Since January 16, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Keinerugaba, 47, the son of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has been shaping perception of relations between Rwanda and Uganda.
Kigali and Kampala have been at near-war since around 2017. The mariage broke down complete in February 2019. The common border was essentially closed, in addition to other happenings. We have widely chronicled the situation.
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The new engagement with Rwanda has earned Muhoozi the appellation; “Tweeting General”. The first one was on January 16. The Tweet sent shockwaves across the region.
Attached with photos of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, it read: “This is my uncle, Afande Paul Kagame. Those who fight him are fighting my family. They should all be careful.”
Other Tweets, with similar language have followed, including a widely reported impromptu visit of Muhoozi to Kigali on January 22, meeting President Kagame.
The vigorous energy with which Muhooze is engaged, choice of wording for his Tweets, and public statements by Ugandan politicians, suggest he doesn’t have the support he expected, or wants, to be able to solve the debacle.
The signs are everywhere. Upon returning to Kampala from Kigali, Muhoozi posted photo of him with a Ugandan special force soldier he had come with from Rwanda. It was perhaps expected he would get political leverage.
However, few bought this narrative. On talk shows, Ugandan politicians accused Muhoozi of taking credit for the work of Uganda’s UN envoy Adonia Ayebale.
Two days after Muhoozi’s first Tweet, on January 18, Ayebale, considered a major voice in Uganda’s diplomatic circles, was in Kigali, meeting President Kagame. No breakthrough was announced.
When Muhoozi came to Kigali, and returned home with a Uganda soldier, was viewed as a fait accompli negotiated by Ayebale, according to critics of Muhoozi’s success narrative.
Muhoozi was sent to Kigali, the critics argued, to come with the Ugandan soldier by his father as part of a wider strategy to position him as a effective negotiator who can lead Uganda. These manoeuvres are known in Uganda as the “Muhoozi project”.
The dismissals of Muhoozi as a force Ugandans have to trust, is all over social media. Lately, he has been accused of being behind the horrific torture inflicted on a Ugandan author Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, who has since fled the country. Muhoozi has denied the allegations.
Last week, main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, weighed in on the Muhoozi initiative to put back Rwanda relations.
“This vulgarisation & debasement of interstate relations is problematic,” he wrote on Twitter February 14.
“Seems the relationship between people of Uganda [and] Rwanda is premised on how [Muhoozi], [President Museveni], relates with his “uncle” President [Kagame]. This is wrong [and] unacceptable…”
Following the Muhoozi Tweets and Kigali visit, chief of Uganda’s military intelligence, Maj Gen Abel Kandiho was replaced. He was sent to a lesser appointment, to South Sudan, to oversee a demobilisation program which doesn’t seem to exist.
It is unclear whether his replacement was by design, since the government of Rwanda has extensively documented cases of him allegedly mobilising Rwandan dissidents and rebel groups.
Barely a week later, Gen Kandiho was brought back to Kampala as the number three in the Ugandan Police. As Chief of Joint Staff, his position puts him in control of the resources of the police.
A Uganda Police former chief Gen Kale Kayihura and many police officers are either in court or prison for allegedly operating a ring that was abducting Rwandan refugees and sending them back to Rwanda. President Museveni himself has publicly said the police is full of “Kawukumi” (weevils).
Incidentally, Gen Kandiho is a direct brother of Ambassador Ayebale.
The contradictions, between what is said and done on the part of the Ugandan government with regards to relations with Kigali, are numerous.
The Chronicles did detail a major speech in Rwanda, where President Kagame, said Uganda has been planning regime change in Rwanda since 1999. That was barely four years after current administration had come to power.
An author who detests President Kagame, wrote about the regime change plans in one of his books. Meetings were organised by Gen Salim Saleh Akandwanaho, the young brother of President Museveni.
With this kind of history, it is hard to convince sceptics that Muhoozi’s Tweets are anything to go by.
The biggest story today, and perhaps for coming days and weeks, is another set of Tweets.
Muhoozi wrote today afternoon: “General Kayumba and RNC, I don’t know what problems you had in Rwanda with the mainstream RPF/RDF? But I warn you not to dare use my country for your adventures!”
While laudable that Muhoozi may be genuinely trying to correct what he sees as the wrongs against Rwanda, the authorities in Rwanda may need a lot more, tangible action that their list of demands are being met.
In a recent interview with The Africa Report, President Kagame gave some qualification to the significance of Gen Muhoozi’s intervention in reviving Uganda-Rwanda relations.
“Some people are satisfied with official photos and see it as an end in itself. This is not my case. I appreciate the words of President Museveni’s son, but I hope that we can go beyond that and come up with concrete solutions,” he said.
It is a view shared by those who want to see the ground border between Ugandan and Rwanda opened for ordinary travellers, and safeguards put in place to stop arrests and deportations of Rwandans by Ugandan authorities.