Rwanda: what next after Muhoozi’s visit to Kigali?
President Paul Kagame met on Saturday January 22 with Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Senior Presidential Adviser for Special Operations and Commander of the Ground Forces of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), in Kigali.
The two men discussed the steps needed to restore ties between Rwanda and Uganda.
According to Village Urugwiro, Kagame and Muhoozi, the son of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, “had cordial, productive and forward-looking discussions on Rwanda’s concerns and the practical steps needed to restore relations between Rwanda and the Uganda”.
Shortly after returning home, Muhoozi tweeted that they held “very cordial and in-depth discussions on how to improve bilateral relations”.
He said he was confident that under “the leadership of our two presidents, we will be able to quickly restore our historic good relations.”
Muhoozi’s visit followed that of Amb Adonia Ayebare who was in Kigali to deliver a special message from President Museveni.
For observers, Muhoozi has taken a good step, but Kigali is waiting to see more convincing practical steps taken by Kampala where outstanding issues that need to be credibly addressed include the continued arrest and harassment of Rwandans in Uganda, and the activities of terrorist groups operating in Uganda. on the destabilization of Rwanda.
Foreign Minister Dr. Vincent Biruta said in June 2020 that it will take political will to restore relations between the two countries.
Asked what he thinks should happen after Muhoozi’s trip, or what to expect, Gatete Nyiringabo Ruhumuliza, an independent political analyst, highlighted the release of all prisoners, a letter official communication to all Ugandan institutions to cease cooperating with the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), and “revocation of any diplomatic passports issued to RNC persons”.
The RNC is a terrorist organization whose fugitive leader, Kayumba Nyamwasa, is based in South Africa.
The RNC maintains an armed group in eastern DR Congo which has suffered heavy setbacks in operations by Congolese forces since 2019 but it also, according to Kigali, has agents roaming freely and mobilizing and recruiting in various parts of the country. Uganda with the help of state institutions in particular the Chief Military Intelligence (CMI).
Despite persistent denial from Ugandan officials over the past few years, Kigali maintained that the terror group continued to receive considerable support from Uganda.
Besides a host of Ugandan-linked militias such as the FDLR, RNC and RUD-Urunana, in December 2019 officials in Kigali revealed that Mateke Philemon, Uganda’s then Minister of State for Regional Cooperation, was directly linked to the deadly attack on Kinigi, in Musanze District, by RUD-Urunana in October 2019.
During the fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Commission – a session of senior Rwandan and Ugandan officials – in early June 2020, Dr Biruta was adamant in pointing out that there were still activities of terrorist groups operating in Uganda whose main mission is to destabilize Rwanda.
According to Eric Ndushabandi, professor of political science at the University of Rwanda, “we must understand the crisis of Rwandan-Ugandan foreign policy beyond the behavior of the actors”.
He said: “What we have seen and heard so far can be seen from a psychological point of view, that there is healing possible.”
Ndushabandi, who is also director of the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), a Rwandan think tank, noted that recent developments “should be followed by concrete actions”.
“Then should be systemic, i.e. the political will and the ability to influence [the] operational environment. By this I mean modifying and acting on internal or national, state and non-state actors causing the crisis or those profiting from the crisis internal and external to Uganda and the region.
But Ndushabandi wonders if Muhoozi is able to ensure that “all forces in Uganda” can join in the effort to normalize relations.
“Does the general [Muhoozi] really capable and has all the powers to act, implement and control what is decided in Kigali, on the ground in Uganda and in the region given the multiple and divergent interests in the crisis? »
Then, Ndushabandi noted, every effort should be made to ensure that the highest levels of foreign policy decision-making, that is, the leaders of the two countries, meet.
A meeting between Kagame and Museveni?
Both countries would have to change their operating environment, he said.
If the leaders of the two countries are to meet, Ndushabandi suggested, there are preconditions.
“This [president’s meeting] should come after changing the attitudes and behaviors of the intelligence and security services on both sides, exchanging information and joint formal mechanisms to resolve issues such as mutual trust, addressing arbitrary arrests of Rwandans in Uganda, implementing put in place joint mechanisms to control borders and combat the illegal movements of enemies of each country against another, redefine economic cooperation and support, all together, the regional integration agenda. Both countries should change the operating environment,” Ndushabandi said.
“Rwanda and Uganda must agree to support each other internationally in their relations with other countries, including direct neighbors, and foreign countries. All this is agreed, then the two presidents can meet and sign the agreement and put in place joint and regular check-in mechanisms to monitor and reassess progress.”