement of goods and people,” said Kutesa.

Angola’s Foreign Affairs Minister Manuel Domingos Augusto and his Congolese counterpart oversaw the Kampala meeting.

Close to two decades the Great Lakes region has hosted insurrection and political instability particularly in DRC, South Sudan and Burundi. Consequently, thousands of people have been killed while millions displaced and deprived of their human rights.     

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