Rwanda: Civil Society Reacts to Outcomes of Rwanda, Uganda Peace Talks

18 September 2019

Members of civil society have expressed optimism in peace talks between Rwanda and Uganda.

On Monday, the two countries' officials agreed to meet again in Kampala, after 30 days, to review progress on the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in Luanda, Angola last month by President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart President Yoweri Museveni.

Joseph Ryarasa, Spokesperson of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform, said: "It is, first of all, commendable that a meeting has been convened."

"It is a clear indication that both countries acknowledge that there were grievances that needed to be resolved."

But Ryarasa is of the view that talking about the outcomes of the meeting now "would be premature."

He explained that, "We can only know if the deliberations from the talks are bad or good, depending on how they will be implemented or not, so that is a judgment or review for the near future."

"But, as a peacebuilding activist, I believe one of the things to be done is to get to know the core root cause or causes of the standoff."

"Officials taking part in the talks should think about the interest of the people, thus should think about sustainable measures that assure the people of stability and safety."

According to a joint statement, which was released shortly after almost six hours of talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kimihurura, the Rwandan delegation served their Ugandan counterparts with a list of Rwandan nationals Kigali says were illegally arrested.

Sources said the list contains 209 Rwandan nationals.

The meeting was attended by delegates from the facilitators of the peace effort, Angola and DR Congo, with the former represented by its Minister for External Relations Manuel Domingos Augusto, while the latter was represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Interior, Gilbert Kankonde Malaba.

Among others, on Monday, the parties agreed that due process will be followed in dealing with each other's citizens and they reiterated their commitment to refraining from any acts of destabilisation against each other.

We expect good faith in implementation

Dr Charity Wibabara, a lawyer and visiting lecturer at the University of Rwanda's Centre for Conflict Management, commended the efforts of Rwanda and Uganda to discuss the crisis.

She said: "In Latin, we say pacta sunt servanda, to mean an agreement or understanding reached by parties has to be executed in good faith. We can say, the resolutions reached at the meeting on Monday are really great and have a wide coverage of the most outstanding issues ranging from security concerns to trade matters.

"However, we expect good faith in implementation of each of the resolutions adopted because they are all weighty and touch not only countries but individuals and families as well."

For future meetings, Wibabara said: "We recommend fixing timelines" for each resolution adopted for easy monitoring.

"For instance resolution 1 and 4 would better serve if time limits for their implementation were indicated. We hope for the best outcome".

In the first resolution she referred to, Rwanda provided a list of its nationals who are detained in Uganda and the latter committed to verifying the information for the purpose of processing them through due judicial process and releasing those with no evidence of criminal conduct.

In the fourth resolution, the parties agreed to finalise an extradition treaty in order to provide a framework for future exchange of criminal fugitives.

In March, Kigali issued an advisory on Uganda travel saying it could not guarantee its citizens' safety there. It also accuses Uganda of aiding armed elements that seek to destabilise Rwanda.

A UN report released in December 2018 confirmed that Uganda was a major source of recruits for Rwandan rebel outfits based in eastern DR Congo.

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