Kampala — President Museveni cancelled his trip to Kigali for the African Continental Free Trade Area Treaty meeting after his advance security team and the Rwandan security failed to work out his itinerary, Daily Monitor has learnt.
Advance teams of visiting Presidents are usually sent to the host countries ahead of the visit to check whether the measures put in place can provide sufficient security for their head of state.
They check where the president will stay, the routes and vehicles he will use during the summit period, among others.
Our repeated attempts to check this information with Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo were futile as she promised to call back but by press time, she had not. She also did not reply to out text message on the same.
The sources told Daily Monitor that the refusal by Rwanda's security agencies to cooperate with Museveni's advance security team sparked queries about his security in Kigali and his handlers advised him to abort the trip.
"Normally, the advance team of a visiting Head of State goes early to work with the security of the host country to prepare for the requirements of the visiting president. But this time, it was a different story," a security source said.
Mr Museveni's advance team arrived in Kigali on March 12, but up to last Sunday [March 18], they had not been told the hotel the Ugandan President was going to reside in and which vehicles he was going to use during the summit period.
The source said advance teams of other presidents, except the Ugandan team, had by end of last week known where their presidents would stay and which routes or vehicles they would use to the summit venue, except the Ugandan team.
The sources said whenever the Ugandan team would ask their Rwandan counterparts to meet for discussion on arrangements for President Museveni's visit, they would be told no such meetings were taking place.
However, Mr Museveni's team would receive information that the security meetings were taking place and that advance teams of other heads of state were attending.
The Ugandan team's patience was fast running out and on Saturday, they communicated back to Kampala that there was no cooperation with the Rwandan security establishment.
A decision was subsequently taken to cancel the trip to Kigali. The Ugandan advance team left Rwanda on Sunday.
Asked why the President cancelled the Kigali trip for the AU summit, Senior Presidential Press Secretary Mr Don Wanyama said: "That is confidential information I cannot share with the media."
He added that Uganda is duly represented at the summit by "a high-level" government delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
"The President is here because he has equally important matters to take care of," Mr Wanyama said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ambassador Alfred Nnam told this newspaper yesterday that whereas all heads of state of the 55 African countries were invited to Kigali "attendance is dependent on one's schedule."
"So, President Museveni might not be attending but we have our minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kuteesa representing us," he said.
President Kagame did not attend the East African Heads of State Summit to raise funds for health and infrastructure development at Munyonyo in Kampala last month. Rwanda was represented by the Minister of Infrastructure James Musoni.
Buhari skips trip
Nigeria's President Muhammed Buhari too is not attending the Kigali summit because his technical people need further consultation on the trade deal to be signed today under the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA).
The CFTA was conceived by the African political executives during the 18th AU summit in 2012 to create a single continental market for goods and services with free movement of business persons and investments to pave the way for establishment of the Continental Customs Union. Once adopted, the trade agreement will bring together 55 African countries with a combined population of 1.3 billion. Discussions on the trade pact have been ongoing and African Trade ministers meeting early last month in Niger's capital Niamey, approved the broad structure of the Agreement and considered the progress made in the negotiations, for the pact to be signed this March.
Sources said despite the seemingly icy relations between Uganda and Rwanda, Mr Museveni had decided to attend the Kigali summit due this week.
Both countries have had a love-hate relationship after their armies fought in the eastern DR Congo's city of Kisangani in 1999 and 2000.
In 2005, half of Museveni's presidential convoy was cut into two at the Uganda-Rwanda border at Katuna and some Ugandan delegates were denied entry into Rwanda to attend a two-day Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa meeting in Kigali.
Rwanda immigration and security officials complained at that time that Museveni's delegation was too big, with about 60 people who were not on the list sent earlier to the Rwandan Protocol.
When Museveni arrived in Kigali, his then Principal Private Secretary and now Minister of Trade and Industries, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, and the then Ministry for the Presidency Beatrice Wabudeya, were initially blocked from attending the meeting venue. They were later allowed upon intervention of Uganda's foreign affairs officials.
For several years, the relations between the two sister countries and erstwhile allies were fragile until 2010 when the relations seemed to have normalised.
In 2011, President Kagame spent Christmas holiday in Uganda at the invitation of President Museveni.
ROLE OF ADVANCE TEAMS
Advance teams of visiting Presidents are sent to the host countries ahead of the visit to check whether the measures put in place can provide sufficient security for their head of state. They check where the president will stay, the routes and vehicles he will use during the summit period.