Rwanda: Key Players in Two-Decade Uganda-Rwanda Love, Hate Relations

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni.


Yoweri Museveni

President Museveni has been described as a mentor of president Paul Kagame because of their historical connections that date back to early 1980s. They fought together during the five-year Luweero guerilla war that brought Mr Museveni to power in 1986.

President Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart were strong allies until 1999, when the armies fought in Kisangani, DR Congo. President Museveni deployed the Ugandan troops in DR Congo under the command of the late Maj Gen James Kazini, then a brigadier, to fight alongside the RPA to topple former President Mobutu Sese Seko before Rwandan and Ugandan allies turned guns against each other.

He has used both diplomacy and military means as the President and Commander-in-Chief to define the relationship with Rwanda.

Those close to him say he has many times exercised restraint even when there was a possibility that the two countries could go into full-blown confrontation.

During the Kisangani clashes, he ordered Maj Gen Kazini to stop reinforcement as the RPA prepared to attack UPDF in Kisangani. His order to Maj Gen Kazini to halt the reinforcements was after the Americans called and told him about the dangers of the two armies fighting each other. Despite stopping reinforcement, the UPDF was attacked and UPDF later retaliated and attacked RPA positions. Since then, Mr Museveni and Mr Kagame have held several meetings in order to resolve stained relations.

Brig Nobel Mayombo

The late Brig Mayombo was the Chief of Military Intelligence at the time when both countries almost went to war. Given his position, he had to keep watch of what was happening in Rwanda. It was also during his tenure that UPDF colonels Anthony Kyakabale and Samson Mande defected to Rwanda and announced war against Uganda and it was his duty to find out what these two officers were doing and planning in Rwanda.

During his burial in Kabarole District in 2007, President Museveni said there were "criminally-minded characters in the region" who wanted to kill him.

Maj Gen James Kazini

The late Maj Gen Kazini was the overall boss of the Ugandan troops in DR Congo when the two armies fought. He was ambushed by the Rwandan troops as he moved with his troops, escorting the rebel leader, Prof Wamba Dia Wamba to Kisangani where the rebel leader was supposed to hold meetings and address rallies. Brig Kazini and his soldiers cleared the ambushes but the Rwandans attacked again.

On the orders of President Museveni, he ordered troops under Third Batallion to attack RPA in what came to be called Kisangani Two. Those who were in DR Congo call "a massacre" of Rwandan troops, which was in retaliation to the first attack on the UPDF positions.

Brig Ddiba Ssentongo

Brig Ddiba Sentongo is the deputy managing director of National Enterprise Corporation, the UPDF commercial arm. He was a major then and was charged with escorting the rebel leader Wamba dia Wamba. His companies were attacked for three days by the Rwandan troops under the command of Maj Gen Emmanuel Ruvusha, who was then a major. There were reports this week that Maj Gen Ruvusha had fallen out with Kigali government and is said to be under arrest.

Col Kaka Bagyenda

He is the Director General of Internal Security Organisation (ISO). There have been media reports he has been overseeing operations to arrest Rwandans who illegally enter Uganda.

Col Sula Ssemakula

The late Col Ssemakula commanded the Third Batallion in DR Congo that attacked RPA in Kisangani. He died in 2005. The fearless commander, who joined the army in 1981 at 17, had commanded battles against LRA in northern Uganda and ADF in the West. He and his soldiers used to call themselves "mwana mwana" [boys boys] as an amiable way to have unity in the battalion.

Gen Kale Kayihura

The former Inspector General of Police was sent to meet Kagame during Kisangani battles. He reportedly enjoys good relations with president Kagame. During his tenure as police boss, many Rwandan refugees were kidnapped and part of the charges he is facing in the military court is kidnap of Rwandan refugees. The abduction of Rwandan refugees from Uganda is one of the reasons that have caused tension between the two countries.

Gen Jeje Odongo

The current Internal Affairs Minister was the Army Commander during the Kisangani clashes and had to meet and travel on the same plane with then Rwandan army boss, Maj Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa.

Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire

He is Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister. Gen Otafiire, was the overseer of UPDF operations in DR Congo between 1998 and 2001. He, Wamba dia Wamba and Brig Ddiba Ssentongo came under heavy attack by the Rwandans. He later became minister of Regional Cooperation and was involved in shuttle diplomacy with Rwanda.


Paul Kagame

The Rwandan President has overseen all the channels whether military, intelligence or diplomacy on the Rwandan side to engage the Ugandan side. During and after the Kisangani clashes, he met President Museveni in a bid to normalise strained relations.

One of the meetings was in Mweya Safari Lodge, where the two leaders met as their forces were busy fighting in DR Congo.

James Kabareebe

The former defence minister was Rwandan troops in DR Congo when the two armies fought. It is said when the late Maj Gen Kazini called to ask him why the Rwandan soldiers had ambushed a Ugandan convoy moving to Kisangani town, he slapped the phone and switched off. Gen Kabareebe, who was born and raised in Uganda, served as the army boss before he was appointed defence minister, a position he held from 2010 until 2018. Last year, there was an audio that circulated on social media allegedly by Gen Kabareebe, telling Rwandans not travel to Uganda.

Emmanuel Ruvusha

Maj Gen Ruvusha commanded the Rwandan soldiers that were ambushing Ugandans in Kisangani.

Kayumba Nyamwaasa

The exiled military general was the RPA Chief of Staff during the clashes. He later fell out with President Kagame and ran into exile. There are reports that he fled to South Africa through Uganda. Rwanda now accuses Uganda of habouring members of the Rwanda National Congress, an opposition group where Gen Nyamwasa is a senior member.

Patrick Karegyeya

The late Col Patrick Karegyeya was strangled to death in a South Africa hotel. Karegyeya was Rwanda's intelligence boss during and Kisangani clashes. He was accused of working with Uganda's opposition in 2001.

Louis Mwishikiwabo

Louise Mushikiwabo is the Secretary General of Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, a French organisation that brings together countries and regions where French is the official language. She previously served as the minister of foreign affairs and Cooperation of Rwanda from 2009 to 2018. In 2017 she accused Uganda of arresting Rwandans.

Brig Dan Munyuza

He is the current Rwanda Inspector General of Police. He had earlier served as Deputy IGP in-charge of operations. It's said he has been a key player in Uganda-Rwanda relations.

Gen Patrick Nyanvumba

He is the current Rwanda's army boss. He was born and raised in Uganda. He commanded the Rwandan troops in Kisangani during the clashes.

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