The meeting held in Luanda on 2 February in an attempt to build bridges between Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame came in the wake of recent efforts by Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to implement an economic strategy that marginalizes Uganda.
In January, Kigali and Kinshasa launched an initiative to construct a railway between their two countries and they also agreed to re-route Congolese freight along the southern corridor via Rwanda.
This would represent a major setback for Uganda since the mineral resources of eastern DRC would henceforward end up in Rwanda. This is deeply worrying for Uganda’s Africa Gold Refinery, which is dependent on Congolese gold according to the UN.
Kampala’s refusal to involve itself in the campaign against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has also weakened its influence in the DRC. Meanwhile, Kigali has been conducting a diplomatic charm offensive in Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states.
According to our sources, Rwandan diplomats visited no fewer than nine countries in 2019 in an attempt to prevent an anti-Kagame coalition from forming.
The changing political dynamics of the region have led to growing dissatisfaction with Museveni, Uganda having taken a financial hit from the standoff with Rwanda.
The Private Sector Foundation Uganda has put the cost for businesses of the quarrel between Kigali and Kampala at $16 million a month, with trade currently in the doldrums.
And the discontent is starting to spread to the political sphere. In January, parliament learnt that State House has taken charge of the country’s foreign policy when the foreign secretary, Henry Oryem Okello, revealed that Rwanda was a taboo subject within his ministry.
At the beginning of the current recurring Uganda-Rwanda feud, Dr Theogene Rudasingwa ‘advised’ Mr Museveni to avoid being manipulated to a negotiating table. But what we are seeing now seems to be what Dr Rudasingwa predicted. The said Dr Rudansingwa, now a dissident opposed to Mr Kagame, was president Kagame’s former Dircab (principal private secretary).
Indeed, Mr Museveni seems to have been manipulated to the ‘negotiation’ table and seems to have all the odds staked against him. One of the photo from Angola told it all: Three men this side and an ‘odd man’ that side.
Mr Museveni’s biggest mistake was to stop government actors from responding to Rwanda’s accusations, an analyst has it.
But Rwandan authorities were saying whatever they wanted. Mr Kagame even said Rwandans released from detention in Uganda had been tortured and some were hospitalized on reaching Rwanda. So, as Mr Museveni was playing it cool, the other side was mobilizing international public opinion and the media.
The bad (or may be good) thing with negotiations (or diplomacy) is that the moment one is at the negotiating table, one is expected to offer concessions; if only for respecting the mediating team or your protagonist.
At the negotiating table, one is under some kind of subtle compulsion to make concessions. But Rwandans are not used to making concessions: For them, it is negotiations on our terms. We make demands and others respond.
And so, Rwanda’s demands to Uganda are now clear:
1 Mr Museveni should release all the Rwandans detained in Uganda.
2 Stop supporting rebels fighting Kagame’s government. ‘And then the border would open automatically…’ Phew!
On 7 February, two MPs moved a motion to censure the security minister, General Elly Tumwiine, over his use of safe houses to detain Rwandan nationals, a move analysts have described as discreetly linked to Rwandan powers.
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