August 9, 2019

Uganda Government Spokesman Claims That Rwanda’s Foreign Minister “Poisoned”

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Uganda Government Spokesman Ofwono Opondo at a previous media briefing in Kampala

Uganda government spokesman Ofwono Opondo has caused a new storm, adding fuel to unconfirmed information which has been circulating that Rwanda’s foreign minister Dr Richard Sezibera is critically ill.

Yesterday morning, Opondo posted a link on Twitter of an obscure website not know in Uganda’s mainstream media. The title reads: “Rwandan Foreign Minister Dr Richard Sezibera Admitted in Critical Conditions after Poisoning”.

The post has to be taken seriously, as it comes within the ongoing fallout between the governments of Rwanda and Uganda.

The last time Dr Sezibera made public appearance was on July 11 in London at a international media conference hosted by the UK Foreign Office and Canadian Government.

Since then, all guests of Rwanda’s foreign ministry, who would otherwise be hosted by Dr Sezibera, have been meeting with State Minister in charge of East African Affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe. He is actually the junior minister of the same ministry.

As result, last week, posts began surfacing on Facebook and blogs associated with Rwandan dissidents reporting that Dr Sezibera was indeed very ill. These sources claim he was poisoned and is admitted in Nairobi.

There has been no official reaction from government or Dr Sezibera himself about the information.

Following the post by Uganda’s spokesman, there was angry response from State Minister Nduhungirehe, himself an ardent Twitter and Facebook enthusiast.

Nduhungirehe wrote: “Here is [Ofwono Opondo], Spokesperson of the Government of Uganda, endorsing vicious Fake News from a tabloid owned by the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence. Despicable!”

So what does a post by Ofwono Opondo mean? He is the director of the Uganda Media Center, a body charged with managing Kampala’s strategic communication. Opondo has been the government spokesman for more than 10 years.

Opondo’s Twitter post

Opondo has no known close association with President Museveni and the ruling elite in Uganda, but his deputy Col Shaban Bantariza, is from the inside of the this system.

Immediately after the Rwanda-Uganda conflicted had erupted on February 28, Opondo was the face of the Uganda government reaction to Rwanda.

On March 2, just two days after, Ofwono made what turned out be one of the biggest shockers of the crisis. He said Rwandan officials making public statements should be careful because they have property in Uganda.

He said: “Some of these officials talking have land and other property here. It is irresponsible on their part to utter anything. They will force us to expose their secrets.”

READ: Kampala Threatens to “Expose” Rwandan Officials with Property in Uganda

Three days later, on March 5, Ofwono is the one who announced that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni had directed that no government official comments on the crisis going forward.

Since then, Uganda has responded to a ferocious campaign from Rwanda with statements released by Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa.

Museveni and President Kagame have since last month been engaged in talks initiated by Angola and DR Congo leaders.

The latest action by Opondo posting a link of that site on Twitter cannot be treated as an isolated incident.

In addition, he made the post on Thursday morning at 8:38am, and it has stayed there all through to today. There is no indication it will be deleted.

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