14 March 2018

Rwanda-Uganda Row - Kigali Says It Will Not Retaliate

Rwanda hopes that the frosty relation with Uganda will be resolved soon citing deep historical ties between the two countries as reason not to retaliate.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and government spokesperson, Louise Mushikiwabo, said on Tuesday that Kigali was concerned about continued mistreatment of Rwandans in Uganda despite the presidents meeting to discuss the issues.

"When something like this happens to countries, we try to talk as leaders to resolve these issues. President [Paul] Kagame met his Ugandan counterpart [Yoweri Museveni] in Ethiopia on the sidelines of the African Union summit and discussed the issues. What we want is to see these issues resolved because there no reasons Rwandans should continue to be mistreated as we have seen in Uganda," Ms Mushikiwabo said.

Kigali accuses Kampala of illegal detention and torture of its citizens and harbouring dissents intent on destabilising Rwanda. Uganda, however, says those arrested were suspected of being spies.

"We cannot mistreat Ugandans, they are our relatives, we share a lot; we share history, we share blood. Many Ugandans are our relatives. To us that is very important.

"We don't wish to see any Ugandan face problems in Rwanda. I believe there is no problem without a solution. We will continue talking and try to understand each other on these issues," she said.

Tensions between the two neighbours have been building since last October, and talks between the leaders do not seem to be bearing much fruit.

Political will

Ms Mushikiwabo admitted that several projects along the Northern Corridor -- the main trade route linking Kenya's port of Mombasa to landlocked countries of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, eastern DR Congo and South Sudan -- have stalled, attributing the delays to political developments in partner states. She also cited elections in Uganda and Kenya, and conflict in South Sudan but said political will was there to fast-track infrastructure projects.

Observers say the last week's firing of Uganda's Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, and Security minister, Gen Henry Tumukunde, as linked to the worsening relations with Rwanda.

Some Ugandans have accused Gen Kayihura of close ties to Kigali, while Gen Tumukunde is reported to have been supporting Rwandan dissidents.

The reported links to Rwanda is said to have been at the centre of the rivalry between the two Generals who frequently engaged in public spats.

During a television interview, Uganda's opposition leader and Mr Museveni's arch-rival, Dr Kizza Besigye, said the sacking of Gen Kayihura was linked to the strained ties between the two countries, among other things.

"Obviously there have been accusations of Gen Kayihura seemingly either supporting Rwanda or not vigorously doing something about them. I think Mr Museveni views Kayihura in the prisms of not being loyal to him now as he is to the other side [Rwanda]," Dr Besigye told NTV Uganda.

Asked to respond to Dr Besigye's remarks, Ms Mushikiwabo declined saying Rwanda does not meddle in the political affairs of other countries.

"It is not in our political habits to get caught up in internal politics of other countries," Ms Mushikiwabo said.

President Museveni is among 26 heads of state and government expected in Kigali on March 21 for the African Union extraordinary summit and the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement.

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