Mon. Aug 3rd, 2020

Gatuna Truce is a Litmus Test

President Paul Kagame and President Yoweri Museveni at Gatuna on February21 (PHOTO/Courtesy)

By George Kalisa

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been shifting positions mainly on the root causes of the severed relations between Rwanda and Uganda since the two countries signed the Extradition Treaty on February21 during the fourth quadripartite Summit held at the common border of Gatuna. 

President Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame signed the Extradition Treaty, which binds both parties to release prisoners on their territory within one month.

“The Heads of State of the Republic of Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) welcomed the signing of Extradition Treaty that took place today in the framework of the quadripartite Summit between the Republic of Rwanda and Republic of Uganda, which constitutes the legal framework to handle cases of justices including those related to alleged subversive activities practiced by their nationals in territory of the other parties,” said the statement in parts.

Just before the signing of the Extradition Treaty, the Ugandan government had withdrawn a passport number A000199979 from Charlotte Mukankusi, a Commissioner in charge of Diplomacy in the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) led by dissent Lt. Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa.  Rwanda declared.

Mukankusi’s is one of the seven issues at the heart of the nearly two-year tension Rwanda had demanded that Uganda verifies.

Last year, Ugandan officials had repeatedly denied that the government had issued a travel document to her.

Shortly after signing the treaty, it emerged that President Museveni announced new causes to the border closure and tensions between the two neighbouring East African countries.

“The origin of the problem is that these people we helped when they had problems, once they returned home they started to have divisions within them. Others fled to South Africa and Rwanda thinks they are in Uganda,” remarked President Museveni while speaking to a section of border communities on the Ugandan side.

The Uganda President now says the border closure was caused by the disenchanted former members of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) – Inkotanyi who are based in South Africa, Canada and parts of Europe and not in his country. 

Rwanda described President Museveni’s statement as a lie written in black and white.

How can Lt. Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, a man who chose self-exile as an escape route from the long arm of the law after committing offences ranging from corruption to misappropriation related cases, plus a few relatives and friends who chose political asylum to satisfy their appetite for pizzas and cookies lead to the closure of a border?

The enemy lives in Canada or Sweden, then you rush to close the Gatuna border!  This defeats the dictates of commonsense and logic.

The President’s statement is tantamount to undermining the wellbeing of the economically devastated Ugandan and Rwandan communities, especially in the border neighbourhoods.  For sure, the hopes of reopening the border and restoring a flourishing regional economy, it had become – are diminishing after putting the President’s statement on the “truth barometer”.

Nyamwasa who is now reading books on “the rights of refugees” and “Advanced tactics on masterminding violence” and related titles has already accepted that he is fighting an unjustified war and has lost it already.

This is incumbent on successive losses RNC suffered recently, spurred by military assaults launched by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) on the FDLR rebel outfit, which is part of the P5 group under the command of Lt. Gen. Kayumba.

The FARDC attacks killed several senior commanders of FDLR alongside capturing of others who were extradited to Rwanda to face justice.     

RNC has also suffered splits based on infighting within the South Africa based rebel group the Kigali administration declared a terrorist group bent on destabilizing the security of Rwanda.

South Africa effective January 2020 banned all political activities by refugees on its territory.

The Kigali administration maintains that Lt. Gen. Kayumba’s RNC is responsible for a wave of grenade attacks in Kigali between 2010-2013 that killed dozens of innocent people and caused a lot of havoc.  

(L-R): Presidents Paul Kagame, Yower Museveni, (PHOTO/COURTESY)

Is EAC integrating or shattering?

Observers in the EAC region say the Extradition Treaty is a litmus test that may show to world and particularly the EAC citizens which side is wrong.  I have been on the African Continent for over 50 years and I bet you to tell me a border that was closed because of internal conflicts in the ruling political parties.

Half of my age has been treated to splits and wrangles in the ruling NRM party. None of the Ugandan borders has ever been closed even for second due to infighting and/or splits.

In 2001 many disgruntled Ugandan political shots mainly from the NRM Party followed Rt. Col. Kiiza Besigye to form the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party. No border was closed, then.

In 2010 Bindandi Ssali, a heavyweight politician in NRM with a big name in sports circles formed the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) and prophesied doom on Museveni’s NRM party. The borders remained open. 

Gen. David Tinyefunza aka Sejjusa a general with huge influence in the NRA and UPDF fled the country in April2013 and exiled himself in the United Kingdom (UK). While there, he alleged that President Museveni had rigged the votes, an action which denied his longtime arch political rival Rtd. Col. Kiiza Besigye victory. Even still, the borders remained open.

At least 11 rebel NRM party legislators that have come to the limelight for their opposition of the uplifting of Presidential age limits from 75 years, a Constitution amendment that legitimized President’s candidature in any coming polls, defected to People Power Movement. The borders remained open despite the venom they continue directing on RNM.    

I agree that the words of the leaders deserve unquestionable respect, but they should also be edited enough to induce respect from the anxious and economically castrated ordinary citizens in the two neighbouring countries. Undoubtedly, the helpless communities trace their economic woes to border closure.    

Meanwhile, President Museveni said that Ugandans helped Rwandans return to their home country. Very true.  Is he provoking Rwandans to remind him that a huge group of Rwandan refugees in Uganda picked up arms and joined the protracted guerilla bush war launched by Museveni’s National resistance Army (NRA) to oust the dictatorship of Dr. Apollo Milton Obote between 1981-1986.

In January 1986 the NRM/A overran Kampala city. This army was led by fighters that included the Rwandan refugee soldiers such as Gisa Fred Rwigyema, Gen.Paul Kagame and many others. When the civil war between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and UPDF, by then NRA proved a thorn in the liberation of Uganda, Fred Rwegyema sacrificed his life and ended the war in Northern Uganda.

So, who helped who first?  

Political pundits in the region wonder whether a lasting solution to the current impasse can be reached when the two Heads of State, of Rwanda and Uganda –Kagame and Museveni explicitly differ on the root causes of tension between the two countries.

Both countries are signatories to EAC protocols that enshrine free movement of goods and people within the six-member economic bloc through elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Interestingly, three countries, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi constituting half of the EAC experience cold diplomatic ties and bad blood between them becomes more and more vivid despite increasing use of formal channels to search for peaceful relations.  

South Sudan (SS), the new entrant to the EAC has been overwhelmed by civil war for years and could have received less political support from the EAC than it expects. Besides lacking the moral authority to mediate Uganda and Rwanda, SS is preoccupied with civil wars. Will Kenya and Tanzania afford the cost of taking sides? If they take sides, the move will be a big blow to the EAC integration.

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