Rwandan President Paul Kagame has blamed Rwandan dissidents living in South Africa for providing wrong information to Kampala which has led to a bad relationship between his country and Uganda.
“Some of the things that are said to be believed by Uganda about us, are coming from these individuals living in South Africa,” said Kagame.
“Even logically, you try to understand it these individuals in South Africa plotting all kinds of things against us are the ones giving information to Uganda in a way to solicit support from Uganda against us,” he added.
Kagame, in an interview with The East African, “Whether accurate or not, the information is designed to create that problem from which they benefit,” he added.
“If Uganda believes in some of these things, it is because they have made a choice to believe them. We have raised these matters with Uganda, that when they are given information, it is because those people want to buy Uganda’s support,” the president emphasized.
He, however, didn’t address critical issues such as alleged harassment of Rwandan refugees living in Uganda, espionage, unfair dismissal of Ugandans from top jobs in Rwanda and supporting Ugandan opposition.
These are some of the issues at the heart of Uganda’s worsening relations with Rwanda.
Rwandan operative Lt Rene Rutagungira is currently before the Court Martial on charges of illegal repatriation of Rwandan refugees from Uganda.
Rwandans living in Uganda have since complained of harassment and living in fear of the Kigali government.
Asked if he thought things are getting worse or improving between Uganda and Rwanda, Kagame said there was a good foundation from which both countries should be building a very good relationship.
“There is no question about it. Therefore, it is very intriguing, to find that, even with that history and a good foundation we have something like this going on. And it goes on everyday, even as we speak. It is hard to just put it in one word, or even a few words,” said Kagame.
“All I can say is that it’s a matter that can be resolved. That must be resolved. Because the alternative is not something that we should even be thinking about, or entertaining, that we can stand in the way of our own progress or the progress of all East Africans. Because we have made so many pronunciations, we’ve made statements.”
He also said when comes to optics, to the microphones, “we are saying the best things and the right things. But we should make an effort to do those things, not just say them. It doesn’t hurt anyone to keep on trying. What hurts is keeping quiet.”
Another important matter Kagame didn’t address in his interview is the mobilization of Rwandans against Uganda.
Former Defence Minister Gen James Kabarebe recently warned Rwandans against “scavenging” in Uganda.
At different public events, Kabarebe wondered why Rwandans would continue flocking Uganda.
Kagame said “things are not improving” because Uganda is quiet about Rwanda’s issues.
“Because we’re not doing much. We have had discussions over this for two years, we can resolve them whether it is egos or just wishing that things should be bad,” he said.
Kagame, who grew up in Uganda as a refugee before participating in NRA’s liberation war, recently took over chairmanship of East African Community (EAC) from Museveni.
Asked if his chairmanship will be affected by the relationship between Rwanda and Burundi or Uganda, Kagame responded: “Well, I don’t think so. If that is to be said of bad relations between Uganda and Rwanda, how then was it affecting Uganda’s chairmanship? You could start from there. If Uganda’s chairmanship was not being affected, then my chairmanship will not be affected. But, seriously, whatever not- so-good relations between countries of the East African Community, there have been and there should continue to be efforts, to try and find out how to resolve whatever it is, so that this stops being in the way of good progress of the East African Community.”
Asked if he would say the same of Burundi, Kagame responded: “Actually for Burundi, the situation is simpler and clearer. For example, when Burundi has publicly stated that Rwanda is its only problem. People make their own judgment. Let’s imagine that Rwanda does not exist, is it true Burundi would not be having problems?”
Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza last year declared Rwanda an enemy country.
He also accused Kagame of financing and supporting the failed 2015 coup attempt in Bujumbura.
Nkurunziza also faulted Kagame for providing shelter to Burundian dissidents who planned the coup and continue to engage in activities that threaten Burundi’s stability.
On his part, Kagame said so many times, there are people charged with responsibilities for Burundi, President Mkapa as facilitator, and President Museveni as the mediator, and then other East Africans who have not come up with much success to help Burundi solve their problems.
“They could have said that they have found out that Burundi does not have any problems and that problem comes from outside,” said Kagame.
Reminded that President Nkurunziza said as much in his letter, Kagame observed: “Yes, that’s Nkurunziza, but for me I am trying to put the fact out there, and not defending Rwanda. I will not refer to what Nkurunziza has said, but those in charge of solving the Burundi problems have not said that the problem is Rwanda. If there are any problems coming from Rwanda, then they are not the main problem and those ones can also be solved separately.”
On recusing himself from taking over from President Museveni as the mediator of the intra-Burundi talks, Kagame said it is still President Museveni doing it.
“For that matter I said the problems should remain in the hands where it has been. I didn’t want this Burundi issue to stand in the way of anything, not even in the way of trying to resolve the problems of Burundi. Because, being conscious of what Burundi is using as pretext, then I don’t have to play in the hands of those using the pretext. Let the people handling it continue handling it because East African matters a lot more than Burundi’s problem,” said Kagame.