August 21, 2019

Angola Summit Leaves Hottest Potatoes Untouched In Rwanda-Uganda Conflict

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President Kagame (L) shakes hands with Museveni at the press conference following their summit in Luanda, Angola

From brief encounter, President Paul Kagame and Uganda’s counterpart Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday signed on to a set of 4 points and 8 sub-elements aimed at solving a bitter quarrel that has escalated since march.

Meeting in Luanda, for the second time, hosted by Angolan President João Lourenço and DR Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi, they were joined by Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

For starters, the Kigali-Kampala fight erupted into the public domain on February 28. Rwanda opened its box with what it called “three outstanding issues”.

These issues have been publicly outlined by President Kagame as: support to individual dissidents and groups including RNC’s Kayumba Nyamwasa and “P5″─groups intent on destabilizing the Rwandan government; arresting, torturing and deporting Rwandans, as well as economic sabotage.

Uganda for its part, has not raised any concerns against Rwanda, and Museveni has said there is “no fundamental differences”. However, using obscure websites, Ugandan intelligence claims Rwanda was fomenting trouble in Uganda using internal opposition groups.

A “memorandum of understanding” (MoU) signed by Kagame and Museveni today deals, but not directly, with some of Rwanda’s concerns.

The MoU is written in a generalized (diplomatic) language to appear as if the concerns and accusations on both sides are the same; a factor that might make verifiable implementation difficult.

First, Kagame and Museveni agreed to “respect the sovereignty of each other’s and of the neighbouring countries”. There is no other specific detail as to what this means. Which other neighbours? DR Congo?

The next point says Rwanda and Uganda will “refrain from actions conducive to destabilization or subversion” in each other’s country, and goes on to cite such acts as “financing, training and infiltration of destabilizing forces”.

However, for all the months that have passed, Rwanda names its enemies in Uganda, but Museveni says some of them are just business people. There is no uniform understanding as to who the “destablising forces”.

The MoU also requires Kagame and Museveni to “resume as soon as possible the cross-border activities”, which is not clear as to what is being referenced.

Rwanda issued travel advisory on its nationals against going to Uganda. However, Uganda says Rwanda has closed its border, which Rwanda denies. Uganda says Kigali has imposed “trade embargo” on its goods.

Point 2 is perhaps what will came out as the surprising development. It reads: “By signing this [MoU], each signatory party is aware that it will be held accountable for the non-compliance of this Memorandum”.

No further detail is issued on this nor how mediators will verify non-compliance. It remains to be seen how it will be put in force, considering the mediators, Angola’s President João Lourenço and DR Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi, are new entrants in the global club of leaders and mediation doesn’t involve other institutions like the African Union that would, for example sanction non-compliance.

The good news is that the last point, element 4 states that “This Memorandum of Understanding Shall enter into force immediately upon signature”. This means, Uganda will release Rwandans in its custody Thursday 22 or thereafter, Rwanda will update its advisory on Rwandans traveling to Uganda, free movements of people, goods and services will resume normally, etc. These can be verified even by the media or ordinary travelers.

As if to make sure no part misunderstands the MoU, point 3 sets out that “disputes or differences in the interpretation” will be “settled through dialogue” with “help of the mediators”.

The MoU also puts in place an “Ad Hoc Commission” that will be the implementing body, and includes: Foreign Ministers, Interior Ministers and Heads of Intelligence from Rwanda and Uganda.

How this team, separate from Kagame and Museveni, will decide what to handle first and what comes later, remains to be seen.

To understand how difficult this is, consider a speech President Kagame made on March 9 at a government retreat.

Kagame and Museveni had previously met alone in Entebbe (Uganda) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).

In his narration in the retreat, Kagame said he told Museveni: “Am begging you, deal with this matter. I don’t see how Uganda benefits. I don’t see how Rwanda benefit”.

Kagame added: “I showed [President] Museveni the people being tortured and those who support them in the system”. Kagame told his Ugandan counterpart, “I leave this problem to you. Deal with it the way you want…He promised me to deal with it”.

The president also said he had raised with President Museveni the case of Tribert Rujugiro, a wealthy Rwandan tycoon living in South Africa, but with business interests all across this region.

Rujugiro is implementing a huge tobacco factory in Northern Uganda in collaboration with Gen Salim Saleh, the brother of President Museveni. Rwanda accuses Rujugiro of being the financier of RNC and other subversive activities against the government of Rwanda.

“Initially, he said he did not know [Rujugiro], then I proved to him that he knew him,” said Kagame of Museveni denying knowledge of Rujugiro.

When evidence was shown to Museveni proving that he knows Rujugiro, Museveni apparently told Kagame: “You see the problem with you Rwandese, you need to differentiate between business and politics.”

Kagame told his top officials in the annual retreat that Museveni had since 1994 been working on removing him from power.

Addressing the Africa CEO Forum on March 25, Kagame hinted that Museveni’s problem is President Kagame himself.

“To imagine that because you don’t like Kagame you will change him and put someone else, it is impossible,” Kagame said.

He added: “Whether you like me or not, President Kagame is here as President of Rwanda, it is the business of the people of Rwanda. If they want Kagame they will have him and if they don’t they will remove him”.

The Luanda MoU only hits at, but does not also address the first, and perhaps the hottest potato; Rwandan militia in Congo, the democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda or FDLR.

All the trouble, which has left eastern DR Congo devastated for the last more than 20 years, has been as a result of the FDLR.

Angola itself, with other southern Africa neighbours, has directly fought with Rwanda in Congo.

Museveni and Kagame exchange the MoU after the deal was signed as other leaders look on

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