A seemingly tense summit hosted by Angolan President João Lourenço in Luanda affirmed Friday that the region is peaceful – even as war ranges in some parts and open cold war continues in others.
They issued a three-page communique after the afternoon summit bringing together President Paul Kagame of Rwanda face to face with Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni, and DR Congo’s Félix Tshisekedi.
The four leaders first met alone with translators only. It remains to be seen what was discussed in that room, marked by the heavy red colour and decor. They then later moved into a formal public summit with foreign ministers and multitudes of aides.
The summit communique begins with “welcoming” DR Congo’s “firm condemnation” of armed groups which destablise its neighbours. However, non of the groups is named.
The document cites Ebola twice with regards to DR Congo; first “recognizing efforts” by Congo to contain the epidermic, and promising regional support for Congo.
On the 13-point communique, the ongoing fallout between Rwanda and Uganda – which was clearly the main agenda, comes at the bottom. They affirmed that they are happy with the “peaceful climate reigning in the sub region”.
The leaders agreed to “continue dialogue” bringing together the two sides, and “welcomed the political will” that Rwanda and Uganda are exerting to solve the existing problems.
“In this regard, the Summit charged the Republic of Angola with assistance from Democratic Republic of Congo to facilitate this process,” reads point 11 of the communique, which has 13 resolutions and 3 sub resolutions.
The leaders say the summit was conducted in “a climate of fraternity and perfect harmony”. However, the only image to emerge from their closed-door quadripartite session showed a quire atmosphere as Kagame and Museveni sat directly opposite.
It is the only formal setting in which the two leaders have met since their bilateral meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in early February.
About two weeks after this meeting, a full-blown standoff erupted on February 28. It began by Rwanda closing the major Gatuna border for what was announced as rehabilitation work.
The same week, Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister Dr Richard Sezibera read out a travel advisory at a press conference for Rwandans not to go to Uganda. Government said at the time that more than 980 Rwandans had been arrested and tortured in Uganda, and therefore could not guarantee their safety.
Kigali accuses Uganda of what it has described as “three outstanding issues”.
These have been publicly outlined by President Kagame as: support to individuals and groups including RNC of Kayumba Nyamwasa and “P5″─ groups focused on fighting the Rwandan government; arresting, torturing and deporting Rwandans as well as economic sabotage.
To enforce the travel advisory, immigration officials at border turn back anybody with Rwandan ID or passport from crossing to Uganda – prompting many to use the much longer Tanzania route to travel to Uganda. Though the border is open, Ugandan officials and business community has repeatedly claimed their goods are blocked from entering Rwanda.
For slightly more than four months now, President Kagame and his officials have maintained a constant barrage of verbal attacks. Museveni and his officials have not directly addressed the issues raised by Kigali – with Museveni actually said at some point that there is “no fundamental problem”.
Government-supported media on either side have also published virtrolic information about the other.
Rwanda is also embroiled in another cold battle with Burundi, where President Pierre Nkurunziza accused Rwanda government of being behind a failed coup in May 2015. Burundi closed its border.
This summit today follows the one that was, to the surprise of regional observers held in Kinshasa on May 31, involving Kagame, Tshisekedi and Lourenço. It was branded the “Congo-Angola-Rwanda Axis”.
It was seen, following this Kinshasa summit, that Rwanda was clearly formulating a new alliance to the west – to escape the unpredictable relations to the east, north and south.
The “quadripartite summit” today took place amid raging war in DR Congo’s Ituri region, north Kivu and south kivu – all involving groups from Rwanda and Uganda.